I started the afternoon with a practice for just my eighth grade team. After yesterday's game I wanted to have a talk with my players. I have let them have team meetings before where I was not involved. And we have had 'meetings' before with me pretty much doing all the talking. So I tried a different approach today. When they were playing around before practice started I sat down on the floor and called them to gather around. I don't know if it was the fact that I am not much taller than them when sitting down or the circle we were all sitting in, or what. But when I asked them for opinions today - they talked. In full complete sentences and ideas. Not just the single word answers I usually get from them when I ask questions.
I started out by asking what they thought of the games yesterday. While the comments varied they were all pretty pleased with the way things turned out. Then I asked them what they thought about how our opponents may have felt yesterday. They all agreed that they thought our opponents were either embarrassed or upset at the results of the game. Then I asked the setter who had served the 15 consecutive aces if she thought she should have done anything different yesterday. She hesitated for a moment and then replied in a very unsure of herself manner "Backed off my serves?"
When I asked the rest of the team if they thought she should have backed off her serves her teammates were not sure. Then I asked my server what usually happens when she "backs off her serves?" She answered without hesitation "I miss."
That is when I told them that what they had done in that game was absolutely the correct things to do and exactly the way I want them to continue to play. They told me they were releaved to hear this. They were worried that they had done something wrong with the conflicting directions they were getting from me and my assistant coach and then me having a team meeting first thing this afternoon.
So I reassured them again that they had played a wonderful game and that I was very proud of them. Then I explained that happened to their opponents yesterday was not their fault. What happened to those four little girls was the fault of their coach. It was his responsibility to teach them how to receive serves. It was also his responsibility to try and stop our serving streak. He had two time outs he could have used. He had four substitute players sitting next to him on the bench he could have used. He chose to sit there and do nothing while we served 15 aces in a row on his team. Our job was to serve the best we could. Their job was to receive and play those serves. We did our job, he didn't do his.
Then we discussed our warmups and practices. I gave them the opportunity to decide what we should work on next and they all chose serve receive. I'm starting to think that maybe this group may just be starting to get how hard you have to work to be good at this game.
After my 8th grade practice I had to coach my 6th grade team's first game. Getting those girls all together and ready to play was a lot like herding cats. Everytime I would stop talking at least two of them would take off. They were all just bouncing off the walls with excitement. But once the game started they settled down pretty well. They stuggled a little with the 4-2 offense we are running. My setters got out of position a couple times but we got those bugs worked out without too much trouble. The 7th grade team we were playing had a couple really tall girls on their roster but they really didn't play well. My five sixth graders and 2 fifth graders played a really good game for such young players. In the end we won the first game 25-15 and the second one 25-11.
After the 6th grade game my 7th grade had another game but I was unable to stick around for it. I had to attend a parents meeting at the high school for the volleyball team. So my assistant coach handled that game. She is a really good coach so I know my girls were in good hands. But it is killing me not knowing how they did. I guess I will find out at tomorrow's practice.