Volleyball in Ladysmith by Dr. George MacMaster

Vic Lindal’s Volleyball Session in Ladysmith, Vancouver Island.

Dr. George McMaster

Vic and I travelled to Ladysmith on Jan 31/16 to deliver a volleyball training session to a girls under 16 high school volleyball team. First some high level observations.

The mantra, “What gets measured and monitored gets performed” is necessary to the “success of any endeavor”.  This accompanied with the mandate, “to ensure that all exercises model a competitive environment”, that is, to create game-like situations where ever possible.  Additionally, the saying, “perfect practice makes perfect” was so evident in the striving for a perfect practice. All of these ideas were prevalent in the training.

When we entered the gym, the session was to start at 11.  Some of the team members arrived at 11:06.  Vic made the point that being on time means being at the gym a half hour early, that is, 10:30 in this case.  This can be a good time to ensure that that the nets are up and to do a visualization of what you the coach want to get better at.(once the players are on the Journaling Program(McMaster-Lindal), they can be reviewing what they have listed in their ‘get better’ categories.)  The next point was to make clear to the players, their responsibilities.  Players need to set up the net and remove the trappings of the other sports such as nets and stands, not the coach.  A coach needs to observe the situation carefully. When the volleyball nets were set up, the nets were not at the correct height.  It was especially noticeable that the lower straps, when pulled tight, brought the nets down several centimeters. The game is not played at a lowered height!!!! To practice at the wrong height is not perfect training, since we emphasize again, “perfect practice makes perfect”, and not the more casual statement, “practice makes perfect!” Also ensure that the antennae are in place.

The first step was to determine where the team wanted to go during the year, what was their end point vision or EPV?  This can be done every practice for long range and intermediate plans.  It is also a good idea to check with each player on his or her “get better” goals for the practice. The importance of determining an EPV  and a focus on “get better” is stressed in the text, “End Point Vision and Beyond” by McMaster-Lindal. Vic asked the team a series of questions:

  1. What is the team goal? What events are you going to play in?
  2. Where are the Canadian championships?
  3. Are you going to the provincials? Where are they being held?
  4. It was determined that they would be held in Nanaimo. The island championship would be the focus. The question then was, “what teams are in it?” Vic pushes to get a comprehensive listing of the teams.  This helps to get a clear vision of the EPV.
  5. The team was asked how they would like to do and it was determined that they would like to win or do well. The training then started.
  6. The team players and coaches were advised to read the text, “End Point Vision, Live your preferred future now” where for example; the all-important attitude of “Get Better” is explained, along with methods for capturing ideas to make the improvements a reality.

There were only 7 players at the camp with two others being down with the flu.   A key thought by the coach must be that they always give the team 100%, regardless of the turn out. Vic worked the girls using half the court as described in the “Radical Volleyball Coaching Manual” by McMaster-Lindal and available through the publishing company, Reciprocity Publishing out of Victoria, British Columbia.

The training began.

