SMASH: How to Get Better

-By Dave Cross

It's that time of year when many young players
are experiencing growing doubts about whether
they will get the playing time this fall they are
striving toward, or even just make their school
team. They start looking around at open gyms and
summer leagues. Who gets invited to team camp is
also a point of interest. A recent post at's volleyball site brought this to my
attention. The young lady in question mentioned
that her varsity coach had told her that he
"wouldn't be paying much attention to her."

PLAYERS: (I'll address the coaches later in this
article) Now, maybe no one has said this to you,
but are you having these same types of thoughts
anyway? Do you feel, for whatever reason, that
you are being overlooked? One of our main
teaching points at camp is, "The only meaning any
situation has is the meaning you give it." You
certainly have the right to let these feelings
de-flate you. You can resign yourself to the
fact that there is "nothing you can do." But if
this is the thought path you choose, you have to
realize that in no way is this the road to
achieving your goals!

What if, instead, you decide to make it a top
priority to be noticed? Make it your goal to be
sure your coaching staff has no choice but to pay
attention to your efforts-just be sure these are
positive efforts! :) Tell yourself, "I will be
noticed for what I can do to help my team be

Realistically, yes, it may not make a
difference-but it is also very realistic to say,
"This is what I must do to give myself the best
chance of achieving my goals!" Can this be hard
to do? Most certainly it can! Another point we
stress at camp is "Do the thing that's hard to do
and the power will come!" If you choose to "go
for it", give the following tips your sincere
attention-then go out and apply them to your
daily efforts:

1. Get to everything early and make a point to go
up and greet your coach cheerfully-no matter how
you feel that day.

2. When you do this, ask if there is anything
that needs done that you can help with-if you
start getting the same answer frequently-like
sweeping the floor, pumping up balls, etc., start
taking it on yourself to do these things without
being told to.

3. During down time, make a point to chat with
your coach about things they are interested
in-whether it has to do with volleyball or
not-just make sure it is at an appropriate time
when your coach is not needing to be focused only
on volleyball.

4. Also show your love for the game by talking to
your coach about volleyball stuff in general-
things you've read or saw or heard-again,
during appropriate times.

5. Ask your coach for extra help before or after
the formal sessions-and be specific in what you
want help with-especially if it is something he
has told you you need to improve at. If you
aren't sure what it is your coach feels you need
to work on-ask! This is very important!!

6. Make sure you are the teams most visible
sparkplug-be loud and consistent in your chatter
and support of your teammates. Volunteer to stay
late or come in early to help your teammates work
on what they need to work on. Make sure to "echo"
the comments of the coach and team leaders-show
him you are a total team player.

IMPORTANT: You must keep your focus on achieving
your goal-not how you will feel like if you don't
achieve it. "Whatever you focus on-you get more

1. Do visualizations daily of yourself playing at
the varsity level this fall-watch yourself in
match situations making the play to win the
rally-and the match! Make sure to include the
crowd, the noise, the score- and watch the
celebration after you make the winning play.

2. Commit yourself to using a self-affirmation
specific to your situation. Repeat this to
yourself daily before and after your time in the
gym-and if you feel yourself slipping mentally in
the gym-use it then, too!

3. Write up goal cards stating your goals-and the
specific things you are going to do to achieve
them! Put copies of these where you will see
them all the time-both at home and at school.

4. Remember, even if you don't start varsity
until your senior year-you will have still
achieved your goal of playing the sport you
love-and being a varsity player-you don't fail
until you give up!

COACHES: Let's be honest with ourselves. We all
have thoughts from time-to-time of the same
nature as the coach mentioned above. Maybe we
don't say them-but we still think them-which in
the end is the bottom line. In fact, many times,
our thoughts guide us to our decisions much more
strongly than anything we have ever said.

Let's just be sure that we don't jump to any
conclusions before we have observed as much as
possible! Sometimes we get a certain idea in our
head-and we go with it-oblivious to the signs
around us that maybe our position needs
re-thought. It is just as true of ourselves as
it is our players, "Whatever you focus on, you
get more of"!

