Having some talented kids on your team really makes you think about volleyball differently. I've already been thinking differently because I run a swing offense, but this in turn has led to other variations in the way we run attacks.
I was talking with our "floating" skills coach a couple of weeks ago about teaching the standard attack approach. I made the observation that teaching the kids how to hit quick (where the ball is set just off the setters hands and the hitter is either there or they're not) eliminates the need to worry about timing and concentrate on performing a strong approach.
Normally, when the kids are younger, we teach them the entire package, where we toss the ball to the setter, and as soon as the ball is released from the setter's hands, they leave and time their approach to meet and hit the ball. The result is a lot of broken approaches, if you ask me. Even some of my kids don't approach the ball well. They take too many steps and it's a clumsy, slow and ineffective motion that limits their jump.
Hitting a quick is about putting your trust in the setter that when you get there, the ball will be there. If it's not there, that's the setter's fault, not yours. What a difference this makes. Conventional thinking is that quick hits are difficult, but I think nothing is further from the truth. My kids, which are all forced to hit quick sets in various plays, are proving my theory.
Another continuous problem I've had is that kids tend to get very close to the net and jump very close. This is bad because, obviously it presents a danger where they may touch the net, but it also keeps them from fully extending their arms and getting a good follow through on the hit. It's also easier to block.
Our left side attacks were not fast enough, and the approaches were kind of ugly. I didn't fully appreciate this until I started forcing left side hitters to slide right, behind the setter, and having them hit there. Huh. What a difference. So for the left side, I started pushing them further back and tried to get them jumping from eight feet off of the net. Magic happened!
Suddenly every single kid was hitting harder, was hitting more down (because the ball was out in front of them), was jumping higher, and above all would have more flexibility against the blockers because there are more options when you're off the net. The best part is that every kid knew this.
I'm excited about the things I'm learning this year. Volleyball for me is moving beyond the realm of "best practices" that we've taught for years. I'm moving into new areas and innovating. There's a lot of trial and error still, but every week these talented kids can do whatever I ask, and the result is faster development of my own skills, as well as their own. It's really very cool. We'll see how they do this weekend.