Sunday, August 25, 2013

"The 5 Characteristics of Recruits..."

Arizona Sidelines sent out an e mail to roughly 75 college volleyball coaches, from community colleges all the way to the top D1 schools in the country asking them this question:

“What are the 5 characteristics you are looking for in your recruits today?”

Here's what we got!

What you see is a Wordle, a fun way to emphasize the words most often used in a speech or writings or normal conversation. For our purposes, we plugged in the answers from the Coaches and on occasion, in order to make the Wordle more emphatic, changed some of their wording to fit the wording of their peers.
For example, talent, athleticism, athlete and athletic ability were all labeled Athletic Talent in the Wordle to make the case of its importance. In fact, Athletic Talent was the number one characteristic of the coaches, coming up 10 times. Competitiveness came up in 8 responses, Good Teammate, Academics and Work Ethic in 6, Character, Technical Training and Coachable in 5 each.

Former USA Men’s Olympic Coach Marv Dunphy, now the Men’s coach at Pepperdine put his five down this way:

Drive- I can fix just about everything else but if an athlete is not driven, good luck!
Toughness- There is a difference between competitiveness and toughness, I like tough kids.
Can they be on the court when we compete for a National Championship?
The ability to read the game.
Character- I can have one knucklehead in the program, but not two!

Kevin Hambly, the head coach at the University of Illinois and former USA Assistant Women’s National team coach listed his five:

Have the athletic ability to compete at this level
Play hard
Good Teammate
Good People
Do I want to coach them?

Gonzaga Head Coach Dave Gantt sent back this:

Academic Preparation
Volleyball I.Q.
Work Ethic
Growth Quotient- How much room between the current level of play and the projected level of play?

So what can we, as Junior coaches, take from this?

Athletic talent is sometimes there, sometimes not. We can’t coach a kid to be 6-2 or have the eye hand coordination of a magician at the ripe age of 13. That usually comes with the package. Technical training is an absolute for a coach as is the best and most efficient way to train it.

But competitiveness; Do we foster a practice that helps bring that out of players? Do we reward our athletes for their work ethic and being a good teammate or do we turn the other way because those things don’t necessarily lead directly to wins…or do they?

Don’t we owe it to our athletes to focus on good character, being coachable, a solid work ethic and climb on board to praise excellence in academics? Great players that want to play in college will because they are great players, but can “good” players get the opportunities because of their strengths in these other areas?

We owe it to ourselves as coaches and to our athletes to make these things important. The payoff down the road, whether they make a college roster or not, is substantial.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Competitive Cauldron...Jersey Style

It started as a conversation at dinner a few nights before her DePaul Catholic Spartans were to take the court for their summer camp. Coach Coleen Henry, diving into her 13th year at the helm of the New Jersey high school volleyball program was engaged in the discussion about the competitive cauldron, the now infamous coaching tool developed by North Carolina Women’s Soccer coach Anson Dorrance, used in varying degrees in so many sports including volleyball. She wasn’t aware that there was a character side to the Cauldron and this intrigued her.

Henry is an analytical thinker, an outside the box coach who sees certain skills and traits in players, no matter their size or volleyball tradition and puts them in a position on the court where she thinks they will succeed. She has had much success in the past few seasons despite a dwindling student body base of which to gather her team. She is upbeat, positive and always seems to get the best out of her athletes.

Her mind clicking, she listened as to how certain soccer traits were shuffled in with character traits that would help the team learn, enjoy and sustain cohesiveness. Before dessert had come she had a plan.

The first day of camp, she asked her varsity girls to list as many characteristics as they wanted about what makes a good teammate but wanted them to highlight or number the top five on the page. She collected them after the first camp day and went to work.

Of the nearly 100 traits and characteristics she got from her 12 girls, she started to whittle. Which words were the same on each sheet, which words meant the same things. She and her coaching staff sat down and organized the athlete’s responses into five larger categories and again, using the athlete’s words, described each category.

Sportsmanship: Respect, humility, positivity, treat other teams and teammates with respect, no cursing, respect officials and coaches, attentive during team talks.

Grit: Hustle, competitiveness, passion and fire, accountability, perseverance, mental toughness, determination, works hard, never quits.

Communication: Positive, listens well, vocal on the floor, off court communication, addresses team issues before they become bigger.

Adaptability: Coachable, open to change and correction, flexible, overcomes obstacles, does what is asked of them, proactive and shows initiative.

