Sunday, January 30, 2005

Volleyball Mismanagement

I have always tried to be a team player. From the middle school tennis team to the club volleyball team I played for in high school, I never tried to be a standout or a one-man-show. Ask my teammates; they'll agree.

I wouldn't mind riding the bench all season if it was in the best interest in the team. Don't believe me? My senior year of high school, I rarely played in matches for the varsity tennis team, but we went on to win the conference title. I was fine with that.

Yesterday, however, at a volleyball tournament in Long Beach with the 'SC club team, I realized that at some point maybe something is wrong. I want what's best for the team. I want to win as many matches as possible, but I am pretty darn sure that my presence on the court would help that. If I play poorly then bench me, but if I'm doing well, keep me out there.

Here's the deal:

In the first match yesterday, I continued to have trouble connecting with Kyle, the team's setter. I really wasn't having a good match. I had a few blocks, but I had some hitting errors too. I knew I had a bad match. Everyone knew I had a bad match. But the coach kept me in there. I don't know why.

As a player, I wanted to stay out there because I thought I'd be able to turn it around, but if I had been coaching the team right then, I would have pulled me. There were definitely capable back-ups on the bench.

At one point during the match, I jumped to hit a quick outside set. I jumped up early, like a middle blocker should, and got ready to hit. In my opinion, the set came out somewhat slow. I was already coming down from the peak of my jump and was unable to make good contact on the ball. I hit it out. I know it's my responsibility as a hitter to put the ball in the court after it leaves the setter's hands, but unlike the rest of the middles on the team, I am up early - which is good for middles. That way the setter can shoot the ball quickly to me.

Instead the set was a semi-lob. After the hit, I motioned to the setter to push the ball out faster. The coach immediately called a timeout and bitched me out for complaining about what he described as a "perfect set" that I had "no excuse to miss." about no. How about the set needs to be faster in order to be an actual 3 set.

The coach was pissed, yet he decided to leave me in the game. Now, don't get me wrong. I should have put the ball in, but the set should have been there. Just because the setter is used to lobbing those types of sets because the majority of the other middles on this team are constantly late on their approach doesn't mean that I should adjust my approach to match that.

I'm not trying to be arrogant or egotistical or a jackass for that matter, but that's just how you play volleyball. Middle blockers need to get up early! Any knowledgeable coach will tell you that. I heard it all last year while practicing with the NCAA team.

After the match, the coach told me that I needed to bring the fire to the tournament that I usually have in practice. He said that I looked like I was playing without confidence. Okay. I can deal with that criticism. Tell me what I'm doing wrong or what I need to change, and I'll do my best to correct it.

In between matches, I told a teammate of mine and a fellow middle blocker who I assumed would start for me in the next match that I expected to get benched that match. We talked about how I probably should have been pulled. I didn't want to go sit, but we both agreed that as a coach, the best move would have been subbing me out.

The next match, I came out a different player. I was fired up and ready to play. In the teams pregame huddle, I gave a quick pep talk before we took the court. I was ready to play this match. I didn't plan on having another disappointing performance like the first match.

In the first three plays, I had two blocks. I was fired up. We were playing with all kinds of energy. We were picking up momentum and building a lead. Then I rotated to the back row and subbed out as usual. Our lead began to diminish and our energy level declined. I'm not saying that my absence from the court was the sole reason for the team's lead to slip away, but I think it was somewhat of a factor.

When I got back in, we started to roll again. I had some big kills and made one hitting error in that first game. At the end of the game, however, I rotated to the back row and came out. The other team took the lead and the game. I wanted to be in there to try to help, but there was nothing I could do but stand on the sideline and encourage my teammates.

After that game, despite the loss, I was ready to go back out there and continue keeping the team energy high. We were playing a team we could definitely beat. After the last game I was on an emotional high that I was ready to transform into momentum for the team. Instead, as I took the court, the coach told me that I wasn't going to play in the second game.

Now here's where I have a problem!

I don't doubt that I deserved to be subbed out during yesterday's tournament. I just question when the coach decided to pull me. I had just had by far my best game of the day and the season for this team and was full of positive energy. I was ready to do it again. Nope.

Instead I didn't see the court again until the last five points of the tournament when the coach decided to take out everyone on the court to give those of us on the bench some playing time.

I just don't understand why he would have left me in to start that second match. If at any point during that day I deserved to be taken out (which I definitely feel I did), it was during the first match. The coach should have started the second match with me not on the floor if he was planning on pulling me. I can't figure out why he would take me out after such a strong showing. I just doesn't make sense to me.

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