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Posts by Tom


The Nest

Posted Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

One of the terms we often use in our program is “The nest”. We use it in a variety of ways, but it’s most commonly used when we want to share openly about something and we don’t want to be judged by our peers. It refers to a safe place and that is exactly what we want to provide for our players.

A safe place often times gets mistaken for an environment without accountability, confrontation, or scrutiny. Let me assure you that is not the environment we are working to establish and maintain.

Whether it is in the classroom, the gym, or socially, our players are held to a high level of accountability. Too many times we run from accountability and put ourselves in situations where we have no one to answer to. I want our players to understand that we all need to be held accountable and questioned when we step out of line. This is a college team; this means there are always going to be the pressures associated with being a college student. We are not at all saying that our girls never make mistakes, they are human and that happens. It is more about them understanding that they will have to answer for those mistakes and that what they chose to do or not do affects every member of the team. We hold our players accountable because we love them and it is our job to send them on from our program as better people, not just better volleyball players. Without accountability there is no clear level of expectation and without expectations our progress is unknown.

A lost art in relationships that I feel is essential to growth is confrontation. Our players often lack the ability to confront their peers and that leads to real problems within a team. I love technology, but I do think that technology has definitely hindered our ability to have tough face-to-face conversations with one another. Texting is easier than talking to and you can’t have a real conversation via texting. Coaches are around their teams a fraction of the time the players are around each other and if nobody is able or willing to confront when necessary then the culture will suffer greatly. A culture will inevitably develop within a team, for good or bad, and whatever behavior we do not confront we are communicating that it is acceptable.

The players on our team know that we are going to play the best players and that is the bottom line when it comes to lineups. They experience a very real level of scrutiny that can be taxing at times. We always want to be deep in every position and challenge each player to consistently improve. We share our statistical data and player rankings openly and we want them to experience the rewards of playing along with the struggles of watching from the sidelines. Being a starter for our team is very difficult because we carry so many quality players. Handling both success and adversity are lessons we want our players to learn.

We use biblical principles to teach life lessons. God calls us to give up ourselves to follow Him and I think we can make that connection for our athletes in a proper team setting. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me”. We want our players to deny themselves and put the team first. Once this is understood we can transfer that concept into their spiritual lives.

Our goal is to help our players learn to deal with situations properly within the team setting so they can be better equipped for real life situations when they arise.

“The Nest” doesn’t judge, it doesn’t hold grudges, it always loves, and it always challenges.


Champions are made in the off season

Posted Saturday, March 24th, 2012

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.

Volleyball IQ

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.


Dominican Rebublic Mission Trip 2011

Posted Monday, August 1st, 2011

Almost a year ago the team started to plan our trip to the Dominica Republic, well Wednesday morning at 6am we get on a plane and that dream becomes a reality.

The entire team has been on camps now since July 24th and the anticipation of our departure is growing every day. Our Annual Panther Volleyball Academy was held July 24th-30th and this year we had a record setting 312 campers attend. It was a great week for the team to interact and start to form relationships. Sadly after camp the freshman had to leave, the NCAA does not allow incoming freshman to participate in overseas trips.

We took Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday after camp off, but met for our first meeting at the Estevez home at 6:15pm Sunday night. Ivan Estevez is the coordinator for our trip and this will be his 3rd visit to the Dominican this summer.

Monday was a busy day for us. Training at 9am, lunch at 11:30am, pool time at 12:00, devotions and prayer time at 3pm, training at 4pm, and dinner at 6:30pm. We cancelled our evening training session and took the team to the Copper Dock for dinner (the girls seemed to be fine with that).

Tuesday we will have a very similar schedule and we leave Greenville at 3am for the airport.

After a Stop in Miami we arrive in Santiago at 1:30pm. During our time in the DR we will be working on the local Free Methodist church, visiting orphanages, giving clinics, and oh yeah playing some serious VOLLEYBALL!
We will be blogging every day on our trip so make sure you check in with us daily and all of your prayers are appreciated.


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