Canada / GMS Implementation?

GMS in Canada

Tom Melton, my dad, and I just got back from Winnipeg, Canada after a three-day coaching clinic. Some impressions after the trip:

– Last year when they did a camp in Canada, Mike Wall was pulled aside at customs and grilled after he told them he was coaching volleyball. I got the same treatment this year, and so did Tom. I don’t know what dire security threat volleyball coaches pose to Canada, but apparently it’s enough to warrant extra attention at the border. Maybe it’s just that Tom, Mike, and I look a little shady – they didn’t say a single word to my dad in either direction.

– Winnipeg is the coldest city in the world with a population over 600,000. In somewhat of a paradox, it is also one of Canada’s sunniest cities, with over 317 sunny days each year. So it was no surprise when we got there and it was sunny and REALLY cold (and windy). We left 65 degrees in Utah to go to cold in Canada (in an additionally cruel twist, it was snowing when we got back to Utah). The rest of the trip it was overcast and raining, and the coaches at the clinic kept telling us how it was the warmest weekend of year – if it doesn’t snow, that qualifies as warm in Winnipeg. They don’t make pansies up in Winnipeg. If you grow up there, you can take pretty much anything after enduring a few winters.

– The place for coffee and doughnuts is Tim Horton’s, which is pretty much the Canadian equivalent of Dunkin Doughnuts. They are EVERYWHERE (like a Starbucks in Seattle), and are jam packed at every hour of the day – think In-N-Out in California. Tom, who is a snooty coffee drinker, told me that the coffee at Tim’s was below his lofty standards, but within two days he was addicted to the “double-double” (double cream, double sugar) and we were going out of our way for his fix. Dean, our host, opined that they secretly put something far more insidiously addictive than caffeine in the brew – there wasn’t a reasonable scientific or sociological explanation for it’s popularity.

– Canada is an interesting mix of the metric system and the imperial. They still talk about people’s height in feet and inches, but they couldn’t get a handle on a digging target of 20 x 10 or pulling off the net to 10 x 10. We got so we were referring to the digging targets of 6 x 3 (meters) and I had to start talking about getting your setter 1.5 meters off the net, etc.

– The most confusing thing for a volleyball coach going from the US to anywhere else is that rotations don’t go 1,2,3,4,5,6. They go 1,6,5,4,3,2 (which zone the setter is in). It would have taken me a lot longer than three days to get used to that. The drill “Opposite Volleyball” took on new meaning.

– Canadian people are some of the nicest anywhere in the world. Not only the coaches at the clinic, but pretty much everywhere you went. My American accent gave me away (I was working on my Canadian, eh, hoser?) and they were instantly gracious. When the economy implodes in a fiery mess down here, I am going to seriously consider moving to Canada.

– The clinic was fairly well received, but I could tell that many of the concepts were REALLY out there relative to the general Canadian volleyball experience. One of the better questions (and one that coaches frequently have) was “of all this stuff we learned, what should we implement first?”. The question was compounded by the fact that most of the coaches are in the last third of their seasons and changing everything at this point would be a challenge. In thinking about this a little more, here’s how I would proceed if I had to change things on my team deep into my season:

– There are some things that would have an immediate big impact that a coach could easily change without changing mechanics or systems. Practice format seems to be the most obvious. Get a whiteboard, eliminate stretching and non-volleyball warmups, and start writing practices that incorporate the principles: lots of game-like reps with lots of feedback, in an environment that scores the drills and promotes training intensity. Even if the mechanics and systems stayed the same, simply running quality practices would be a big upgrade.

– Next, start changing some defensive systems, or start putting people where balls go. This wouldn’t take much – instead of standing here on defense, stand there. The hard part, of course, is learning to read from those spots, but at least being in the right spot would make a big difference.

– Serving mindfulness. Start talking to our servers about their mindset when serving – the need to serve it in and serve it tough, developing routines and rituals, etc.

– Passing target and setter’s waiting position. Start passing off the net and get the setter to start waiting away from the net.

– Habitual footwork. I would then start working on habitual footwork patterns, specifically for hitters and blockers. Getting the hitters to shuffle outside to hit and to have good transition footwork would be a nice start. Getting blockers to have good footwork would be next.

I think my dad would tell coaches that now is as good a time as any to start making changes in your fundamental skill mechanics. For coaches that lack the confidence to do that in the middle of the season, the above items might be a good place to start. But know that you’ll always be way behind if you don’t eventually have good fundamental mechanics.

6 comments on Canada / GMS Implementation?

  1. Karl Langelotz says:

    >Having taken part in the clinic, I would agree with many of Chris’ comments. I agree with Tom – the Tim Horton’s coffee is substandard (I make my own at home or get a nice dark roast somewhere else).

    As for volleyball, I don’t think the GMS ideas are so “out there”. Most of the ideas have already been implemented in different ways by many coaches here. One thing I found useful was the statistical background behind many of the concepts. Your average coach simply doesn’t have the time (or staff) to take those kinds of stats.

    Thanks again to Carl, Chris and Tom for making the trek up north – it was much appreciated.

  2. Roshambo says:

    >It’s bizarre that you were harrassed by customs for being a volleyball coach. I guess you should be thankful that it was Canada and not some third world country where they might resort to rubber glove searches…

  3. Mike says:

    >Having gone through the process myself, I love the question “What should we implement first?”

    And I love Chris’ answer, especially where to begin: With a better practice format!

    So here’s another question that has occurred to me over the years, and an attempt at an answer: What DRILLS are the most important?

    Certainly doghouse, because it works so hard on the funadamentals of serve-receive.

    Opposite volleyball, because it helps teach rotations

    Monarch (Or king or queen) because it has lots of serve and pass repetitions, and because it lends itself so well to having the athletes compete.

    TRansition wash, because it helps you build your defense and transition game.

    Hope this helps somebody.

  4. Shawn says:

    >We really like the drill “wash table” as well to focus on Serve recieve. Our kids really compete hard in queen and queen bounce 1. But we have found when our kids are not competeing up to our standards and we really want ramp up the intensity and make the kids work in a 6 v 6 format we will use doug’s scramble with a consequence like 2 pancakes suicides (our kids loath pancake suicides). We have found our kids will kill each other in this fast paced drill not to have to do the consequence, even to the point of screaming at each other across the net (you need to be careful that the trash talking and competitiveness doesn’t leave the gym, a challenge w/girls). Sometimes we add a serve at multiples of the 5 or 10 just to add an element of S.R..

  5. Manitoba Coach says:

    >It's really unfortunate this GMS clinic was scheduled during the biggest girls club tournament of the 2009 club season, which was being held two hours west in Brandon Manitoba. 98% of Manitoba's top women's coaches were unable to attend. From what i heard the clinic was fantastic, it's a shame most tier 1 coaches couldn't make it.

  6. St. Vital says:

    >Hmmm…..Not sure that 98 % of the best coaches in Manitoba coach in one age class?? That would be a really arrogant statement considering the coaches that coach at all the different levels in Manitoba!! Yes there was a 17/18U tournament in Brandon that weekend. There is a different club tournament every weekend in Manitoba from Feb-April. Anyway the clinic was a good time for all who attended.

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