Please be especially careful of going down the
wrong "favorites road". Hey, we are all human-we
have young people in our programs that we think
very highly of-for various legitimate reasons.
Just be sure they are in the line-up, or on the
team, because they are the best choice to make
the team as successful as possible. Make no
mistake, this can at times be very hard to do
simply because we all want to surround oursleves
with others who we enjoy-that is simply human

Yes, I have made this mistake myself more than
once in the past. But, after coaching through
some of these decisions I realized there was a
better way. You must keep, or play, the players
that you feel will help your team the most-no
matter what your personal feelings about them.
If you take another look at the suggestions I
outlined for the players above-you will notice
that each of the behaviors suggested is something
we all want and need in our players:

a. Showing up early and staying late.

b. A genuine love of the game.

c. A team-first attitude.

d. Being willing to put in extra work to improve.

e. Being willing to put in that extra time to
help a teammate.

f. Setting goals.

g. Using mental training.

h. A never-quit determination.

Yes, there will be situations where an athlete
will possess many or all of the characteristics
mentioned and still simply not have the physical
skills needed. And these will definitely be some
of your toughest decisions, but I feel you will
find that when you consciously make the decision
to focus on only what you need from your players
to be successful, a funny thing will happen. In
the course of time, your approach will become
obvious to your players and even the most
talented among them will realize what it takes to
play for you-and they won't want to stand out as
"not being like their teammates". If it's
needed, make the change now! Or maybe you're
already on the right path, but just need to
tighten things up a bit, you know, simply smooth
out the rough edges. However this approach
applies to your situation, please give this idea
some serious thought-we've all been through
seasons in the past where one or two players have
made a significant difference. The question is,
in which direction?

-By Dave Cross
National Director
Yes, I Can Volleyball

The Warm-Up (Thoughts, Tips, Tricks, and Pet-Peeves)
Believe it or not... The easiest game of a tournament day to win is the 8:30 a.m. game. Here is why... Your opponent is still half asleep. Here are some thoughts, tips, tricks, and pet peeves that I have stumbled across in the last 15 years that I have been involved with Beaver County volleyball as a high school player, college player, Men's USAV player, boys' high school coach, girls' high school coach, boys' junior olympic coach, girls' junior high coach, girls' junior olympic coach, high school official, and USAV official:

1. Make your warm up do what it is supposed to do: warm you up! How do you know if you are warm? I don't have any answer except that, "If you break a sweat, you must be warm".
2. Wear a long sleeve shirt, sweat shirt, or warm-up jacket and pants to accelerate the warm-up process.
3. Before you have use of the court and net, do all of the warm-up things that do not require the net, balls, or space. In other words... all running, stretching, arm-warm-ups can be and must be done BEFORE the clock starts winding down on your warm-up court time.
4. Once you finally have use of the court and net, use it and use it EFFICIENTLY!
5. We WILL ALWAYS HAVE plenty of balls/carts available to you for your on court warm up. The reason we take so many volleyballs and our carts to our tournaments is to maximize the amount of repetitions/ball contacts that you are able to aquire in a very short period of time.
6. Our warm-up will be fast-paced, uptempo, VERY INTIMIDATING, and maybe even somewhat distracting to our opponent.

Some of my warming up pet-peeves:
Walking onto the court late for the timed warm-up and then beginning to stretch out or warm-up arms.
Warming-up arms/shoulders for more than a total of 30 seconds.
Sitting and talking and pretending to stretch rather than actually focusing on and preparing your body to compete.
Standing and waiting in line for volleyballs because there are not enough of them available to run a fast-paced/efficient hitting warm-up.

The most important thought I have on warm up is this... Motion vs. Stagnation Remaining stationary will not prepare your body for the rigors of competition. YOU MUST MOVE!

Team Concept
Read this Very Closely, Over and Over Again!

That is the question to ask yourself before each and every practice. If your answer is ever, "No, not really" then maybe you need to rethink your commitment and desire. You see, on the volleyball court, there is always more than yourself to think about... there is the TEAM.

