Volleyball Tryouts: Making Cuts

High school and club volleyball coaches have a very difficult time when it comes to cutting players from their teams. Some teams have so few players that the coaches can only dream about being selective. But for those coaches that do have to make cuts, it’s never easy.

This article is about building a competitive program, and specifically, building a competitive high school program. Some teams may opt for inclusiveness over competitiveness, where cuts aren’t made and/or where everyone on the team gets nearly equal playing time. This article is not about that type of program.

I knew of a girls varsity team that had eight seniors, and only four of them were in the regular rotation. The regular rotation consisted of four seniors, three juniors, and a sophomore. That meant that four seniors (and their parents) were unhappy about their playing time throughout the season. They did get some playing time when they played the lower teams in their section, but that took away valuable match experience from some of the sophomores that needed to get experience for their next two years. It would have been better to have cut four of those seniors after their sophomore year.

Unless your program is so small or so new that you’re begging for players, each successive year of a particular class should probably involve the whittling down of players within that class. Some players will eliminate themselves from contention as they decide that they don’t want to devote so much time to volleyball, or as they realize that they won’t be playing much. Some may need to be told the difficult news that the coaches don’t see them being able to eventually contribute at the varsity level.

In other cases, it may be that cuts need to be made for the overall health of the team. That may be due to skill level, or it may be for the sake of team dynamics (see “attitude”).

Whatever the reasons for making cuts, coaches need to make their decisions based on the overarching goal of putting together the best team for that particular season. But also, for high school teams, where the underclassmen will likely be returning the following year, coaches need to make decisions this season to put together the best team for the next season (and the next, and the next, etc.).

In my experience, initially as a high school player and now as a high school coach, I’ve come to the conclusion that a reasonable player distribution for a typical 12-player varsity team would be:

  • 3 or 4 seniors
  • 3 or 4 juniors
  • 2 or 3 sophomores
  • 1 or 2 freshmen

Of course, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule; ultimately, your team needs to be made up of the best mix of players for that particular season. But it’s important to avoid being too heavy on seniors such that you’re not preparing the younger players for the following year. If you dress more than 12 players for varsity, then the numbers per grade can obviously go up, but I wanted to show a relative distribution based on a 12-player varsity roster.

Freshman on the varsity team don’t necessarily have to even be good enough yet to play at that level; their training can be taking place in JV. But dressing for varsity, warming up with the team, and going to all the varsity tournaments is all good experience for them. It’s also a “reward” for being the best freshman and presumably the most promising players in their class.

Some or all of the sophomores on the varsity may be still playing JV, but if they are not yet regular contributors to the varsity matches, they should be at least adequate players at the varsity level, and should see some playing time throughout the season. Assuming that your JV and varsity program has plenty of players, it might be the case that not all sophomores will be good enough to even make the varsity team.

As for the juniors on the varsity team, this is where the rubber meets the road. If a junior wasn’t good enough to make the varsity team as a sophomore, then that player should have developed considerably as a sophomore and be ready to contribute at the varsity level as a junior. If that player hasn’t developed into a player that can contribute on the varsity squad, or for that matter, if a sophomore that did make the varsity the previous year has not continued to develop at the rate that you had hoped, then this is when they need to be told this truth and probably be cut. It will be a difficult conversation with the player, and may turn into a conversation with the parents, but it will lower a coach’s stress level for the next two seasons.

This may sound harsh, but it’s the reality for programs that want to be competitive.

For seniors, the ground work should already be in place for them to be the leaders on the team in terms of talent and experience. You want to avoid having seniors on your team that are not going to be able to make a substantial contribution that year. If they’re not among your best players, then trying to find opportunities to get them in out of charity is actually taking away valuable playing time and experience for your younger players that will be around the following year.

Having to cut a senior that has been playing all along in previous years is probably a coaching problem: as I’ve indicated above, that player probably should have been cut in a previous year. A junior should be on the varsity team if they’re going to be able to contribute that year or if you know for sure that they will be able to contribute in a big way during their next year as a senior. So, if a player has been playing in their younger years and is not coming along in their development by the tryout period of their junior year, then that’s the time to be honest with them and to cut them. Not doing this at the beginning of their junior season is just kicking the can down the road, and it will be more painful at the beginning of their senior season.

