**I wrote this Friday, but forgot to post it. Sue me.
For us, tomorrow is our pre-season scrimmage. We’ll play an opponent we don’t have to worry about in the post-season (different division)…also because a different local team avoids playing us…a different story.
That means for the past couple days, we’ve been working on more than just fundamentals and team concepts. We’ve been working on the actual lineup we’re going to go into the regular season with. There’s a problem with that–one that all coaches in every sport have to deal with. I’ve got 15 athletes, all of whom started or starred in high school (or last year at LLCC), and I’ve got room for 8-9 in the regular playing rotation. That means there are multiple athletes who won’t see the court as much as they want.
It’s a scary thing for a coach–I’ve had teams where those non-starters become a massive cancer and destroy a season (2013 was the worst experience ever). I’ve had teams where the athletes come to me and say “Don’t worry I’m not playing–the goal is to win, Dietz. Do what’s needed.” (That defined 2012 and 2015 especially, two of the best years in program history.) You can’t control the attitudes as a coach–they’re going on in the back of a bus, in a dorm or apartment or in social media posts going on from ‘secret’ accounts. Heck, you can’t control what parents are telling the kids either.
It’s not a fix, but I try and address this during the recruiting process, when they come to campus to register, during the summer, and then again as we start practice AND here in these last days before things ‘get real’. This is what currently goes in our handbook.
THE ROLE OF THE BENCH
One of the areas a coach has a problem with is the bench and its role. Volleyball teams put six players on the court at a time, yet there can be more than a dozen players on the roster. Doing the math, this means there are six or more players on the bench at any one time. In most cases, you started for your high school team and if you weren’t any good, you would’ve quit volleyball long ago. That causes a problem: everyone wants to play, but the coach’s job is to put the best possible lineup on the court in order to win. Thus, we have challenges players AND coaches must both deal with.
The bench is vital throughout the season. The bench sees playing time in every match. The bench can alter the tempo and rhythm of a game or permit a hitter to get a quick rest or permit a coach to make an adjustment without using a timeout, so players on the bench MUST be ready to go on a second’s notice and know who they are going in for, where they are on the court, what is going on, and what their responsibilities are.
1 – You must challenge the starters every day in practice so THE TEAM is prepared for tough matches, rivals, and ranked teams.
2 – You are ready to enter a game at any instant. THE TEAM’s long-term success comes from the bench’s ability to perform this critical role.
3 – You must strive to improve yourself. This challenges your teammates to get better themselves. This way THE TEAM benefits.
4 – You are not expected to be satisfied with limited playing time—no one ever is. But you are expected to maintain a ‘professional’ attitude. Success is not individual. We win together, we lose together—AS A TEAM.
I can’t ever tell if that covers the issue enough. I’m not sure what gets through–not from a generation gap or anything like that, but simply because each athlete is different in personality and competitiveness with differing outside forces pressing on them (or supporting them).
What I am sure of though is that teams with depth have an advantage–starters get pushed to hold on to playing time. There’s a chance of sustaining excellence if there’s an injury to a starter. A deep bench permits tactical adjustments that are impossible if you’re ‘stuck’ with only 8-9 players available.