Do you ever wonder why you are not a swimmer? or a shot-putter? or a golfer? Besides the fact that they are not as fun as volleyball, these are not TEAM sports. The TEAM is what has drawn us all to volleyball and it is what keeps us hooked. The TEAM is what makes volleyball a unique and exciting sport. How much fun would it be to pay admission to see a "One on One" volleyball tournament? It wouldn't be nearly exciting as watching a "Six on Six" tournament. (Although, it might be kind of fun to see a middle hitter and a libero battle it out-the middle keeps pounding away, the libero keeps telling her how easy she is... it could go on forever).

On the court, the TEAM is all important. A volleyball player should be willing to give up any sort of personal gain for the good of the TEAM. On the court, a TEAM takes on its own personality. When it works right, it can be dynamic. When it desn't work right, it can be disasterous.

Let's admit it, we’re not all the best of friends when we re not playing, but when it comes down to the game, you need to put your TEAMmates before yourself and your TEAM above everything. Your personal best is always a whole lot sweeter when your TEAM succeeds.

Each team member has her own personality and strengths to bring to the TEAM, and no one player is more important or more integral than another. That is what is so awesome about volleyball. Each person has a role to fill, and my role coming off the bench to serve aggressively is no more important or less important than the setter's role as she touches every ball or the middle hitter's role as she blocks.

Listen to your coach, understand your role within the club and within your TEAM, then make it your priority to fill that role to the very best of your ability every time you lace up your Nikes. It's all about your attitude, girls. Attitude is 90% of the game.

Take a minute today to think about what you can do to further the concept of TEAM every time you enter the gym. Then, just do it.

By the way, just like a group of players make up a TEAM, a group of teams make up a club. Just like every player needs to put her TEAM first, every TEAM needs to put the club first. Think about that.

TEAM, what a concept.

How to Excel Under Any Coach
From: John Kessel
To: Scott Phillips
Sent: Tuesday, February 20, 2001 8:42 AM
Subject: How To Excel Under Any Coach

Scott, here is that work in progress as developed from the email to the Beach Volleyball Olympic Team email last spring...

To Win Your Own Olympics ---

Reflections on what you need to do, to be the best you can be. I want to share some of my thoughts with you, as I believe they will help you succeed
on the court in preparation towards your personal best. The fire I carry within is to help you shorten the time gap in the development of your personal philosophy. The ideas below come from decades of helping players be excellent, The motto of the Olympics, CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS. - guides our efforts as staff and players. Swifter, Higher, Stronger. So to win, we must push ourselves, giving all we can for as long as we can, and extending ourselves. Remember this about your pursuit of personal excellence - If it is meant to be, it is up to me...

I should also tell you that while there have been many people, experiences and books that have guided me, the most impactual one simply is John Wooden. There is a new book out called The Ultimate Guide to Life, Leadership, Friendship and Love, by Neville Johnson. ISBN 0-9673920-0-4. Get it, for it is all about the ideas of John Wooden and his pyramid of success, that can help every person, athlete or not, become the best they can be. I also have learned great things from Marv Dunphy and Doug Beal, both USA Olympic Gold Medal coaches. As Marv once said, "It is not where you are, it is who YOU are; it is not how big you are it is how good or how great YOU are."

THERE IS ONLY ONE CHAMPION. - This is our holy grail, and every team in our championship division is seeking that same trophy. Now, we must define what winning is. In this team sport of volleyball, one person cannot win the game by his or herself. It is a team sport, so the winning is out of just one player's control. So, winning is always, ALWAYS going to be defined as doing all you can to be the best you can be. John Wooden's classic Pyramid of Success has at its peak, the statement. "Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." If you do this...the winning on the court will be more likely. Should you play your best, and lose in the point column, what more can you ask of yourself? Nothing...for you won. quote George Moriarity, "Giving all, it seems to me, is not so far from victory."

TEACH OTHERS TO TEACH YOURSELF - If you coach, you will be a better player. This is true at any age level, so seek out and create time to coach others less skilled and/or experienced than you are. In Japan, the after school elementary school practices I worked with were 45 minutes of games and practice for the 7-10 year olds, who were coached by the 10-12 year olds under the watchful eye of the adult head coach, then 45 more minutes where the head coach trained these 10-12 year olds once they were done coaching.