Team-First: Supportive, committed, shows leadership, selfless, shows preparedness, encourages teammates, cheers, understands that the team is only as strong as its weakest link.

That part done, Coleen honed the scoring system she had heard from the dinner discussion. Everyone must be ranked in each category from a 0-5 (5 being the best) in increments of .5. The player that showed the least amount of that particular characteristic had to receive a 0 while the person that showed the most got a 5. The rankings were placed in the middle between those two. You also could not rank yourself and yes, the coaches had input as well.

Henry liked this idea to ensure that players wouldn’t take the safe way out and just vote everyone a 5 or a 3. Yes, this could be uncomfortable for the players as she noted, especially at a Catholic High School, girls are less likely to call each other out. This was why she liked the idea so much. It was a group ranking by each player’s peers and coaches and the score would be a genuine reflection of how each player was perceived.

She built the sheet with each characteristic and their description on it, with the scoring rules at the top, and listed each player’s name with a place to put the score. The sheets were handed out to the players and they brought them back the next morning.

In the meantime, Coleen went to It’s a site where you can take a group of words and list them and Wordle will take the list and based on which words come up more often, build a piece of art that the creator can adjust with different colors, fonts, placements, etc. Using her team’s list of traits, she came up with a Wordle picture that showed the girls which teammate traits were most important to them. This will be used for t shirts later on in the season.

Once the sheets came back, they were tallied. Every players score from every other player and coaches by category and then a composite score and ranking for the total. They were handed out right before lunch on the last day of camp and she asked each of the girls to come see her for their sheet and a quick chat.

This is where Henry is masterful. Some players received scores under a 1.0 but as she told them, this is a tool, and if this is the perception the team has of you, it’s up to you to change it. One by one, the players came up and got feedback from her, some with higher scores were still given things to work on. Those with lower scores were told what they needed to do to improve and how she expected to see improvement in the scores the next time she gave the team this cauldron. She was diplomatic, positive and sold them on the idea of it being a tool and not a popularity contest.

Henry did say there were very few surprises to her. The girls that she thought would score highest did and the ones that weren’t as communicative or less engaged in the process of what the team was doing were lower. But this was a chance for the athletes to be judged by each other and she liked what she saw.

Coleen says she’ll do another one after all of her scrimmages in a few weeks and another one after her first tournament or two. She understands it’s an experiment but in order to continue to move the program forward, she is willing to take some chances….outside the box.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


In our continuing effort to inform and update coaching education and resources, please check out the following:

Volleyball coaches in the area are invited to attend free coaching forums with the Arizona State University volleyball staff on August 14 and 21 in Wells Fargo Arena.
Head coach Jason Watson will be offering two coaching forums immediately following a Sun Devil volleyball practice. The team will practice from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. the coaching staff will talk with attending coaches about the ASU volleyball practice structure and field any questions asked.
The forums are free and open to coaches but students of recruitable age are not permitted to attend.
Workshop Schedule
August 14, Wednesday: 7-8:30 p.m. | Wells Fargo Arena
August 21, Wednesday: 7-8:30 p.m. | Wells Fargo Arena


VolleyVideo is a simpler and cheaper DataVolley for iPads. It allows you to record video of your team or players, or other teams (for scouting reports), and then organizes them by rotation and serve or receive. You can then watch and share these videos in any order, allowing you to, for example, view all plays where your team serve receives in rotation 3. Click here for a quick youtube video describing the application, or search "VolleyVideo" on the app store to get it.

VolleyHighlight is a similar iPad application for parents to create recruiting (highlight) videos of their kids. It allows parents to record videos of their kids and save only the highlights, then sorts these highlights by type (kill, ace, dig, etc...). After a few games, a parent should have enough highlights to send out to any college coach or recruiter. Click here for a 1-minutes youtube video showing the application


A great new magazine called "Sports Performance and Tech" is a great way to incorporate new science into your coaching. For the newest edition, click here


During the last few years, our technical and analytical team has created a large amount of videos which contain technical and tactical clips that demonstrate the latest game strategies in modern Volleyball. This technical video gallery contains useful clips which are available to use for coaches, players and National Federations. Clubs, teams and federations can utilize them free of charge.
2012 Men's Olympic Games
   2012 Women's Olympic Games
   2011 Women's Jr. World Championships
·   2011 Men's Jr. World Championships
  We at the Region will continue to keep you updated on resources as we get them. In the meantime, let us know if there is anything YOU need from us.