Matt Sonnichsen

The College Volleyball Coach

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This post is written by Matt Sonnichsen and is from his blog, The College Volleyball Coach. Anyone can write to Coach Matt and ask questions about Volleyball, here’s a quick post any volleyball players might enjoy.

Hi Coach – Great website!

Two questions:

1- after reading you response to the sand question, I understand why HS coaches may dislike Sand for their setters and hitters but what about Libero’s?

2 – With Libero’s spending more time on the court than others positions in the specialized indoor game – do you see them eventually having more value (than last in line) as a recruit to college coaches?

Thank you for your email and glad you enjoy the website; you should also try Inside College Volleyball, because it is delicious!

As Indoor Volleyball has become more specialized in its skill positions, the crossover benefits from playing Sand Volleyball has diminished.  Back in the day, when substitutions were not very common (each position could play 6 rotations) and the matches were much longer (sideout scoring), playing sand volleyball was a benefit.  Sand worked on your court movements, education/understanding, conditioning, competitive instincts, etc.

What has changed from “back in the day” to now, is the combination of more substitutions and the Libero, along with a very structured training style.  The majority of Indoor oaches who are 40 and younger, have come up through this regimented style of training, based on the Asian style of volleyball (Japan/China) and being able to have 12-15 substitutions, along with a Libero.

This translates into Indoor college coaches breaking the game down into very specific movements, which are narrow in their focus.  Middle Blockers do not work on passing and defense, Right Sides don’t serve/pass/defend, many Setters never see the front row, etc.  Player movements are very controlled, regimented and enforced.  Much of the creativity and organic movements of Indoor collegiate volleyball has been lost.

Back to your question about the Liberos – They have very defined movements, within a small space and with specific responsibilities.  Sand Volleyball, by nature, is not this way.  Sand Volleyball movements must cover the entire court and there is a lot of unpredictability; rallies by nature are free flowing and creative.

Take a moment to think about the various Indoor Volleyball coaching clinics and videos, where a coach will demonstrate drills to try and manage “out of system” plays.  Coaches like to refer to being out of system, or getting back into system, or how do we adjust to out of system plays.  Sand Volleyball is out of system volleyball.

Many many Indoor coaches have been ‘raised’ to not like this unpredictability – They scout teams relentlessly, breaking down opponent tendencies, trying to determine patterns and predictability.  When a player (in any position) goes from predictable movements to unpredictable movements, the Indoor coaches will have to ‘re-train’ these players to get them back to predictable.  Indoor coaches don’t want to do this; they want to train the skill sets/movements they want, then build upon them, not have to re-establish them again and again.

And it is not just the movements; it is all the skill sets – Players pass differently indoor versus outdoor, they defend differently, they block differently, they set differently, etc.  It is a different game.  Liberos will pass and move differently on the Sand than Indoor and Indoor coaches will not like this difference.

As to the second part of your Libero question, Liberos are very valuable to Indoor coaches; the team’s successful passing is dependent upon their ability.  The reason that they are last in the recruiting line, is simply supply and demand.  There is a large number of quality Liberos, but there is not a large number of collegiate roster spots for Liberos.

Because volleyball is a height driven sport, any number of average to shorter outsides and setters, will move into the Libero position believing they will have more college playing opportunities.  This migration, combined with those who have always been Liberos, creates the large number of players in this position (Liberos/Defensive Specialists are interchangeable for this post).

It can be argued that when Sand Volleyball was implemented, it took scholarship opportunities away from Liberos.  Instead of giving volleyball one or two or three more scholarships (NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball has 15 full scholarships for 5 starters – NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball has 12 full scholarships for 6 starters and the Libero).

Instead of scholarships being awarded to the Sand Volleyball program, I would have rather seen them being provided to the Indoor team so more Liberos/DS’s could be enjoy athletic financial support (this is theoretical because Indoor college coaches would probably just scholarship another big attacker with ‘potential’ because they know they can get Liberos/DS’s to walk on).

A very long answer to your short question – Hope it helped!

Coach Matt

To read more of Coach Matt’s posts, visit his blog at http://www.collegevolleyballcoach.com/

New to the recruiting process?  See what college programs you might quality for by creating  your free NCSA Athletic Recruiting profile

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About the author
Aaron Sorenson