  1. Forearm volleying and passing were performed first as a warm up on the narrow court using the Monarch of the court concept where the winning team stays on, and you only score on the receiving side. The players were advised to keep their own score and announce when they had 9 points.  Notice the emphasis on “measure and monitor.”  The concept of “get better” is of paramount importance and how will you know if you are getting better if you do not measure. As some of the players served, they stepped over the line.  Vic did an ”Intervention” and pointed out, the error. “Perfect practice makes perfect!” He also stopped the play and asked how many points they had.  When some did not know, Vic did a one-minute reprimand and asked them to start over … at zero.  The player’s attention to listening went away up. Always know the scoring and how to achieve success.
  2. One of the next steps was to teach the float serve. Vic showed them how to stop their hand and snap it.  Also, he explained the dynamics behind its effectiveness: this serve is effective, since if the serve is properly done, there is no ball rotation, building up pressure in front of the ball, causing the ball to flutter or float as it nears the receiver and makes for a challenging return. The players were then asked to announce when they completed 9 non-rotation, or float, serves.  The players were guided as to how to get a non-rotation serve. When players did an effective non-rotation serve, they were congratulated.  This action reinforces, “reward the behavior that you want repeated.”  Vic stopped the practice and announced the players who had made float serves and these players were applauded. The idea of End Point vision in the serve was emphasized.  The players were asked to clearly picture where they wanted the serve to go, visualizing the exact spot on the court, the whole trajectory of the ball, for example where it is going to land, where it crosses the net, leaves the hand. The idea of doing the visualization before bed was advanced as a necessary training method. The players were then paired up, and served back and forth with the players asked to announce when they reached 5 float serves. The importance of the serve was emphasized to the players: It is the one skill that you have complete control over.  Since you are in control, then you can serve well.  Pause at this point and recap: All the training so far had definite specificity, measurement and monitoring.  Also there was continual intervention and positive reinforcement. Also, the players were asked to get the serve in zone 1 and the person receiving announced whether this had been accomplished. The coach can vary the size of the zone to correspond to the level of the players.
  3. The players were then shown how to receive the serve: a. Knees bent and hands on the knees b. When the opposing player was preparing to serve, the arms were lifted, and the players were to sway. c. The arms were brought together to receive the serve with the thumbs touching beside each other, arms outstretched. The players were asked to again visualize the serve coming and where they would set it, that is, exactly on the setter’s hands. The idea of performing a visualization on every drill and every skill was emphasized. There was a bit of an aside piece of advice by Vic: The players were asked to use a journal in the future to write down what they intend to get better at in the following format: “I am getting better at …” and to draw a little diagram of the action.  After every practice, the players would then do a self-measure from 1 to 10, with 10 being a “perfect” execution of the exercise. Again this important training device is emphasized in the McMaster-Lindal EPV book.
  4. The players were then taught to spike using EPV and backward shaping as described in the EPV book by McMaster-Lindal. The mechanics of the spike and getting power were compared to the action in Karate, where in the punch, when one hand is punching, the other hand is drawn into the side of the body to get the required speed. This uses the laws of biomechanics, that is action and reaction.
  5. After the spike, a short game was played with a narrow court and 3 on 3. The team who got 7 points first was the winner. Two coaches were asked to participate.
  6. Vic then took the team into a team play session of service reception and free ball.
  7. In the wrap up, the players were asked what they learned. The training ideas that Vic covered were then put forth by the players.  Vic emphasized starting a journal, drawing pictures and then self-measuring to determine if they were “getting better”. The matador walk for resetting the brain after a poor play was described.  When a player makes an error, instead of “wailing”, they reset the brain by a. standing tall,  breathing deeply: in through the nose and out through the nose. c. smiling.  Another tip was when players hear a compliment about another player they pass it on.  This makes for an enhanced “performance environment”. Another point made by Vic in the wind-up, was in the rotation of servers, your best servers must go first.  Why? Because they will end up serving more than the others in the rotation on average. The first two in the rotation will get one more serve per game.

A note on measurement:  The coach must know what they want done and know what has not been done. Most people are not used to being measured. The idea is “to soar with your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. “ How will you know strengths and weaknesses if you do not measure?

A note on excuses: When Vic and I were working with the coach of an elite junior hockey team, the coach had excuses (rational reasons) for the team performance. See if you use some in coaching: “they don’t have a work ethic, they don’t have the talent, they are not doing it for themselves, they are too small. “   Quit making excuses. Decide what you want done and measure and monitor. When you make excuses, you do not focus on what needs to be done.

On Listening: With the same hockey team, we noticed that some of the players were not listening to the coach’s instructions.  What constitutes good listening? Players looking at the coach. Players being able to summarize what the coach said.  Some of the behavior that we observed:  Player looking around, player talking to the player next to them.  Player looking for their water bottle and playing with it. Player almost out of “the circle of listening range”. When Vic gives coaching feedback, he whistles, players come close and drop on one knee to indicate that they are there to listen.  The focus must be on the coach. If they do not listen there is a one-minute reprimand. The coach must verify the result that is desired right away. Be clear on the outcome that you desire. Listening skills must be taught otherwise the players are not clear on your message! This necessary skill is possibly the least taught skill in the school system.

What really caught my attention with the Lady Smith clinic, was how Vic got the players to pay attention right at the start of the clinic.  As Vic and I talked, he expanded on his journey in teaching listening skills.  As a substitute teacher, he would emphasize the importance of listening skills.  Substitute teachers are usually tested early on by a class who likely look upon a substitute as an opportunity for a vacation. When Vic walked in, he slammed the door. This caught everyone’s attention.   The first person who spoke (not addressing him), were asked to leave and were out of the room. He might say turn to page 32.  The person, who turned and asked the student behind, got a 1-minute reprimand.  They might even be asked to stand in the corner.  If they didn’t, they were out of the room with Vic saying, “I will come out and talk to you, if I remember.” The steps were clear: 1. Time out   2. Into the hall.  3.  See principal.    I was smiling as Vic shared his techniques.  However, his no nonsense approach with the girls team in Ladysmith resulted in a first class training session, the players worked hard, learned a lot and all the players at the end being very happy and enthusiastic with their training.

