A good question recently came in from a coach:

“I’m in my current HS season, and my middle hitters are hitting horribly. I know middles aren’t nearly as valuable as OH’s and OP’s but here are the stats:

M1: .176

M2: .021

M3: -.150

My OH1 is hitting: .269 and my OH2 is hitting .331. I’m thinking of swapping the two…

My OP is hitting .143. So things are looking pretty bleak offensively. Here are my questions:

1) Should I swap OH1 and OH2? OH1 was better earlier in the season, but OH2 has been better the past month.

2) Should I move my OP to the middle since they are not very good?

3) I have one libero who is slow but a good passer. But she has a very limited court range (often gets beat by shorts balls/serves) and often does not communicate with her teammates (get quiet in intense moments). Another is faster and can cover more court, but her passing is just a tad lower (like 1-2%). She hustles a lot but sometimes tears-up when she makes an error. Are there any good drills to assist in making that decision between these two?”

Our Answer:

These are questions for which a Cauldron environment is tailor-made:  run a LOT of point-scored activities and a bunch of tournaments where you keep everything the same but switch the players that you are looking to evaluate.

Based on the data you gave, here is my first impression: I have no idea. Numbers in isolation don’t help much, simply because I don’t know everything else. For example, should you switch OH1 and OH2? Hard to say, since OH1 probably has to hit on the right in rotation 1 (Can OH2 do that?) and she has to hit with only one middle in the front row in two rotations (OH2 only has that in one rotation) so the defense can gang up on her a little better. What you should do is run a ton of practice games where you keep all the players the same and switch OH1 and OH2 in each row and see how it goes. Bear in mind this will probably take at least 10 practices to really sort itself out, so it might be a little late to start asking this question.

Same deal with your OP. Your middles have the easiest job – if they can’t hit better than .171, I don’t know how they are going to do any better on the right.  I almost value my MB1 more than my OPP in girls HS volleyball, since they have to carry a big load hitting slide in rotations 4 and 5, so that complicates things as well. Once again, you’ll need to run some experiments to figure this out.

Finally the libero. I’ll be the proverbial broken record, but how can anyone eyeball these two and know anything? As you mentioned, it’s a really tough call. You’ll have to just keep cauldron numbers and let that sort itself out.

Sorry I don’t have more definitive answers, but you are asking very difficult questions (as you know) that are highly specific to your players and your team. The best thing you can do is set up the cauldron and measure things that way.

Finally, whenever I hear that a team is performing poorly offensively, I want to take a close look at the following:

– How is your passing? You can get a LOT better offensively if you’ll spend a lot more time on passing mechanics and passing reps. Probably you aren’t serving and passing enough in practice. If I had a HS team, I’d spend AT LEAST 1/3 of my time in dedicated serving and passing drills (then get a lot of serving and passing in other activities as well).

– How is your setter? Does she make good choices? Does she have good tempo with the hitters? Can you improve her mechanics, footwork, and decisions?

– How well do your hitters move in transition? Do they have really good trans footwork? Do they get way off the net and can they choose between 4 and 3 step moves?

I hope this helps,

Chris