Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cardiac Volleyball

Over the last two years I have coached a couple different volleyball games that made me start thinking that standing on the sidelines watching my girls play is far more stressful than actually being on the court playing.

This afternoon any doubts I had about that vanished. I think my two teams got together, compared notes and decided to kill me. I don't think my heartrate has slowed down yet.

The afternoon started with my 8th grade team. The first game my players played like I have always known they could. They served well. They moved, they passed, they set. They had three different players get spikes in. One of them from the back row. They didn't play perfectly, they did have 4 service errors and 5 serve receive errors. But the volleyed well and concentrated on the game. They won the first game 25-18.

Then we changed sides of the net and the team that had played the first game forgot to show up for the second game. The second game was a repeat of most of their games the last two years. They were serving well, but receiving was nonexistant. They committed 12 serve receive errors. Twice I had a player call everyone off the ball and then stand there and watch it drop to the floor - untouched. They had 3 different plays that I call SAWIBs. Standing around watching it bounce. That is where a whole group (3 or more players) circles around the ball, no one calls it, and they all just stand there staring at each other while it land in the midst of them. The second game was pure torture to watch. They lost 14-25.

So we go to the third game. Game three is played rally scoring to only 15 points. I tried to stress that they couldn't let the other team get out to an early lead. rally scoring games to 15 go fast. They started out playing the other team even. Both teams took turns scoring. The game quickly shot up to a 9-9 tie and then my girls just shut down. They missed 6 straight serve receives in a row. The game ended 9-15. It was like a dagger to the heart, beating a team a easily as they did the first game and then to just roll over and lose the next two as easily was hard to take.

We had a few good individual performances that I will be sure to point out to the players tomorrow. But they were overshadowed by the poor team play.

I had about 3 minutes to collect myself after the game and we had to get started with the 7th grade game.

My seventh grade team played just like they usually do - good serving, good passing, good court coverage, even a couple spikes. They won the first game 25-14.

The start of the second game seemed a little chaotic. My team seemed just a little out of focus. On the other hand the Monroe team we were playing seemed inspired. They were serving well. Too well. Before my girls could get themselves together and settled down they were facing a 15-5 deficit. Finally they started settling down an started chipping into that 10 point lead. Eventually they rotated through 7 of our 8 players and our eighth player got her turn to serve. This 6th grader has very quietly and most likely unnoticed by her teammates become one of the most reliable servers on the team. She has not missed a serve in the last 6 games.

This quiet little 6th grader stood back there, with her teammates struggling and facing an 18 to 23 point deficit, and served 5 of the best underhand serves I've seen this season. She took her position, then stepped sideways to get a good look at the score board and then the whistle blew and she stepped to the line and proceeded to pick her opponents apart. She dropped three serves into three different open spots on the court. The other 2 serves she fired in low and hard right at two different players who were back on their heels waiting for the serve.

I suspect that there was a considerable portion of luck in a couple of her serves. But to her credit she did what she needed to do to put herself and her team into a position to have a little luck go their way.

Unfortunately for us the 7th grade league plays a 5 serve rule that has the teams side out after 5 consecutive serves. So we sided out and prepared to try and get that next serve passed to the setter. The next few volleys went pretty even between teams with Monroe coming out on the winning end. My 7th grade team lost 24-26 for their first game loss of the season.

But we had a third game to come. We changed sides and lost the coin toss. I told my seventh grade team the same thing I told the 8th grade. A third game to 15 goes fast so don't let them get a lead early. So what did they do, they let them have a quick 5-1 lead. But then my 7th graders rediscovered themselves. They stopped panicing, they started playing thier game. They passed, they set and they were hitting back row spikes - two of them. They won the third game 15-12.

After the game I had several parent congratulate me on a good game. I would have loved to taken credit for the game but it was 100% those players. They were the ones who got themselves together and won that match, not me.

Tomorrow we have a one hour practice. My 8th grade team is going to spend the whole hour working on serve receive. I have a couple players on each team that need some serving work. Meanwhile I need to rework the 7th grade rotation. I have a real server that needs to be moved up in the lineup. The way she is serving I need to get her to the line much quicker than she is now.

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