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Mick Haley takes on volleyball's new looks: since one good turn--our interview with USC's fabled women's volleyball coach Mick Haley in the October 2004 issue--deserves another, we decided to bring him back to finish our serve on the new looks in volleyball.

COACH: You coached the U.S. Women's National Team for four years, including a fourth-place finish at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. What are the differences between the collegiate and the international games? Which do you prefer coaching?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

HALEY: The two are like night and day. I learned an awful lot during the Olympic experience. The collegiate game is predicated on being successful with a minimal amount of contact. You can only practice so many hours a week because of the required amount of study time.

When you are coaching the Olympic or National team, you're focusing totally on the success of that group 24-7. The biggest problems are too much time in the gym, players keeping their focus, and trying to have a balance.

In the collegiate experience, you're trying to pursue two levels of excellence at one time--making sure your players receive a degree and trying to win a national championship--while allowing your kids to enjoy the college experience and have fun. It's a multi-task deal as opposed to putting all of your eggs in one basket with the National team.

You get a lot of attention in the college game because you are seen every weekend. The international game doesn't get a lot of attention in the U.S. because a team will maybe play here only five or six times a year.

You play all over the world, and when you travel, you do so for as many as 30 days at a time.

With that kind of time in the gym, your repetitions will allow you to control the ball so much better than you could by playing the sport in a different way.

In the college game, you can't get control of the ball that well because you don't have the time and the number of repetitions.

So you have to figure out: Is big better? Is quickness better than big? There are so many questions. It's quite challenging. Some of the best coaches are in high school because they don't have to recruit their kids; they have to take whomever they can get, and have to figure out ways to be successful.

I liked the international game a lot. I just didn't like being away from my family. I also felt enormous pressure not to fail the U.S. I'm really proud of that fourth place finish. We went from a disastrous rebuilding program to seven points away from playing for a gold medal.

That's pretty darn good in one quadrennial. It had never happened before.

COACH: Are you happy with the growth of the women's game? If you were a rules' executive, what modifications would you recommend?

HALEY: I really think the rally score game has helped the American game immensely. You're seeing it on every college campus. Anybody can now walk into a gym and understand how a point is scored and get into the sprint to 30 points. But the international 25-point game is the most exciting.

I also believe that we are messing around with some of the rules. We're going to allow the libero position to serve, and that's going to place more emphasis on serving.

Libero is an Italian word for free. The position was introduced to allow a team to place a free substitution in the back row. You could run a player in for another player who had good ball-control skills. But that person was never meant to be a serving specialist. In fact, the international game prohibits the libero from serving.

Our college game is going to allow it and I believe that's a great, great mistake. It means that some teams, will consider having a serving specialist instead of a libero. And that will be a boring thing for the spectators. It will take away from the beauty and the movement and the great defensive plays that mark the women's game. I think it's an experiment that should be curtailed.

As far as the men's game is concerned, I still feel that the jump servers should not be allowed to land in the court. They should be forced to land behind the end line. Maybe the back-row attack line should be moved back because of all the 7-foot people playing (and jumping) 10-feet from the net and landing at the base of the net.

The whole game was designed not to have back-row players attacking at the net, and the rules should enforce this, especially for the men, and maybe for the women too. I don't think serving is a fun part of the game. It's a tactical thing.

If I were the executive in charge of this sport, I would try to get it on TV. It would surely achieve great popularity. We have 400,000 high school kids playing volleyball every year. These people turn into moms, dads, and spectators who want to see volleyball on TV.

The AVCA, by doing the game of the week, has really embarked on a great voyage. But we need more instruction, more education on the different ways to play, and a little bit more constructive criticism during the matches.

I don't mean tearing people down and criticizing them, but stimulating our coaches to prepare better. I would do more work on their training and their tactical knowledge of the various systems to equip them more fully to be successful.

COACH: What is the future of the men's game in this country?

HALEY: I am very worried about the men's game. It is at an all-time low in spectator enjoyment. It's high-velocity serving is marked by more errors than good serves and by a lot of movement with the blocking, which create touches that increase the size of the court--signifying that the velocity is greater than the reaction time. So you can't have a lot of defensive plays, which a large segment of the population loves.

I would change these rules that I mentioned earlier--the serving rule, staying behind the end line, and maybe adjusting the 3-meter line to maybe 4 or 5-meters for back-row attack. In short, I would try to make it a game of positives as opposed to negatives.

COACH: You have 864 career victories, 613 on the Division I level (prior to the 2004-05 season), six national titles, and numerous Coach of the Year honors on your 27-year coaching resume. Of all the tremendous things you have accomplished, which has produced the greatest personal satisfaction?

HALEY: I was pretty excited about that '88 win at Texas. It was like my days at Ball State when we trying to get respect from the West Coast. Texas was an important breakthrough.

The men's and women's National championships at Kellogg were equally important to me because, again, the game was on the West Coast. Of course, coming to USC and restoring a tradition was also a very satisfying thing.

But to me, it's all about execution. You finish one thing and then go on to the next to see how well you can do. When I grow up, I don't know what I'm going to do because I have had so much fun being a kid. It's painful to think that it will all come to an end one day.

Interview by Kevin Newell
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Title Annotation:VOLLEYBALL
Author:Newell, Kevin
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:1212
Previous Article:Correction.
Next Article:Open letter to the parents of football players.
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