I noticed with the men’s hockey team, that players were often ‘Dogging it”, that is not giving 100%.  Vic makes it clear with his teams that they are to give 100% all of the time.  With his adult woman’s national volleyball team, he noticed one player not giving 100%.  He quickly said, “You are not giving 100%. You seem tired.  Go to the bench and sit down.  When you are 100%, I will call you back.” The backdrop to the story was that the athlete was saving himself or herself for another sport they were in.  This would be classed as an ‘Excuse’, and you know now where that ranks for validity, a big 0. The athlete not giving 100% would give others the excuse to hold back.  In a game, you cannot perform unless you are giving your all.  Remember, practice needs to be as close to a game situation as possible.

One last substitute teacher classroom example: Vic often would do random testing to see if the students were listening. In class he would point to a field that they would play be playing in.   There was an obvious short path out a particular door to the field. However, Vic would tell them to go out through another less obvious door.  He would stand at the obvious door and ‘catch’ the players who had not been listening.  Yes, a one-minute reprimand followed. From then on, players listened and went out the specified door.  ‘What gets measured and monitored, gets performed!’ and this is a great example of measuring and monitoring the art of listening.

O.K., perhaps one more example is in order.  School announcements over the PA system were an opportunity for kids to yak and not listen. If it was announced that a team, say Hamilton had played, then after the announcements, Vic would quiz the students.  “What team was announced?” he would ask.  “What was the score?” Usually rooms would be noisy during announcements.  Not Vic’s.  If you went to his classroom, you would often hear a student say, “Keep the noise down, I have got to listen to the announcements because I have Lindal.”

To conclude: Vic makes clear what he wants accomplished and he measures the results.  There are also consequences so that the desired task ends up being performed. We have given you many ideas for developing listening skills in your players. Use them.

Footnote: The coach’s of the Ladysmith’s girl’s team asked Vic to come back and do another session.  The team had decided that they wanted to play in the provincials and start working to ‘get better’ and be in a position to achieve this EPV.  An important step in coaching is ignition (the action of setting something on fire), and this request signaled that it had taken place. A player and a team needs a clear EPV and this team had found it through the work of an excellent coach who asked the team at the outset, to consider what their EPV was.  This request also signaled that a  successful coaching session had taken place and action had resulted!!!!  Certainly, bringing back a Master Coach in Vic is a great first step to achieving the goal.

In the text, “The Talent Code, Unlocking The Secret Of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Math”, the author Daniel Coyle clearly states that “Talent is made and not born”.  A marvelous guide for creating talent is given in the text, “Radical Coaching, Methods for Winning- Volleyball” by McMaster-Lindal (www.endpointvision.com).  The Ladysmith coaches are advised to purchase the book and study it. Included are  stories of players applying the given techniques to achieve greatness,  These techniques can be passed on to the players. For example there is a very motivational story on how one player increased their jump height, and their volleying skills to make a team and be an Olympic starter. Also, the secret sauce for success,  narrow court doubles,  is clearly described.

The players and coaches are cautioned to not create excuses.  Some examples would be: players are not talented, there is no work ethic, players are not fit enough and on and on.  Keep the mantra, ‘Talent is made not born’  ever present and the coaches can apply the techniques in the Radical Coaching text to ensure that they are ‘making’ the talent.

The next step for the success of the Ladysmith team is for the coaches to get on the Journaling Program.  Once they have learned the system, they can then get their players using it.

As part of ignition, coaches and players can find and use motivational posters, books, videos (youtube) and movies to motivate themselves and ensure that there is no doubt that ignition has taken place.  An example is Brodie Lindal, a young hockey player, who watches video highlights of the top ten N.H.L. plays in any week, and he studies them over and over. Ask yourself how great you wish to be and then take steps to achieve the desired success.

The Ladysmith coaches, by bringing the master coach Vic back, is now ensured that the team will be involved in deep practice, and will know clearly what is required to achieve their EPV. Vic and the Ladysmith coaches can then monitor and continually provide immediate feedback on the team progress.