This doesn’t apply to seniors that are trying out for a team and that have no prior volleyball experience. If you have a great athlete (or tall player) that can play a significant role during their only year of playing and if that role cannot be filled by a younger play that will be back the next year, then by all means keep them on the team. But if someone is trying out as a senior and is not going to significantly help the team, then the coach should either cut them or explain to them that they’ll be a practice player only and to not expect playing time (unless you’re scheduled to play a really bad team on Senior Night).

For the JV, the team can be as large as you can accommodate. Junior high players may need to be cut from making the JV team, but since many players are still learning and growing, it’s good to give them the benefit of the doubt during their freshman year and to a lesser extent, in their sophomore year. Each year after 8th grade, some whittling down should probably occur.

My philosophy for a JV team is that it’s a training ground and a very long tryout for varsity. Players need to know up front that making the JV team as a freshman or sophomore is not a guarantee that they’ll ever make the varsity team. JV is their opportunity to learn and train toward possibly making the varsity team at some point.

If you can manage having 12 freshmen and 8 sophomores on a JV team, then that allows you to watch and see which players develop and which ones don’t. The rub is that all 8 of those sophomores should probably not be moved on to varsity as juniors, and some of those freshman should not be moved on as sophomores. If you’re lucky enough to have a bunch of players interested in playing as freshmen, you have to be willing to cut some of those players at the beginning of their sophomore year if you can already tell that they’re not going to eventually be big contributors to your varsity team as juniors or seniors. Most of that criteria will probably be based on raw athletic talent and attitude (teachability), but also to how well they pick up the volleyball skills and strategy that they’re taught as freshmen.

Making these types of decisions and cuts early should avoid having to cut any seasoned players leading into their senior year. It should also avoid having unhappy non-playing juniors and seniors on the bench, and will hopefully keep the really bad attitudes off the varsity team (and out of the stands).

Coach on!

Volleyball vs. Basketball

volleyball_vs_basketballI was a basketball player before I was ever a volleyball player, and I still love basketball. I suspect that many volleyball players have a similar background and feel the same way. In fact, I’d like to make the case that volleyball players should also be basketball players, and vice versa.

Most of you already know how related these two sport cousins are: basketball and volleyball were invented miles apart (in Springfield and Holyoke, Mass., respectively), four years apart (in 1891 and 1895), by two men that knew each other (James Naismith and William Morgan), and both had ties to the YMCA. Indeed, Morgan invented volleyball to be more suitable—“less physical”—for businessmen than basketball.

When my fifth-grade daughter said that she wanted to start playing basketball this year, I jumped at the chance to coach her team and to generally be involved with the basketball program at the school.

Some of these girls started playing in fourth grade and a few of them just started this year. Since the first year of playing any sport is mostly about learning, the levels of skill varied greatly between the “veterans” and the rookies, and these differences were especially noticeable during the first few weeks of practice.

Coaching first and second year players has made me realize how much about basketball I take for granted. I started playing in seventh grade, learned most of the fundamentals that first year, and then spent the next five years working to improve those skills (and of course, I’m still working on my jumper).

One of the most basic things that almost all of the girls had trouble with is doing a proper layup. Specifically, none of them seem to be able to get their basic footwork down and to be able to take off from the correct foot while on the run. For the first time, I had to think about how to teach a skill that I’ve been doing since I was 12. It’s hard for me to remember ever not knowing how to do a layup or shoot a jump shot.

It’s the same with volleyball. One night when we arrived at the school for one of our basketball games, the seventh and eighth grade girls’ volleyball team was just finishing their first practice. At our school, seventh grade is the first year for girls’ volleyball, so these young ladies were pretty green. Watching them for a few minutes reinforced to me how much about the mechanics of volleyball I take for granted. The hitting approach in volleyball is akin to the layup approach in basketball, a foreign skill that everyone has to learn when they first begin playing.

This also got me thinking about how skillful volleyball really is. And with all due respect to basketball, I think volleyball actually requires more skill than its cousin sport.