COMPETE WITH YOURSELF - Demand more from yourself than from your teammate. This is the sign of a serious and true competitor. This is how you will become the best you can be, and thus help USA win a gold. To excel, focus on yourself first. No matter how small or unimportant it may seem, look for ways to be better when you leave training than when you walked in, whether it be the weight room, training room, physical testing, or the court. By competing as hard as you personally can, you will also help those around you be better. Gold Medalist Dan Jansen said " I do not try to be better than anyone else, I try to be better than myself."

TALENT IS A JOB, NOT A GIFT - If you have talent, you can be good without working hard, but to be great, you must work hard. Volleyball is a hard sport to learn, so do not expect it to be easy, for it takes years to be great. People see talent in two ways, One group sees that talent is to be developed through hard work, while others see it being something you either have or do not. Those athletes who know that skill takes time, will practice longer/have patience thru tough times. Research shows that higher performance happens with those athletes who expect to have to work long and hard to develop their talent. Superstars, like Karch, Jordan, Gretzky, Woods, share an intensity and drive to constantly improve their talents. Karch's coaches and teammates describe him as the hardest worker in the gym/on the sand. You have to BE, before you can DO, and DO before you can HAVE.

LEARN EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE - STAY IN CONTROL. These same superstars share the ability to stay in control, despite the great pressures they encountered, using their emotions effectively. They stay focused, and efficient, the mental discipline, to act decisively when it counts. Karch would stay on the court in the sand during time outs, staring at the opponent's empty court. One teammate called Jordan, "the Predator". Controlling frustration, anger, fear, and even confidence is an athlete's responsibility, not that of the coach.

MAKE SURE TO GET REST - One of the key items I learned from the Prep for Sydney meetings for head coaches was realization that there is no such word as "Overtraining. " To be great you must train very hard sometimes. What you also must make sure you get is enough rest and recovery, for you are training hard. Everything you are doing en route to a gold medal is important, significant, and meaningful. As the distractions mount towards the end of a long season, it is vital to get enough good rest.At the same time, remember the words of Jerry West - "You can't get much done in life if you only work on the days you feel good, for work beats talent, unless talent works."

BE A TRUE TEAMMATE - One who is responsible for yourself, to your team's obligations and to your personal and team goals. You, no one else, are accountable for ALL your actions. Be honest and trustworthy to yourself, your teammates and the entire team staff. Ask when you have questions. You need to make sure that you are all pulling on the SAME end of the rope....together and strong.

TEACH YOUR COACH HOW TO HELP YOU LEARN BETTER - In the art of coaching, coaches have many colors and different paintbrushes on their pallet that they can use to help you learn to be your best. It is just that each of you are unique, and for us to excel, a coach should not treat, nor teach each of you the same. Skilled coaches have learned to be consistent with each of you, but not the same. They are there for you in every practice. It is not their job to hammering you with constant feedback, but letting you learn. They will summarize feedback at times, but anytime you want to ask a technique or tactic question, you can talk to your coach who will always listen. Day or night, on the court, by phone, or even email! It is what you learn, not what the coach knows, that matters. It is our role to help you become a player who is all you can be-- without the coach -- for you are the athlete on the court of competition, and we cannot think for you as you play. You will always be your best coach, for you are with yourself 24 hours a day...

COMMUNICATE - Talk and listen with your teammate and any staff helping you become your best. Share information you think will help us be our best. Silence equals acceptance, so speak out if you do not accept it. When off the court, read books and watch movies that can give you a new idea or inspiration to be great. If you have a problem, all energies will go towards the solution.

KNOW YOUR ROLE - You need to understand and perform your role, just as much as you need to perform technical skills. We have a GREAT staff assembled to help you be your best... so use us. Who is on the court will be determined by on the court competition when the points are tallied. Since a teammate does not err on purpose, you need to treat them the way you would want to be treated when you error.

SUCCESS IS A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION - You get better one play at a time. Certainly touching the ball yourself helps you learn the most, but each contact, by your teammates as well, can be a joy and a learning experience. We all can see Scott Fortune kill the overpass for the Seoul Gold Medal match point...and should be able to see Eric Sato's jump serve that set it up. We have such a great sport to celebrate in, rally by rally. Enjoy this time as an elite athlete. It is exciting to be playing volleyball, especially at this level. Have fun and smile, it takes fewer muscles, and it makes you stronger.

