Cameras, Athletes and Role Modeling

Jan. 15, 2012, 12:23 p.m. (ET)

Some of you may know that during my time at Colorado College and after, I worked as a summer hiking guide, did winter ascents, and Outward Bound courses, river rafting thru the Gates of the Ladore (Green River, Wyoming) and climbing in Colorado (they based out of Marble, Colorado, near Aspen and the MotherLode tournament). I spent over half a decade working for Holubar Mountaineering, which was ultimately bought out by North Face. I have skied all my life, as do my kids…and plan to keep sliding down the slopes later this year, once we get enough snow!

I fly fish (as does Terry Pettit FYI…lol) and hunt as an escape from the gyms of the world, to see the REAL country I might be working in. Gyms are gyms no matter where on the globe you find them but when you get out on the water or in the field, with locals guiding you who share a passion for volleyball too, it is heaven. So I have spent time walking in snow in South and North Dakota, or broiling in New Mexican and Arizona deserts. I have attempted to outwit nature’s dumbest animal, trout, in streams in the Snowy River in Australia, on the South Island of New Zealand (on a trip during which I was able to meet and help a 17 year old Hugh McCutcheon of all people), in Europe from the Italian Alps to the Scottish highlands and even in South America. The best fishing for me are smaller streams right here in the USA and Canada, from Alaska to Maine, and the best, of course, is here in my home state of Colorado.

I also love taking pictures. My parents had some sayings that stuck…and one of them was “Take lots of pictures. “ My dad spent much of his youth after returning from China where he was born, in Yosemite....

Dad Onas And John Yosemite

Uncle Onas Ward had a photography shop on the valley floor, and of course knew Ansel Adams quite well. I have spent countless hours in the darkroom working on the Centennial issue of my college’s yearbook, shaking photos in the silver nitrate solution, and still marvel at what digital photography has become. I am a Canon man, and still follow my mom and dads advice, with over 200,000 shots and a separate hard drive just for pictures. Role are some shots from Yosemite and the beach of my dad who was my role model...

Dad On Half Dome

Dad Doubles 1948 Emerald Bay

You what does this all mean to coaching and parenting. Well, you can teach your players so much with a good series of sequence photos, and Karch Kiraly, our 3 time Olympic gold medal player and now assistant coach of the USA women, did a great job of showing just that, using a high speed camera that I have mentioned before in this blog – but bears mention again – the Casio EXILIM cameras are great and affordable and simple to use. During tournaments, Karch takes high speed/slow motion shots of opponents, and then using a program like Dartfish, shows the players what he sees early in the sequence that allows better read of the kind of shot the attacker or server is going to do. I love the story he tells about his UCLA days, where legendary head coach Al Scates used the 5-1 defense, with five players going to assigned spots on the floor or net and Karch reading and going to where the ball was headed. He now is teaching his insights into knowing earlier what and how he knows things to all of us, and it is a great gift. The importance of whole game training, not just skill training, is why we coaches know from the bench as to when an opponent is tipping a ball, before the tip occurs, but too often our players on the court do not. To see what the camera can do, at 30/120/240/420 and 1,000 frames per second, go here as you can see from the narrowing and the lowering of resolution as frame rates go up, it is best to shoot at about 240, plenty fast enough to teach reading with. I have the FH25 version but they all work well.

When we teach only thru drills, not the reality of games, the tips of game flow that allow for great reading, are not happening and thus are not able to be learned. To quote Dr. Carl McGown and Dr. Steve Bain – “This course of action deprives the learner of the environmental variability and sensory inputs that are essential for the formation of motor maps and implicit behaviors, which are ultimately reflected in the acquisition of functional skills and expert performance.” Reading at the medium and higher levels only comes from game play, not from drills, and since this "implict behavior" is so darn important to successful skill execution, we need to not only teach over the net, but teach the flow of the game, by training in the realities of games.

Today, a good friend Jim Huffman, who is one heckuva photographer, shared that the new camera he is getting, the Nikon D4, had been used to take a lot of films, including these two - all from where else, given the thread of this blog…the North Face channel. The first is about Why – and as you remember from IMPACT and other blogs, the “why” is more important than the how (remember my favorite Emerson quote that includes “the man who knows how, will always have a job…the man who knows why will always be his boss…”) So this clip is worth sharing…

The second is about parenting – and being a role model. I guess I shared the above to let you know that my kids ski great, and can camp and climb, and fly fish (and Cody and I hunt, but McKenzie knows you can’t catch and release with a gun), and they play volleyball too. As in all we do, we parent our best, and are the most important role model to our children, both on and off the fields of play…

Happy new year all, and thanks for your help in growing the game together. For more on reading, review past blogs, including the last one in the reading section of Ronald vs. Ronaldo – and go back to the myth and facts of teaching reading found in your IMPACT manual, and check out other parts of the grassroots button here on USA Volleyball – and as always, if you have ideas or comments to share, please post below or email me at

The following comments were made on our previous web platform and have been transferred here to maintain the historical record.

On January 19, 2012 Jon Dunstan wrote

These slow-mo video's showing what top players 'see' as indicators as what actions they should take is something I have been thinking about recently after watching some Netball footage of reading. Do you know where I could find some resources of this nature to help improve my volleyball reading skills.

On January 19, 2012 Soonki Jin wrote

It's what my team needs. Thank you for great tips:)

On January 24, 2012 Bruce Shainwald wrote

For those of you who don't have the money for sophisticated video capture and replay, check out an App for the Apple iPad2. It is called "Coach's Eye". It will capture video and allow you to play it back in slow motion, play it backward and forward with a "flywheel", and allow you annotate with voice and graphics. Then you can share your annotated review. If you already have an iPad2, iPod Touch or iPhone, I recommend that you take a look at this App.

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