Category Archives: coaching

Dear Coaches…

I love having conversations with my coach over here. He’s around the same age as my dad and for some reason that generation loves to talk (and talk and talk some more). I’m not complaining! It’s very entertaining as well as very informative! The stories range from Serbian mafia to different president/player relationships he has had to deal with in the past.

The most recent conversation that we had was about the history of volleyball. When he played, there were a lot more rules than that of today. He was a setter and he talked about all of the famous players he’s gotten to play with and against. We actually ended up talking about Karch (he pronounced his last name as if he was speaking Hungarian and if he hadn’t of said “Karch,” I’m not sure I would’ve known who Keer-a-lee was) and how he was the most selfless and best all-around player he’s ever played against. Coach told me stories of when they were playing against each other in Italy and how he made just one mistake the entire match! I laughed and said that there aren’t any players this day in age who are anywhere close to being like him. And I believe that wholeheartedly. Realistically, there won’t be another player for a long time to even come close in comparison with Karch.

However, with all of that being said, what has happened to the all-around players? Has the game evolved that dramatically? Players who had everything: the ball control to be an outside, the strength and power to be an opposite, the intelligence to be a setter, (the cardio to be a middle)…in a world of specialization, have we managed to get players to underperform? Have we created rules to make the game easier to understand or to make the game uglier? With the increase in athleticism over the years, have we covered up their true potential with the increase of substitutions?

For all of the lovely coaches around the globe reading this, I would be honored if you would answer this simple question: Do you think that the game of volleyball has improved/progressed and why? (ok that’s two questions). If you need the definition of progression, it is a movement or development toward a destination or a more advanced state. I know the sport has changed, that’s obvious, but has it gotten better? Anyone can point out a problem (if there even is a problem)…that’s not my goal here.  I want to know what people are thinking. Consider this a research project that a future coach (me) is conducting that could possibly help to grow the sport that we love.  Any and all comments, concerns, and suggestions are welcomed! Leave them below or email me your thoughts at knc5088@gmail.com. Please share this with any of your coaching friends! Thank you 🙂

 picasso

Advertisements

Part two: It’s Constantinople NOT Istanbul

Turkey:
So Turkey is uh, how should I put this, a lot different than Santorini. Polar opposites actually. Little history for ya that I learned this weekend (I obviously didn’t learn it in high school because why would we need to know about that part of the world?): Istanbul was once Constantinople. Constantinople used to be a Greek city. During the age of the Ottoman Empire, the Turks had rule over the Greeks for about 400 years. Oh yeah, they don’t like each other. My Serbian coach informed me that the Turks had rule over Serbia for 500 years. This city is almost as old as Jesus. Twice in history it has been the largest and wealthiest city in Europe (now half of the city is technically in Asia). Seriously? This city is so old and so much has happened here. America is an infant compared to just this one city. They’re probably thinking, “1776 is cute. We had already tried taking over the world a few times when you were just being born, America.” Istanbul is still a Greek name (I’m quickly learning that every word is or has been derived from the Greek language) meaning “Into the City”. It’s also extremely diverse.
.IMG_1865.JPG

IMG_1724.JPG

The smells of this city weren’t like other cities I’ve been to though…and I’m lucky enough to have a lot to compare it to. You have the busy, industrial smell of New York City, the cinnamon pastry smell of Malmö, the beer and chocolate smell of Brussels, the marinara and wine smell of Rome, the smell of marijuana and tulips in Amsterdam….I mean smells stick with your brain! The smell of herbs, spices and tea will forever be in my head when thinking of Istanbul. It was the most wonderful combination of smells and my nose will be eternally grateful for it.

Oh yeah, I have one word that will probably bring me back to Istanbul just because and that word is BAKLAVA. The. Best. Ever. I know I love food and over the years my stomach has created a slight negative response to sweets (I can’t eat a dozen donuts anymore), but I probably ate my weight in baklava and my belly was like “KEEP ‘EM COMING!!!”

IMG_1782.JPG

IMG_1751.JPG

Most of our meals were chicken or beef, with a different soup for both lunch and dinner. I commented to my coach that it kinda tasted like pork and he looked at me very seriously and said that absolutely no pigs were allowed in Turkey (I really hope he was joking). I then remembered the Muslim religion and that pigs (and lambs?) are considered a dirty animal for them and was overwhelmed with a feeling of sadness for them (respectfully of course). Most of these people have never tasted bacon before. Not that I needed a reminder than I’m one of the luckiest and blessed people on the Earth, but that moment made me and my belly both smile.