PLAY SINGLES IN THE GARAGE - It is important to learn to play this game over a net. In the winter, you can still string up a rope, and play one on one with that one friend, or sibling, who shares your love of playing this game. Play one on two if someone else shows up, or even doubles, using a beach ball or a real ball. If you can, put up a net or just a rope for even a small distance in the backyard, and play these small sided games on smaller than normal courts. Learn to read and anticipate what an opponent is preparing to do before they send it over the net.

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL - A setter cannot control the passer, or the hitter, a passer cannot control the server. You cannot even control what your teammates say, think, or do. You can only control yourself, so focus on what YOU can do.

FOCUS POINT BY POINT - In a related way, every match has three parts, a past, present and future. You cannot control the past, even that last rally. Nor can you control the future (if you can, get into the stock market, make millions then give it back to volleyball please). So by focusing on the point at hand, playing one point at a time, you eliminate two-thirds of the worries many players have cluttering their heads as they play. What do you do NOW.

IF YOU WANT TO BE BETTER YOU MAY HAVE TO CHANGE - These changes may cause you to slide backwards for a bit of time. Pay close attention to the small successes you achieve by making these changes.

BE A POWERFUL PRESENCE - Be yourself, and be proud. If you gripe at calls,turn your back on teammate errors, hang your head or kick a ball, get frustrated outwardly, it gives energy to your opponents and weakens you and the team. Forget your mistakes and focus on what you can control...the upcoming play. Focus on what to do, not your errors, and always and only let them see that you are powerful and confident.

BETTER WHAT WAS GIVEN TO YOU. - I remember Marv Dunphy summing up why he thought we won the gold medal in the Seoul Olympics. He felt at that time, just hours after the success, that it was due to playing better team defense and bettering the ball. It is your duty and focus as a teammate to make the ball you got better, no matter how difficult the incoming ball is. Every ball can and must be played! In our three contacts, we can improve the bad pass, if we are setting, kill the ball off of a wayward set. Bettering the ball happens not just on the court, but off. If you have ideas that might work in other areas of your development, share them, in order to make that also better for the next person.

RELENTLESS PURSUIT - For those of you who know my far side, you will understand then my two rules in this key area of pushing yourself on the court.

Rule #1, Go for EVERY ball.

Rule #2, If the ball is too far away to reach, see rule #1.

And a corollary to this high effort is: Winners never fear risking to lose.

WATCH THOSE BETTER THAN YOU - Watch videotapes of the Olympics, and NCAA Championships. Go watch levels of play higher than you compete in -the 18 and unders if a Junior Olympian, or collegiate matches, and the National Team any time you can catch them on TV or in person. Watch one player who you want to be like as they do the whole rally, by not focusing on the ball, but their actions before, during and after the rally, before during and after each contact. What are they looking at and learning to read? Why did they move to that spot before ball was hit and not some other place? There is much more learned by what is done before the ball is touched, that you need to develop too.

SHARE YOUR SECRETS - The best thing about our Prep for Sydney meetings in Chicago and Sydney, was the chance to share our ideas with other Olympic bound coaches and support staff. I will be passing these along to others, starting with the Paralympic and Olympic staffs, as part of the team around the team we have here. If you have an idea that you think might help you or the team programming be better, share it, for unlike items, when you share ideas, you still have yours, while adding new ones to our tools to be our best. Pass them along to me at I will be sharing more with you later, but for now, it is back to learning, er, I mean work.

Coming Off the Bench Article
Coming Off the Bench Article

Following is a reprint of an article written by Juniata College Head Women's Volleyball Coach Larry Bock and Penn State University Head Men's Volleyball Coach Mark Pavlik.
It was originally published in the 10th Anniversary Issue of Volleyball Magazine.
(August of 1992)

In everyone of our playing careers, we were asked to be subs, reserves, backups, specialists, benchwarmers, pine riders, shock troops, the Posse, etc. Whatever the coach called it, being named third team middle blocker was just not quite the same religious experience as when we were told to "get on the floor" as a starter. The nature of the game dictates that many people on volleyball teams will have roles not quite the same as what they ultimately desire. There are many ways to respond to the challenge of coming off of the bench, some good and some bad. Here are a few thoughts on how to make your job as a substitute a positive, meaningful one for you and your team.

