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Something special in high school volleyball.

An area of great potential, often overlooked by high school volleyball coaches, is the development and use of specialists.

Since we traditionally keep nine players in our starting rotation, we are able to exploit the opponents' weaknesses by manipulating our rotation - without having any of our players (and their parents) complain about their lack of playing time.

Roster positions 10-12 are reserved for "Project Players" - younger players with the potential but not the polish to crack the starting nine.

Coaches should be constantly on the alert for potential talent. Some years ago a player who had never played high school volleyball was spotted by a college coach in a recreational volleyball class. The coach liked what she saw and encouraged the girl to come out for the team. The girl went on to a stellar collegiate career, capped by a position on her national team.

The point for coaches to remember when making final cuts is that a beginner with latent talent can be turned off the game for good by a negative experience.

Whenever we pick a player for the team, whether it be at #1 or #12, we tell her what we think her role will be, what we expect of her, and what she can expect in return.

Our "Project Players" understand that they have an apprenticeship to serve in learning the skills that could make them a starter in the coming years.

If they cannot accept this role, they are welcome to leave and try out again the next year. If they accept their role, we will usually train them for a "specialist" role that season.

Five areas lend themselves to specialization on the high school level: server, blocker, serve receiver, back-row defensive specialist, and attacker or setter.

The designated server is trained in a specific serve or a serve-target area. Her specialization, we feel, will guarantee us a successful serve. The specialized serve is usually different from that employed by the rest of the team, and is used in much the way that a fastball pitcher will go to a change-up.

If, for example, the opponent is in a passing "groove" vs the overhand float serve, we feel that a spike serve or even an underhand serve can give us a point or two simply because the angle and velocity of the serve demands an adjustment by the passer.

If the passer is not expecting that change, the 1.5 seconds that it will take for the ball to leave the server, cross the net, and reach the passer won't give her the time to make the proper adjustment.

The designated server can also be substituted for a tired server at the end of a long match or to break a string of bad servers.

The blocking specialist can often be put in for a front-row setter any time another setter can penetrate form her back-row position, or to provide blocking assistance vs a specific attacker or a specific location/play.

Some teams even have a "wall defense" for the final points of a match, where the best blockers are put in the front row and another is brought in to form a solid wall. They attempt to block all opponent attacks to the floor, thus ending the match.

Every team can make use of a server-receiver specialist who can come in for a player who is having major problems handling serves. This person can be a key specialist, as most servers are taught to always take aim at a substitute, as she will be cold coming off the bench.

Even if the servers have been successfully keying a certain target area, they will go at the sub without even knowing why. If your substitute happens to be your serve-receive specialist, you stand a great chance of success.

A back-row specialist is inserted to provide the "keep the ball off the floor at all costs" spirit. This kind of specialist can "pick up" her teammates and provide the spark needed to overcome a slump or to stop the opponents' momentum.

I hesitate to mention attack or setting specialists as they are much harder to train because of their dependence on interaction for success. While we have trained setters to set a specific type of set or a hitter to hit a specific shot or set, their dependence on interaction (a pass in the case of the setter and a set in the case of the hitter) will not produce the return achieved by the other four specialists.

It is important to remember that the idea of giving a project player a specialist role is part of an ongoing process to create an all-around player. With the 12 substitution rule used by some regions, we run the risk of having a player become a front-row or back-row player for her entire career.

When a grade-12 player comes to your summer camp with the hope of winning a college scholarship after her senior year and you discover that she has been used in a designated role her entire career, it is a tragedy.

The substitute rule, when misused, puts the player who has to learn all six positions at a disadvantage. A role-dependent player is definitely less valuable than a player who can play full rotation.

The use of specialists has added a weapon to our arsenal and enabled us to systematically develop our young players into members of our starting line-up.
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Title Annotation:developing 'specialists' in volleyball
Author:Demerchant, Robert
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Dec 1, 1995
Previous Article:The 3-H approach to hitting.
Next Article:Fueling the human machine for optimal performance.

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