5 Tips to Getting Started with GMS

5 Tips to Getting Started with Gold Medal Squared


So, you’ve Attended a Gold Medal Squared Coaches Clinic. Now what?

Time to apply the principles you learned, the advice you received, and the data you’ve collected. As the saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” The best time to do these things was 20 years ago, but the second best time is NOW. Here are 5 tips to getting started with GMS in your gyms today!

1. Pass, Dig and Set Off the Net

We believe that these skills give you the “most bang for your buck” in terms of how quickly you team will improve. Move your passing target off the net. As a result, your team will not be passing into or over the net. This will immediately improve your team’s side out-efficiency. Don’t believe us? Take the stats, and compare them for yourself. Likewise, if you move your digging target to 10 feet off x 20 feet high, your team will have fewer errors and you will immediately score more points in transition; the probability of winning the rally will dramatically increase. Again, if you don’t believe us, compare the stats. Lastly, if your setter sets the ball 3-5 feet off the net, your hitters will be able to hit with more range, and score more points. We strongly recommend getting this in place ASAP.

2. Put Your Best Defenders Where Most of the Balls Go

It’s hard to argue with the facts. We know where nearly 50% of all volleyballs go, regardless of the “hole in the block” or the blocker’s positions. Put your best defenders where most of the balls go, and KEEP them there! We WON’T get into a long-winded discussion about the MYTH of the “hole in the block,” but you should get this point in place during your very first practice back in the gym. Put your BEST defenders where most of the balls go.

middle middle defense heat map

TIP: First, determine who your best defenders are. This may or may not be your libero, defensive specialist or outside hitter. If you have a middle blocker that can execute in the back row as well as the front, and is your team’s BEST defender, why wouldn’t you put her here? Secondly, track where hits go. With either the iPad app, VolleyMaps, or a pen and paper; track where all attacks go in your gym. You’ll quickly see obvious concentrations in middle-middle and cross-court. 



“If you don’t like my chart, make your own damn chart.”  – Carl McGown

3. Teach Hitting in Transition

It’s important that both you and your athletes understand the significance of transition. A large percentage of women’s volleyball is spent in the transition game – significantly more that in the serve/receive phase of the game. The odds are that in your league, your athletes will return the ball more than 60% of the time. Teach your athletes to be patient. Teach them to know when it’s OK to take a big swing (on a good set), and teach them that it’s OK to hit the ball in the court with control and wait for another chance to take the big swing. You can’t allow your athletes to make mindless hitting errors. 

4. Master Fundamental Skills

If you are new to Gold Medal Squared, your first practice back in the gym should involve the passing keys. We spend 3 hours on passing keys during our first day of our summer camps. Teach at the pace of the learners, and work through the skills in this order:

  • Passing
  • Serving
  • Hitting
  • Individual Defense
  • Blocking

Your goal is to teach your athletes all the keys and ensure they have any understanding of the movement patterns associated with each key. This must be accompanied by the end of the first month of practice (assuming you practice two days per week in club season.) If you are currently in a high school season, you should get the keys in place in a week or two.

5. Coach for Confidence

“Competence breeds confidence.”

Coach your athletes in a way that is going to build confidence. As an example, how would you communicate with an outside hitter who keeps making hitting errors?

One common option is to say “stop making hitting errors” or “we aren’t going to win if you continue to make hitting errors.” this doesn’t do anything to solve the problem. Consider that maybe your outside doesn’t have the skills to deal with that particular situation. A good alternative would be to give that athlete correction reps. Rather than saying “stop making errors” you can say, “here’s a ball, try again” and replicate the play. This not only gives the athlete another opportunity to learn a specific skill, but it also leaves them feeling OK about things because they were successful during the correction.

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We’re always up for a conversation. Join us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to start talking. Follow our hashtag #GMSTIPS for helpful hints, or #thefutureisgold for more GMS news, announcements, and event highlights. Got feedback for us? Please comment below, or contact us at info@goldmedalsquared.com

Middle-Middle 2.0

The first time I heard of Carl McGown, I thought he was a fool. I read an article about how most balls go to the middle of court, and most of them landed at least 10’ in from the end line. Fortunately for me, I knew this to be nonsense. Your middle-back player was supposed to stand just about on the end line and charge forward into the play. Remember: “everything above your waist is out!” Since I knew this to be true, I sent an email to this McGown guy letting him know that he couldn’t possibly be right.

His response: “make your own damn chart!”

I got three matches in before I realized that Carl might just be on to something and that I needed to get to a Gold Medal Squared clinic to figure out what this middle-middle thing was all about.

*The first time I ever charted attacks it didn’t look quite this pretty.  However, the results I found were almost the same.

middle middle defense heat map

That first interaction with Carl and GMS made a very strong impression on me. So much so that “charting” became a bit of an obsession of mine. As a club coach that time, I started charting opposing teams (and my own) whenever I had some downtime. Now, years later, only one thing has changed: the amount of data I have has increased by several orders of magnitude. As an assistant coach with the USA Women’s National Team, I feel confident in saying that I’ve charted more attacks than anybody else in the world.

At GMS clinics, we learn that the most important part of designing a defensive system is:

Put your best defenders where the most balls go (principles are liberating).

At USA we’re kind of obsessed with learning where balls go. Last year alone, I charted over 10,000 attacks, recording where every ball went and where to best position a defender for that attack.

Over these past few years, I’ve come to know two things:

  1. Middle-middle is a really good place to stand against 90, maybe 95% of attackers.
  2. The other 5-10% of hitters can be REALLY frustrating to defend.

Both of these hitters are excellent players, but pose problems in slightly different ways. A defense can set up in a fairly predictable way against the hitter on the left. The middle-back defender can stay “middle-middle”, the left-back can read, the left-front can come to 10 x 10, and the right-back defender can just look like she’s ready while her teammates make all the digs.

Player (2), however, is a slightly different story. This player because she has an excellent sharp angle shot AND an excellent deep corner shot. In this case, the left-back player is stressed quite a bit. She must read “can she hit at me” very quickly and make a decision on whether to stay on the sharp angle, or get in line with the deep corner shot. The middle-back player will get quite a few balls in middle-middle, but will also need to help with the deep corner shot as well. In this case, the ability to read and play balls overhead will be critical.

And finally, we have Hitter (3)

As we can see, this hitter is going to cause some serious dilemmas for a team that is used to playing “middle-middle.” I kept the gridlines to show that this hitters is hitting at least half of her attacks within 10’ of the baseline, which is unusual for a female player.

Clearly this player has range, with attacks going sharp cross, toward the corner, and even a fair amount of tip. However, her predominant shot is in the high 1/6 seam, and in the last 10’ of the court.

It’s these situations that require us as coaches to make some tough decisions.

How would you defend this hitter?

Would you shade the middle-back defender over or bring the right-back defender way off the line? Would you play for the tips or let them go and hope you can read and react?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

As a reminder, “put your best defensive players where most of the balls go” doesn’t necessarily mean “put your libero in middle middle.”  For many of us, our outsides or event middles (yes, in club ball there’s some pretty good middles) may be our best defensive players.  This is a great example of what we mean by “principles are liberating.”  They allow coaches the flexibility to make sound decisions based on the ability of their players.

Joe Trinsey – USA Women’s Volleyball Technical Coordinator