I. Understanding your role in practice.
If you don't know what or how you are supposed to be contributing to the team, pin down the coach. These people actually have a reason for your athletic existence in mind and will jump at the chance to share it with you. Think in the short term and recognize what the coach perceives as the most realistic scenarios for your competitive appearances this year. For example, extensive visualization of yourself blocking for match point in the gold medal match at Barcelona then riding the shoulders of your teammates to the medal podium would not be nearly as productive for a scholastic back row specialist as picking up a ball and practicing consistent, tough serves. Know your role and practice what you'll be asked to do.

Make every contact your very best. Recognize that in a match situation each ball contact you make as a sub will have, as Hubie Brown would say, "MAAAAJOR IMPACT". When you practice, maintain this same mentality. Make each of your serves, attacks, digs, passes, and blocks with great conviction. You will be appearing in some matches when things are going poorly and the team needs something done to change momentum. So, you must do things better than the person you have replaced. Also, recognize that you will occasionally be pushed in, then pulled out of matches. You should therefore prepare yourself in practice to make an immediate, positive impact on the court at the coach's beck and call (not your own). In practice, work a little harder and concentrate a little better than everyone else on making a maximum contribution in a minimum amount of time.

II. Competition
When your coach finally sees the light and inserts you into a match, be aware of the mood on your side of the court. If chaos is reigning at the time, your job is to calm things down by appearing confident and remaining poised even though your shorts may be riding up your rear like a mad Apache. Make a good contact and get that sideout.

In the 1990 Division III Women's Finals, UC San Diego was on a roll and Washington University was struggling. Things appeared really bleak when Wash U's All-American middle went down with an injury. Her backup bounced into the match, "high-fived" most of St. Louis, buried the first side-out attempt, and the gym erupted. That first contact completely changed the direction of the game and it took a Rock of Gibraltar effort from UCSD to ultimately win the match and the championship.

On the other hand, if you are entering the athletic equivalent of a morgue, start some good positive court talk and make concerted efforts to move without the ball (position switches, attack coverage, base-to-read movements) in a way that gets everyone on the court instinctively doing the little things with you.

For example… this spring, in a junior varsity high school boy's match, we saw a backup setter enter a game with his team down 1-11. He immediately became a hybrid of General George Patton and a McDonald's shift supervisor… He took charge. Following his lead, the team's communication and court movements went from non-existent to purposeful. He found two hot hitters and went to them time after time. His team ultimately won the game and match.

Remember, as a sub, you do not have the luxury of settling into a match over a long period of time. Once you enter a game, your job is to immediately eliminate mistakes. The importance and quality of your first few contacts will be intensely magnified and it is vital that you be ready to play at all times while waiting on the bench. Backcourt specialists must be prepared to immediately make a tough serve then a great dig. Front court players should see themselves making that great block the first play they are on the court. Setters should plan to set smart and good (not tricky) upon entry.

It takes a special person to come off the bench and make a positive impact. Regular specialists in full blown (twelve) substitution environments must be intuitive enough to know when the team needs to maintain good rhythm or when that rhythm has to change. In the collegiate men's game, where substitutions are limited, any change in the line up must create opportunities. So, keep your antennae up and working and MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.

III. Mental
Staying in the game mentally is certainly easier said than done. There is no question this is tougher for players on the bench than for players on the court. There many ways to keep yourself involved, which will ultimately benefit you and the team.

First, use your vantage point to get to know your opponent. Begin to recognize tendencies and then share these with your teammates and the coaches. If you are a hitter/blocker, volunteer to keep a sideout shot chart on the opponent. You will quickly develop an ability to anticipate an opposing setter's tendencies in each rotation.

