For the second installment of our Bishop’s High video journal, we visited the Knights’ Sept. 13 practice. Warmups began on this Saturday morning at 8:30, and the session went about 2 ½ hours, including post-practice weight lifting.
As usual, there were lots of good drills, including passing work, out-of-system hitting and setter movement.
So far, the team’s hard work under the direction of head coach Tod Mattox is paying off. Through Sept. 22, Bishop’s was 7-1.
Underhand “bowling” tosses for digging practice
Rather than hitting balls at a partner overhead, Bishop’s players frequently do a 2-person drill where one player digs and the other tosses to them underhand, like a bowling motion.
The advantage of underhand tosses is that they’re easier to control, so players can do them with a partner rather than needing a coach to hit at them. It’s a great way to increase the number of digging touches players get in a practice.
Bounce and set
As part of their daily warmup, Bishop’s players pair off and do a four-part partner routine that includes:
- Bounce and set.
- Hit under the net on a bounce to the partner.
- Hit over the net to the partner.
- Toss 10-foot attacks and hit over the net.
You saw No. 2-4 in the first Bishop’s journal. Here’s the bounce and set.
Efficient setter movement from serve-receive position to target area
After watching match film, Mattox determined that he needed to work with his setters on moving more efficiently from their serve-receive positions to the target area.
One of the bigger challenges the setters face is moving from left back. In this video, Mattox demonstrates how they can be more dynamic in their movement and get stopped before the ball arrives.
Refining passing platforms
In this video, Mattox helps libero Kate Swanson and outside hitter Abby Bertics refine their passing platforms.
Adding an element of competition in practice is always a good thing. Not only is it fun, it more closely replicates the feel of a match than a non-competitive drill.
Here, you’ll see Bishop’s setters Camille Stepanof and Kelly Forte competing in a 2-person drill that they do every practice. The winner is the first player to set 25 balls through the hoop. Front sets first, back sets next. The players set from a live pass.
Out-of-system setting and hitting
In this out-of-system setting and hitting drill, the libero passes to herself off a down ball delivered by a coach. (In Bishop’s system, the libero takes the second ball when the setter can’t.) Next, the hitter waits until the setter releases the ball, then makes her approach and takes a swing. The goal is to keep the ball in play, not go for a spectacular kill. Mattox reinforces several points with his players:
- Hitters should yell “WAIT” to remind themselves that they can’t leave early.
- Above all else, keep the ball in.
- Setters need to let hitters know if the set is too tight.
- Ball should be set to the 5-5 location – 5 feet off the net, 5 feet inside the sideline.
5 v. 5 Deep court
Later in the practice, Bishop’s plays 5 v. 5 deep court with no middle. In this drill, the setter always takes the first ball.
As you’ll see in the video, Mattox emphasizes that he doesn’t want to see errors on back-row attacks and encourages setters to experiment with the pipe set on transition plays.
His biggest message: “Don’t take careless swings.”
One rule on high sets
In an animated moment late in practice, Mattox reminds his team at high volume that there is one rule and only one rule they need to remember on high sets. “Hit the ball over the net!”
Communication with the setter
Gathering the team by the white board after practice, Mattox talks about how hitters can improve communication with the setter. He wants them to be loud and clear when they’re available for a set.
7 paradoxes of great coaching
Mattox started practice with a message intended to remind players of big-picture goals: 7 paradoxes of great coaching. Here they are:
- Fiercely competitive in practice and still great friends.
- Have the “shared joy” type of team pride yet remain humble.
- Driven individuals who are still selfless teammates.
- Attempt to win every day but never be afraid of losing.
- Intensely focus on preparation but compete against their potential.
- Compete like madwomen, yet always treat opponents with respect.
- Intense but calm.
Don’t forget to coach the great players
While summarizing the day’s practice, Mattox makes a point about needing to remind himself to spend individual time with his top players, not just the players who need the most help. After all, he notes, the great ones touch the ball most often.