Volleyball:
Well, we lost every game. We got a 6th place medal (thanks America for trending medals for participation, dummies) and a big ‘ol handshake from the president of the Turkish club that hosted the tournament. Yes we lost but wow, there was some great volleyball going on. Volleyball that reminded me of winning a national championship or watching 6 All-Americans play together. It was fast, full of at least five or six different languages and full of passion. The best word that comes to my mind when thinking about that tournament is fun. That’s what volleyball is all about! We hung with those teams! It’s not like we were completely stepped on…we made these teams fight. They came in thinking that this little Greek team is just a minor pot hole on their way to the final…sorry pal. You’re gonna need a serious detour playing against us. That was probably the corniest analogy I’ve ever used so I apologize but I don’t feel like erasing it. We did some great things. We also did some horrible things but I’m going to choose not to remember those incidents. Just a quick reminder for all of the middles/crazy opposites out there reading this, please get out of your setter’s way. That’s all I have to say.

IMG_1736.JPG

IMG_1745.JPG
It was nice to see the potential my team could have if we started playing consistently. We still have a long way to go but I think we’re on the right track. First real game TOMORROW! The things I’m learning and seeing (and smelling) are things I’m going to tell my grandkids about one day. Plus, all of my Christmas shopping is done 🙂 I truly am living my dream.

Back to the Drawing Board

After our weight session today, my coach and I were talking about how productive our afternoon team practice was yesterday. Even though yesterday was physically exhausting for me (setting over 1,000 balls in our morning technique practice…feeling like I’m at a Sports Performance camp), the evening practice showed how much we, the girls who participated in the morning practice, had learned and we were actually doing things very well. When coach says there is a morning practice and only a handful of girls show up, you can imagine my surprise. We had both setters there, all three middles, and one outside. That’s it; six girls showed up to practice. I say “that’s it” in kind of a negative voice because it was very frustrating to be there with only half of our team when there’s so much to work on and improve. Of course half of the team is under 18 years old, so a few had school lessons and a couple had big girl jobs to go to. However, it’s very tough for me to think differently about this subject because for as long as I can remember, all throughout my 23 years of living, I’ve made volleyball a priority. Partially because it was the one thing I loved more than donuts and my late cat (may he rest in peace), Goober. Ok, it’s probably like a three way tie. Another reason was because it’s a team sport and that’s where all of my friends were (didn’t have many school friends…because of volleyball). I loved working hard and competing. When people would miss tournaments because of prom, I would always ask why? Just like last year in Sweden, we had some girls not show up for practice because they had to study…when they had all day to study. Or in college when people would want to go home during the summer for a whole month when everyone knew that’s what set us apart from the rest of the country: commitment. I just never understood it because that’s how I’m wired. If you want to get better, you have to put in the time. And it can’t just be one person…the time must be put in together as a team. That is the only way you will improve.

For the past four weeks, we have been practicing a lot of individual training, basic technique drills and conditioning (and I mean a lot of conditioning). When you have such a young team, it’s kind of essential for these things to happen in the beginning. It’s also taken some time to adjust to everyone on the team because let’s be honest…there isn’t one team in the world who didn’t graduate someone, transfer anyone, or gain a player to their team. There’s not one team that’s the same from the previous year and my team was not used to anyone. I mean if you come to our practice you’ll hear Greek, Serbian, English, Portuguese and Engleekerbinese…also known as broken English. I get it though. We need time to become a team. However with some girls not showing up to practices and our first match in a couple weeks, some things need to change.

Random photo shoot

We obviously didn't get the memo to act tough or smile...
We obviously didn’t get the memo to either act tough or smile…photo cred Milenko Tol

Now knowing, and thanking The Lord, that there are not many people in this world like me, I need to step back. First off, I need to respect their decisions because people have different priorities. I’m here for my job (gosh that’s so cool to say). Secondly, I am faced with two choices: not worry about it and just go on with the slower progress, or figure out a solution. Since I’m not one to just sit back and let things happen, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and create some opportunities where my teammates and I can get more repetitions and get better. A little adversity never really hurt anyone, right? Gotta keep finding ways to continue living that dream.

IMG_6016