Second, know your own team. Scout your team in a match the same way you are seeing the opposition. Especially if you are the backup setter, do the sideout shot chart on your team. Talk with the starting setter and let her/him know if she/he is becoming predictable and where the optimal first sideout attempts are in each rotation.

Keep everyone on the bench together. Whether everyone stands at the end of the bench or sits down, go for a unified, supportive effort of whoever is on the court at that time. "Bench talk" is as important as "court talk" for setting the mood of the team. Be charged up, be witty, be completely obnoxious…whatever it takes to make your team go at maximum operating efficiency. No matter what you do, be the same whether ahead or behind.

You have a real challenge to block out negatives. You are probably thinking that virtually nobody in athletic history has been the subject of a multimillion dollar nationwide ad campaign centered around the message "JUST DO IT, WHILE KEEPING THE SHOT CHART". So maybe your biggest challenge as a sub will be to alter some of your personal short-term goals to fit into those of the team. Also recognize that even after say, a bad trip across the back row, a defensive specialist has to immediately block out the past and be positive now. Like a pinch hitter, be thinking that you want your next contact to decide the outcome of the match.

IV. Physical
To be physically ready when the coach asks you to play is one part of your job as a specialist or backup. First, see if you can anticipate the situations when you will most likely be called on to take the floor. If the person in front of you on the depth chart is obviously fatigued, is suddenly attacking the ball at unusual trajectories, has gotten caught up with the officials' calls, or has gotten so verbally colorful as to have fallen outside the purview of family entertainment, you certainly might expect the nod from your coach. Recognize and anticipate those situations where the coach has required your presence on the court in the past. Are you a person who gets your team jacked up? Or are you a player with the ability to calm people down?

Above all:
· Stay warm. Keep your legs going, your fingers flexing and your feet active.
· Ballhandle whenever possible. Certainly, between games use this time to pepper and hit.
· Be aware of and have supportive body language. Slouching absentmindedly on the bench and rolling your eyes at the action on the court will do little to support the team or your case for being a starter.
· Look like you are ready to play. Coaches do look to see who is into the game mentally and appears physically ready to take the court. Be a caged tiger!
· When you enter a game inspire confidence by being and looking confident.
· When you leave a game, come out as fired-up as when you entered. Pump a fist at the people who are still there.

In a team sport every player has to find a way to individually get the job done while still maintaining a team concept. For substitutes this role is more difficult than for starters. It becomes necessary for you, and maybe only you, to know when you have done your job. For instance, backcourt specialists might establish a personal goal for their team to not be scored on while they are playing. Or they may always strive to out-point the opponent during the segment(s) of a match (or practice) when they are on the court. By all means have plenty of positive conversations with yourself.

Become the best player on your team at the things you can control:
· Make practice your turf. Try to win at everything, including any running. If the starters go 25 steps, you go 26. If they go fast, you go faster. If they get dirty, you get dirtier. If everyone else works for 90 minutes, you bust for 91. Prove in practice you know what it takes to compete and strive to be the toughest, smartest, coolest player on the court at all times. Make the team realize your appearance in a game will carry with it the all out effort, supreme confidence and unyielding competitiveness that you show in practice.
· For competition, know the game plan and your opponent. Give the starters your heart and soul when you are with the bench and know with every ounce of your conviction that you are the person the team wants on the court at 3-13. Have total and absolute faith in yourself, forget your mistakes, and never ever give up.

Cue Words for Volleyball Skills






Good Blocking Technique

Skills #1

Skills #2


Defensive Troubleshooting
by Aldis Berzins

Spectacular defense can get a lot of oohs and ahs out of a crowd. But what's most important is that it can turn the momentum in your team's favor. If it's late in a match, and you dig a ball straight up that's pounded by the opponent with nobody up, it can be the difference between winning and losing


After the ball has been served by your team, everyone should be in their base position as illustrated above.

The middle back should be in the center of the court, one step from the endline. The left back and right back should be one step in from the sideline and one step in from the 10-foot line. The left front, middle front and right front should have their hands up and be ready to block.

It is critical to discipline yourself to be in these base positions every time and be ready to dig the ball.


