Champions are made in the off season
The girls have heard me say this way too many times (and they never miss an opportunity to mock me about it), but I have found it to be true in countless situations. When I think about the transformation of players in our program
such as Laura Alo, Jessica Dothager, Katelin Feyerabend, Jenna Marcotte, Alyssa Cliffe, and Janell Crow it was very clear to me that the work these players did during the off season is what led to them reaching their potential. Feyerabend would be the only player of the four to contribute on the court as a freshman and even she would tell you that she was a one-dimensional hitter with poor ball control.
It’s a combination of three things that separates the good off-season plans from the great ones -Strength, reps, and Volleyball IQ.
A stronger volleyball player moves faster, jumps higher, swings harder, is less prone to injury, and lasts longer in matches. You have to do a combination of things to accomplish each piece, but consistency in workouts is the key. We make sure our players have access to a jump program and a weight program, the cardio they usually figure out on their own. Without strength training in the off season and a serious increase in her vertical, I don’t think Laura Alo moves from DS to L1 and eventually becomes a 1st team all conference player. Jessica Dothager might not make it from the bench to GC’s first SLIAC player of the year without her off-season workouts.
I wouldn’t just say that reps are important, I would say without them you will get passed up very quickly. The thing that we like to keep our players aware of is that every kid we are recruiting is playing club volleyball and they will be playing from Aug. until at least May. If our kids only take reps from Aug. to November they won’t be able to keep up with our freshman let alone the other players already on the team. Feyerabend never saw the back row without her off season reps on defense and serve receive. She also learned to hit every shot in the book and is currently ranked second on the all time kill list. Jenna Marcotte spent countless hours in the gym during her summer months and tracked every serve she received, recording nearly 3,000 reps, she became one of our best passers ever.
At some point players stop just playing the game and they start understanding the game. You can’t acquire this skill without the desire to learn or by just watching good volleyball. You have to become a real student of the game and start to process every factor of the game. It’s about recognition in my opinion, recognizing what your opponent is doing faster and having a frame of reference by which you will determine the best countermove in the least amount of time. Your brain sees what is happening and you immediately shuffle through the index of knowledge and make the right adjustment. One of the benefits of running a club for our program is that our players get to coach and that has a significant impact on our players’ volleyball IQs. Our girls work camps, run clinics, watch film, and become true students of the game. Our team GPA is usually around a 3.4 and that also helps. Alyssa Cliffe was probably the most intelligent player I have ever coached and a lot of that was because of the high level of club she played in high school and the fact that she coached club in the off-season. We got to the point where she knew what adjustments we needed to make before I even had to tell her, so she made me look like I actually knew what I was doing. Janell Crow is another great example of a player with a high IQ, Nelly might not be the most athletic player I’ve ever coached (you know I love you Nelly), but she was an expert at decision-making. Nelly led the conference in assists in 2010 and 2011 and is the only setter in school history to take a team to the NCAA tournament. She had the ability to see what blocking scheme the other team was in and exploit every weakness.
The players who take the off-season seriously always seem to sift to the top of the pack. Can’t wait to see who our next champion is.