Case in point: shooting a jump shot in basketball requires a unique skill, but no one gets called for a violation if they shoot a bad jump shot. The worst that can happen is a missed shot. Not so in volleyball. Players have to learn to properly contact the ball at all times. If you pass, set, or hit improperly, a violation is called and the other team gets a point. And if you can’t get a serve across the net and in bounds, you also give a point to the other team.

Volleyball is also more of a team sport than basketball. In basketball—at least on offense—one person can truly do everything. If you have one good player, the other four can clear out and let that player score without any other player having to touch the ball. In volleyball, you can have a great hitter, but without a skilled setter, your team will be toast. Likewise, if no one can pass a serve, a setter or hitter may never even get a chance to contact the ball.

Jumping ability is important in both sports. In volleyball, however, a maximum jump is needed on almost every play, for both offense (hitting) and defense (blocking). In basketball, a player can shoot, rebound, and perhaps even dunk without having to put their maximum effort into their jumps.

Speaking from experience, I can tell you that my volleyball game isn’t what it used to be when I was younger, specifically because my vertical isn’t what it used to be. My basketball game, however, is pretty much the same as it always was. I may not get up as high for rebounds, but I can still compete on the boards because I can use my body to box out my opponent and still get up reasonably high to grab the rebound. I can also still run and shoot a jumper. But in volleyball, a diminished vertical hurts a hitter’s ability to hit around or over blocks and it hurts a blocker’s ability to stop opposing hitters.

Another difference between volleyball and basketball is that it’s a lot easier to practice basketball alone. I used to spend hours every week shooting around and working on my ball handling. With volleyball, I have yet to find a good way to practice hitting by myself. And for playing these sports, you need four people to have a serious volleyball game, whereas in basketball, two is sufficient.

Although these two sports have their differences, they complement each other well. Having both sets of skills will make players better athletes overall and playing both sports is a great way to cross train. Taking breaks from volleyball to play seasons of basketball will lessen the repetitive strain on a volleyball player’s shoulder and knees. It also gives players a change of pace to help avoid the dreaded “volleyball burnout.”

Injured Reserve

injured_reserveI’m writing this article with my right arm in a pretty serious sling, five days removed from arthroscopic shoulder surgery. After three columns in this magazine chronicling my journey back into the world of volleyball, you may be wondering how this came about. Let me back up a bit and fill you in.

Since I’m in denial about my age, and since three people said to me yesterday, “It stinks to get old,” I want to start by stating that this surgery had nothing to do with age. In fact, this story starts when I was about 30 and still at the top of my game.

When I was in my 20s and playing volleyball with guys that were a few years ahead of me, my friend Garry developed some serious shoulder problems. He was a setter, but had been playing doubles for years. The beautiful thing about doubles is that both players get to play every position. And for setters, it means that they finally get to hit regularly. And hit Garry did. And since we played in a lot of grass doubles tournaments, that often means playing with dew-soaked volleyballs in the early rounds of the day. Hitting a volleyball at full arm extension over and over for years on end is bad enough, and when you add some weight to that ball, well, shoulders aren’t happy about it.

I knew that it might eventually happen to me too. As a right-handed swing hitter, I often swung my shoulder at odd angles to cut the ball hard inside a block. By the time I was 29 or 30, my shoulder was starting to feel a little worn. But that’s the same time that I stopped playing to start raising a family. For the 13 or so years that I didn’t play, my shoulder would begin to hurt more when I would throw a football or baseball with friends, and specifically, when we would spread out and see how far and how hard we could throw. I can distinctly remember a few occasions when my shoulder was killing me after throwing at picnics and beach trips. Almost without realizing it, I began to throw with a slight side-armed style. I attributed all of this to years of volleyball and age.

When I started playing volleyball again last fall, the pain increased immediately. I went to a sports orthopedic doctor to get checked out, just to make sure I wasn’t going to cause permanent damage to my shoulder. I was very afraid that he was going to tell me I couldn’t play volleyball anymore, and at the exact time that I was just getting back into it.