In the standard rotation defense, on a high outside set, the left-front should work hard to get off the net, one step behind the 10-foot line and one step inside the sideline. It's okay to give up the radical sharp angle shot that lands inside the 10-foot line because only world-class players can hit that shot, and even at that level, it's rare. Your objective is to get in the flight path of the shot that is most likely to be hit.

When the left-front gets outside the 10-foot line, it allows the left-back to drop back and cover the deeper cross-court angle shot, which is an area many attackers like to hit. In this defense, the left-back usually concedes the corner shot. But if the opposing attackers are continually hitting balls to the corner, the left-back should shift over to cut off the deep corner shot. (Refer to figure on next technique page.)

If you're a younger player and you're in the left-front position, it might be hard for you to get behind the 10-foot line, especially on a quick set to the outside. That's okay. Take large steps and get back as far as you can. You should attempt to straddle the 10-foot line.

Remember, if you're the left-back or the left-front, any ball that's hit above your waist is going out. When this happens, pretend you're playing dodgeball and get out of the way.

Be sure not to creep in toward the attacker. Most shots are hit within three feet of the sideline or endline, so you should always guard the perimeter. Also, it's easier to defend moving forward than backward.


As a middle back, you have more ground to cover defensively than anybody else on the court, so it's important that you don't get sucked too far in. If you do, you won't be in position to pick up balls that are deflected off the block. You're probably best off standing one step inside the endline. That's far enough back to cover deflections but close enough so you can react and get to an overpass or setter dump.

If you're not particularly quick-footed, you might want to take one step back and stand right on the endline. That'll give you an extra step to chase down balls that are hit deep off the block.


No matter where you are, you should freeze when the hitter contacts the ball. This is true even if you're out of position. Ideally, you want to be in a stable defensive position: low to the ground and ready to come up and meet the ball. A lot of inexperienced players get caught going down into their defensive position as the ball is being hit, which usually results in their missing the dig. Be brave, not afraid. You won't wind up in the hospital if you get hit by a volleyball. The best defensive players are always thinking about getting the ball up, not about whether their nose is going to be crooked after the play. Have your hands in the down position, but be ready to take the ball overhand if it's up around your face.


1. When the blocker takes your area, you may be tempted to make a quick move to cover open court. Don't. You don't have time to run somewhere else. Just hold your ground and anticipate a shot off the block. Trying to make a last-second move will result in your moving as the ball is being hit, a big no-no.

2. In the rotation defense, if the blockers are covering the line, your job as the right-back should be to release for the tip.

3. If you're the middle-back and the block is split, hold your ground. Stay in your good defensive position.

4. If the right-side blocker is the only blocker up, coaches usually teach them to block the cross-court angle shot. In this situation, if you're the line digger, you should prepare for a ball to be pounded directly at you. If you're the middle-back, shade toward the line side to help the line digger.

5. With nobody up, it's just you against the hitter. Don't turn your back and hope not to get hit. Instead, you should lean into the shot and hope to be hit somewhere so that the ball goes up. Remember, a hard-hit volleyball doesn't cause life-threatening injuries.


How to be a better team player.
a. Encourage your teammates.
b. Be productive even when not in a drill. Shag, ref, call lines or have a towel ready to dry floor.
c. Set a good example and be a hard worker.
d. Actively participate in matches, even when on the bench. Look for tendencies, weaknesses     
    and support teammates.

Take responsibility for yourself.
a. When you make a commitment to a team you must uphold your responsibility.
b. Manage your time well and do not spread yourself too thin.
c. Always make your teammates look good. For example, if you receive a bad set, don’t hit it into the net but do something positive with it.
d. Never give up. Hustle all the time.
e. Go for every ball, hustle is contagious.

Communicate With your Teammates
a. Always be positive.
b. Non verbal communication. Give high fives, pat on the back, never hang your head.
c. After a teammate makes an error, do not turn away but give support.
d. Wait for the proper time to bring up something with a teammate.. For example, do not bring a situation up in front of the whole team and never show a player up.

Communicate with your coach
a. Discuss conflicts with your coach. Ask questions and take answers as well as criticism openly.
b. Never talk back to your coach. A coach is spending his time for you.
c. Always ask questions if you do not understand a concept.