Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The NBC Series: Attacking the Defense

"The NBC Series" is a re-posting of several select volleyball articles that were published in the NBC Camps newsletters from 2008-2010. Every summer, I reflect on my life-changing 13 years of my time with NBC Camps. Because I will not able to publish new blog material until late August, these auto-postings will be up weekly for some throwback reads. The articles have been edited and updated as needed for 2014.

Attacking the Defense

First published November, 2008

You hit the ball as hard as you can – it’s a sure kill – but wait! It comes sailing back over the net and drops right in front of your teammate who wasn’t ready for the overpass. Your team loses the point and your effort was in vain. We’ve all been there and done that. We’ve had those games when we crush the ball over and over again and yet cannot seem to nail the kill. What are we doing wrong?

First of all, do not try to change your technique! If you are able to hit the ball with strength, speed, and angled downward around a block, you are way ahead of most youth players. It’s not always necessary to change the way we are attacking, rather it probably is where we are attacking. There are two things we can definitely change to get kills instead of opponent digs.

#1 Body Angles. 

Your hips and shoulders can create a twisting motion, known as torque. The force of your torque can direct the ball to different areas for better ball placement. If you find yourself only able to hit the middle back area of the court, try adjusting your shoulders and hips to face the opposite corner (deep angle) from where you are hitting. Smacking your attack toward the last five feet of the court in the angle corner is almost a guaranteed kill against many defensive formations. 

However, if you think it is impossible to hit down the line, again try changing the rotation of your shoulders and hips to finish directly facing the line you want to hit. Hitting the ball down the line or through the 1/6 seam can be very effective against perimeter defenses.

#2 Hand Contact. 

Where your hand contacts the ball can change everything. You have probably been taught to hit the back center area of the volleyball, snap your wrist over the top, and follow through to your same-side hip. Great hitters can actually alter their contact on the ball – and so can you. 

You’re hitting from the outside position and the setter sets a high ball about six feet inside the antenna. Our natural reaction is to run right through the ball and hit the angle. But your opponents are expecting that. Try giving them something else to handle: on this inside set, wrap your hand around the right side of the ball (for righties, your thumb will be facing up; lefties thumbs will face down) and lob this side-spinning roll shot back into the deep line area. You don’t even have to hit it that hard: ball placement is everything. The other tricky roll shot will be to wrap your hand around the left side of the ball to create the opposite spin and rack up more kills.

Some of the best hitters I have played against seldom hit the ball as hard as they could; usually they would take their approach and use their peripheral vision to simply put the ball where my team wasn’t. The teams that just hit hard at us all the time were much more beatable than the ones who used tips and roll shots to expose our weaknesses and destroy our defense.

The bottom line for attacking the defense effectively is to know where the holes are on the other team’s side. You can ask your teammates to call out what’s open (i.e. “Line,” “Angle,” “Tip,” etc.) and you can also take responsibility by watching where the other team moves when your own side is attacking. Do they have a person deep in the line or the angle? Do they cover the corners or the middle of the court better? Do they have a player to cover the tips? 

Pay close attention to the movements of the opponent and make your plays based on what they don’t do well. Help your other teammates know what you’ve learned and seen. Keep your opponents on their toes and never knowing what’s coming next. Attack the weaknesses of your opponent and come away a better hitter and a better teammate.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The NBC Series: Be That Girl

"The NBC Series" is a re-posting of several select volleyball articles that were published in the NBC Camps newsletters from 2008-2010. Every summer, I reflect on my life-changing 13 years of my time with NBC Camps. Because I will not able to publish new blog material until late August, these auto-postings will be up weekly for some throwback reads. The articles have been edited and updated as needed for 2014.

BE THAT GIRL

First published October, 2008

Let’s finish your high school season and start your club season by being a great teammate. Sure, we all love volleyball and we all like at least some of our teammates. But imagine your team differently; add to that group of 8-15 girls a catalyst who drives forward to make herself better by making her teammates better.
           
At the Anchorage camp this summer, Coach “Lars” gave the campers and coaches the “Morning Word of Wisdom” (MWOW) on the final day of camp. She challenged all of us to “be that girl.” What girl was she talking about? It was that girl who always gave her best, that girl who everybody loved, that girl who was the best teammate – regardless of how good she was or wasn’t at volleyball.
           
There are three great ways to “be that girl” on your team this year. The first is through RESPECT. Respecting your teammate is done through your actions. Think about your facial expressions and body language after a teammate makes a mistake. Do you look or act frustrated then try to take over for them? Or do you respect their position and ability by supporting them in the next play? When we respect our teammates as people, we will also eliminate the team killers like gossip, frustration with others, and rudeness.
           
Start today: one way to show respect is through listening.
           
The second way is through APPRECIATION. Think about who your friends are for a moment. Are you friends with people who appreciate you or people who don’t like you very much? Most of us would say we had appreciative friends. People like to be appreciated, and we all know we can find at least one thing, if not many, in others to appreciate. Find the positive in everyone and tell them you have found it. Only good things can happen if we make “spotlighting” a regular part of our team culture. Talk to your coaches or team captains about including spotlighting weekly and/or after games.
           
Start today: one way to show appreciation is through kindness.
           
The final key to being “that girl” is through COMMUNICATION. One thing coaches always find themselves saying to their teams is, “Talk more!” Volleyball players can never talk enough on the court, yet some of us know we hardly speak once we start playing. There is no need to yell or bark at your teammates, however, it is crucial to your team’s success that you speak clearly and sensibly whether you are on or off the court. There is always something to say: call the ball “in” or “out,” where the other team is hitting from (outside, right side, middle, back row), where your hitters should hit to (line, angle, tip), regular reminders (cover, defensive base, how the other team’s server hits the ball), and all the in-between encouragements to teammates. Players who communicate well will get noticed by teammates and coaches and will “be that girl.”
           
Start today: one way to better your communication is through eye contact.
           
A special thanks to Coach Lauren LeQuire (Coach “Lars”) from the Anchorage, Alaska camp for the whole idea of “that girl” and being an inspiration to us all (go Aggies!). NBC Volleyball hopes you finish and start your seasons strong and we see “that girl” at camp in summer 2009.

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