Blog: 300 Coaches and 600 Players

By John Kessel | March 14, 2013, 2:26 p.m. (ET)

I spent a week back east earlier this month working with some of the true grassroots leaders in our sport in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.  It began with a clinic for 50 athletes and 10 coaches near York, PA, and ended with a clinic for the same number of volleyball club members in New Jersey.  In between there were days of 100-250 kids and teachers, depending on the site.

Four of the days stand out in ways that all USAV leaders can take advantage of for their own RVA- First was a day at a Junior High in PA working with 250 eighth graders and their PE teachers.  Each class was 47 minutes, and every boy and girl, learned to torque serve, overhead pass/set and spike, and had fun cooling down playing the balance war game.  As this class next heads to high school, many kids were encouraged to try out their next year in high school.  Second was an evening set up by Ed Schultz, Keystone RVA Grassroots Director. Nearly 100 coaches showed up at Immaculata University for a full evening of seeing what training gamelike really looks like, featuring a dozen 12 and under players.

A similar day was seen in Schenectady, NY at an IRVA clinic for 75 coaches and 24 players, using one net/court, that changed into multiple courts with the use of 100 feet of 2 inch wide white ribbon. The biggest day was seen at Mid Hudson Athletic Center in New York, where three regulation courts were turned into 12 five meter wide youth courts by putting up three sets of the 4-nets-on-a-rope system. Over 100 kids and 50 coaches were able to spread out into pairs/groups of three and play over the net with lots of learning opportunities took place. Check out this picture of the training.

So what did I talk about mostly in all of these clinics? Here is a slide I shared in most the clinics that sums it up.  

  • Use the Net 120 min
  • Teaching Principles and SPECIFICITY
  • Teach them WHY, Better the Ball, Motor Learning
  • Change Pair and Wall to Positive Habits/Reactions
  • You can Never Serve & Serve Receive Enough – Serving Drill Tradition change
  • J Stroke Awareness inside the 3m line Warm up
  • 8 Balls in Motion Serve/Serve Receive/Concentration/Flat Targets
  • Butterfly to a Warm up with Setting
  • Front Meter/Bic/Back Meter/A/Pipe/D – Passing not Throwing, Hit, THEN set, then chase
  • Front Back WITH Blockers over Net
  • Three Person Weave/Move Back Pepper
  • Coach to Second Contact – Players Develop Mean 3rd Ball Delivery
  • Use More Scoring Options in Grills – like MaxiScoring -and Less Drills
  • Wash Scoring to get 30% more Contacts
  • SpeedBall and Losers-are-the-Net-Monarch of the Court.

Most of these will soon be seen in our new Youth Volleyball Toolkit being finalized this spring. New videos on all the ideas above will be on this toolkit, so look for them on both the USAV website and contained in the toolkit update, available from your RVA commissioner this summer for use at the PE teacher level to club program level.

Part of the journey was scheduled to be able to see my son Cody play four matches at home for Princeton. Alas, the weekend before I arrived, he broke his wrist in the last play of an away match against Penn State, and we opted for surgery to pin the broken bone and speed up his recovery. So we watched the Princeton Tigers compete well, a 3-1 record actually, and saw how strong Cody could cheer from the bench. He took time to speak to high school teams who came to watch the matches, blocked one arm in drills and provided teammates’ serve speeds feedback with the team radar gun in practice. He also did situps while his sideline teammates did pushups for every ace the team on the court scored in competition.  I am looking forward to returning next spring again.

The plan is to do a similar visit over the next three years to the New England Region, as my daughter is playing at Bowdoin, and great things are being done in Maine by the volleyball leaders there.  The biggest good news is that with the work by Vermont volleyball leaders like Peter Goff from the Vermont Commons School (and a supportive fiscal USAV grant), the final state that does not have varsity girls volleyball will be coming on board. This project will also have boys volleyball at the same time, and I am planning on a clinic tour to Vermont and Maine this fall, just like this adventure story found in today’s blog…as we all work to grow the game together.