It was at this point that I began to contemplate what it would be like to become a lefty this late in life. I began throwing a football with my left arm and playing basketball as a lefty when I coached my daughter’s 5th grade team. But I still couldn’t imagine being able to learn how to hit a volleyball with power and accuracy with my left arm.

But then I got good news! The x-rays showed nothing, which led the doctor to believe it was bursitis (inflammation of a bursa). My instructions were to take some Ibuprofen to reduce the swelling, and to start doing some prescribed resistance band exercises to strengthen that shoulder so that it would not become inflamed when I played. I was elated to be able to continue playing and added these special exercises to my weightlifting days at the gym.

After a few months of continued inflammation and pain, I decided to ask for an MRI to make sure that nothing worse was wrong. (By the way, getting a shoulder MRI is a big ordeal, involving long needles and requiring an injection of a contrast so the doctor can better see the soft tissue of the shoulder).

Once again, I was worried that the doctor would deliver the bad news that volleyball was over for me. And once again, I got good news, in a sense. The MRI showed a significant tear in my labrum (cartilage in the shoulder) and some sort of “leakage” in another area. The bad news was that these would never heal on their own. The good news was that he could fix them entirely with some basic outpatient surgery (involving screws, sutures, and a solid month in a sling, post-op).

As inconvenient as this was going to be, it was a small price to pay to get back the full and unlimited use of my primary shoulder. I was in a big hurry to get the surgery and to get the healing underway in the hopes of being able to play, throw, and swim by the start of the summer.

Back to the present: my surgery was a complete success. I survived, the doctor fixed my torn labrum and he also found a rotator cuff tear, and fixed that as well. Two fixes for the price of one surgery. Sweet! My right arm is barely usable at the moment, and I am indeed a lefty when it comes to washing my hair and brushing my teeth. But the fix is done and I’m excited about the future.

Timing Is Everything (Part 3 of 3)

timing_is_everythingAthletes are like comedians. Timing is everything.

I played a number of different positions during my football years, but I was never a quarterback. I’ve always been amazed at the ability of quarterbacks to throw long passes to receivers that are moving. And moving very quickly! The timing has to be perfect, and the quarterbacks have to adjust their passes according to each particular receiver. A long pass may stay in the air for two seconds, and a wide receiver that’s running at full speed can cover 20 yards in two seconds. It takes perfect timing to get the ball to that receiver. And if the timing is off by just a little bit, it’ll be overthrown or underthrown, and possibly intercepted. I had the easy part, being a receiver. All I had to do was run my prescribed route; the quarterback bore the responsibility of getting the ball to me.

In volleyball, the responsibility for the timing of a high set lies with the hitter. The timing of an approach, jump, and hit are just as precise as a football pass pattern. The goal, of course, is to contact the ball at the highest point possible. That sounds simple enough, but if you watch young players trying to learn this for the first time, you can get a better sense of how difficult it is to do. And we experienced players have long forgotten just how difficult it really is.

Let’s look at some basic physics. (See kids? Physics class really does matter in your life!) For a typical high set, after the ball has reached its peak, it’s dropping at a rate of 9.8 m/s2 (meters per second squared). A hitter has to time it so that she gets to the net, jumps, and reaches her maximum height on her way up at the same time the ball reaches that exact same height on its way down. It’s really quite a feat if you think it through in scientific terms.

One of the things I’m still struggling with as I make my volleyball “comeback” is my timing. Specifically, the timing of my approach for a plain old vanilla high set. My problem? My hitting approach is still based on what my vertical leap used to be. I haven’t quite adjusted yet.

Or perhaps I’m just in denial and don’t want to adjust.

As young players, we spend years working on the mechanics and timing of our approach until it becomes second nature. And then, our approach remains mostly the same regardless of the type of set we’re hitting. We simply begin our approach earlier or later, relative to the set we’re expecting.

Sure, there will always be times when we have to adjust our approach (or go without one) due to a poor pass, poor set, or when hitting an overpass, but those are the exceptions. I’m having issues with my timing even when all conditions are perfect.

We’ve all experienced this to some extent. In fact, it’s the main reason that every team does a lot of hitting during warm-ups before a match. It’s good to get your blood flowing, your muscles firing, and your timing down.

