**If you’re interested in more stuff on volleyball, check out Like Heck She Isn’t a Volleyball Player available on Amazon and other internet bookstores. It’s a collection of 27 essays on all parts of the most exciting indoor (and outdoor) sport in the world.
There’s an old saying that I first heard from my friend Phil from Dallas. It was his mom’s actually (and I know it gues further back than her…) — “You dance with the one who brung you.” I don’t think it was originally meant to apply to sports; it’s really about proper, ‘lady-like’ behavior, but that’s all righty–I can co-opt anything I want for the sake of sports/coaching.
I wrote previously about doing things just to make yourself look smart and the blowback you’ll get. Always remember, don’t get cute.
I’ve got a hypothetical here–and from the post title, you should already have a good idea of my choice. Don’t worry about that, though–that’s the past. Reflect on your team and the choices available to you. If or when this happens with your team–what are you going to do?
So…you’ve got a dominant outside hitter. Big-time. Hits hard, hits multiple shots. Just as important, she wants the ball at crunch time and doesn’t fear the big moments. In matches against (all but one) ranked teams (D1 or D2), she’s hit .200+ 13 of 18 times and has *never* hit below-zero. The year before it was 12 of 15 times and *never* in the negative. Add that up and you’ve got a kid putting up great numbers 25 of 33 times (10 of those were .300+).
Except I put a caveat there–‘all but one’. There’s the rub. When it’s time to make out our lineup, we’re playing that ‘one’ team. In her five career matches against that team , she’s hitting -.016 (with more than 150 swings…so not a small sample size). If you’re reading this and don’t understand numbers–something for another day–that is the number of points she generates with every attack; in this case, a negative number means she is effectively scoring for the other team. Now back to the originally scheduled program, still in progress….
You’re playing a big match, she’s your best hitter, but has never-ever-ever hit your opponent. You do have an adjustment you could make, but it’s based on a kid who’s done well against this team, but otherwise has only had a ‘solid’ season as a hitter and moving her will affect your blocking and defensive subs. So:
- Do you stick with your big hitter (dance with the one who brung ya)?
- Move your OPP to OH and your big hitter to the right side?
I had 24 hours to decide. Consider that, too. Sometimes time works against you, eats at you, and gets you to double-think. Sitting there at your screen, think about your lineup. Can you get production from your Big Gun by moving him elsewhere? Is he limited to just one position? Are there side-effects of benching him if you go that route? If it isn’t working, will the Big Gun be mentally ready to come off the bench? You can go down a pretty deep rabbit-hole of these questions, thinking and double-thinking.
Well, I’d already been cute with this group of kids and it cost us, so I stuck with the lineup, and…it didn’t work. We played hard, we got beat fair and square, and the Big Gun put up a 5-9-23, -.174 for the match. The other player? She hit 12-2-24, .417.
It’s been several years now. I’ve had off-seasons and bus trips to think about things, and you know what? I’d STILL run that same player out there. Do you take 88 matches and 288 sets of performance or just 5 matches and 20 sets as the basis for your decision? I write all this even though I’ll also say I had a long conversation with my assistant the night before the match, then the same conversation with her and my A.D. (who is also a coach with a pretty decent track record of success). We were all on the same page–you go with what got you to the Big Stage.
When times are tough–you want your best player on the court, you want the ball in that person’s hands, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. It didn’t work out, not in this quantum-dimension anyways.
Consider this dilemma now. It’s the off-season when you have time and it isn’t going into the final set of a Sectional Championship with the Big Gun having an off-night. You’re the coach–that means you need to consider these things in advance. Don’t wing it.
But you have my advice–dance with the one who brung ya.
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