Cassidy Lichtman | former U.S. national team player, AVCA All American at Stanford
When I first joined the national team, Karch had each player write a job description for our position that answered this question: What are all the responsibilities for a player in that position during a match?
At the time I was an outside hitter, so I sat down to think about anything I might need to do when we stepped onto the court. I found that there were 3 primary parts of the job:
- Being a teammate
The first thing that likely comes to mind when you think about your job on the court is playing the ball. As an outside hitter, I obviously needed to hit, pass, serve, block and defend. But I decided to try to break it down further and figure out how to articulate my technique for each of those skills. Some of the questions I answered were:
- What is my objective on this skill? This needs to be something that is under my control. I’d love to get an ace every time I serve, but I don’t control that. So my serving objective is to hit a tough serve with movement, speed and accuracy.
- What are the keys to my technique? Everything we do happens in a series of steps. My feet are moving, my hands or arms are moving, the speed of my movements is changing, my position in relation to the ball is changing. We work on these keys in practice, but many athletes don’t know exactly how their form works.
- What other skills might I have to perform? As an outside hitter I don’t set, but I might have to if there’s a bad pass or a scramble play. I have to cover the other hitters. These are skills that we might not consider as central to the position, but they are part of my job.
We don’t talk about or train reading nearly enough. After I wrote my job description, I looked at it and realized that half of my bullet points for any given skill had nothing to do with touching the ball. They all started with, “See...”. Before and during any rally there is information that I can gather that will help me put myself in a better position to play the ball successfully.
- What rotation is the other team in? The rotation they’re in can tell me a lot of things, including which passer I might want to serve, what play they might run or where their weak blocker is.
- Who is playing the ball and what information can I get from them? I can see where a server is standing or facing, how she tosses the ball and how hard she swings. I can see a hitter’s line of approach, where her shoulders are facing and where the ball is in relationship to her. All of this tells me where the ball is most likely to go.
Being a teammate
My overall job is to do everything in my power to help my team win. I do that in 2 ways:
- By doing my best.
- By helping those around me do their best. To do the second part, I have to figure out what I can do to make my teammates better, so here are a couple of questions you should ask yourself:
- How am I communicating with my teammates? This was one of my steps for almost every skill. When I’m reading a server, I can talk to my fellow passers about where the ball is going to go. When I’m setting an out-of-system ball, I need to call it clearly so my teammates know I’m taking it.
- What do I do when I’m not on the court? My job was to be an outside hitter. It was not necessarily to be a starting outside hitter. If I’m on the bench, I need to be engaged and watching the match and providing any information or support I can to the players who are out there, especially the ones in my position.
I don’t consciously think about every one of these things when I go out onto the court. But writing them down helps me consider parts of my job that I may forget sometimes. It also helps me get really clear on the things I can control. In my job description, it doesn’t say I need to serve aces, get kills or win games. It just tells me what I can do to give myself the best chance to help my team. And what gives our team the best chance is if each of us just go out on the court and do our jobs.
Cassidy Lichtman was a member of the U.S. women’s national team during the 2013-16 quadrennial. She was a two-time first team AVCA All American setter at Stanford (2007-08) and an assistant coach in 2016 when the Cardinal won the school’s seventh NCAA championship in women’s volleyball.