And if you’ve ever played in a tournament that starts at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning after a two-hour drive to get there, you know that your first two or three warm-up hits are usually not so stellar. Your legs aren’t quite ready, your vertical is still asleep, and thus your timing is off.

Now think about what it would be like to wake up one day and have your vertical be six inches less than it was the day before, and no amount of warming up will help. If your timing and approach are ingrained from years of contacting the ball at a certain height, say 10 feet, then everything would be completely “off” if you used the same timing but only reached 9’6″.

When this is the case, as you approach the set and jump, the ball will still be out of reach as you hit your maximum height. It results in a “paintbrush” at best (or a “whiff” at worst), and although you can actually get a kill with a paintbrush, it’s the embarrassing type of kill.

Another issue that I had not considered until recently, and that will also affect timing, is the quickness of the leap itself; how quickly you can get to your maximum height once you leave the ground. Think of it as your explosiveness. So, even if I could still jump as high as I used to, if it then takes me a split second longer to reach that height, then my timing will still be off a little.

So, is my vertical maxed out based on my age, and will I have to adjust my expectations and timing accordingly? Or, is it possible to rebuild my vertical to what it used to be? Only time will tell. I’ll continue to work harder than ever in the weight room and gym, and if that doesn’t do it, then I’ll buy a new watch and adjust my timing!

Dude, Where’s My Vertical? (Part 2 of 3)

wheres_my_verticalI recently had a rude awakening: I (now) jump like a white man.

I hope no one takes offense at that, but hey, Hollywood made a movie about it! Maybe I shouldn’t take this so hard. After all, I am a white man. But, I’ve always taken a certain pride in breaking that mold and being able to get off the ground. Growing up playing basketball and volleyball will do that for even the “whitest” of guys. In fact, almost all the guys I played volleyball with in high school and college had vertical jumps of between 30 and 40 inches.

Up until I stopped playing competitive volleyball 13 years ago, my vertical jump was in the low 30’s. At 5’10”, I wanted a 40-inch vertical so that I could hit over blockers, but being in the low 30’s helped me hit sharp angles around most blocks. When I stopped playing competitively when our first son was born, I knew that giving up volleyball and basketball in exchange for running would have a negative effect on my fast-twitch muscles, and consequently, on my vertical jump. So, although running was going to keep me fit, it wasn’t going to keep my legs in jumping shape. But I suppose I was in denial about how much my vertical would actually degrade. Age certainly has something to do with it, but the main culprit was, well, not doing much jumping for an extended period of time.

This past summer, while I was in our local high school gym helping with the varsity girls’ volleyball team, I noticed a vertical jump measurement chart on the wall. When no one was looking, I measured a couple jumps. I was shocked to find out that my vertical was down 8-10 inches from what it used to be. Yikes!

This new realization led to the pursuit of a new challenge: gaining back those vertical inches that I had lost. Heck, at this point, I’d be happy with just getting back to a 30-inch vertical! It was time to get serious. But would this even be possible at my age? And if so, what kinds of exercises do I need to do to reach that goal?

When I was in my early teens, in my quest to become stronger and more athletic, I did a fair amount of weight lifting in our basement at home. And since I had seen boxers on TV jumping rope, I did a bunch of that too. Without realizing it at the time, I was laying the foundation for a good vertical. Beyond those early years of training, I mostly just played sports without focusing on weights or building muscle.

Now that I am, in effect, starting over in building my vertical, I’m learning all I can about what contributes to a good vertical. I’m learning about plyometrics. I’m learning about all the muscles of the legs and which ones contribute most to jumping (quads). And rather than simply using my local gym for running, cycling, and swimming, I’m focusing on weight training. The leg press is my new best friend! And now that I know that jumping rope is a form of plyometrics, I’m adding that to my weekly workouts.

As I mentioned last month, one of the big issues I’ve been having since last May is tendinitis in both Achilles tendons. It’s not clear yet if this is affecting my vertical, or if it’s just setting me back at times due to the pain. It’s definitely keeping me from doing plyometrics, but at least I can still weight train and work my legs on an exercise bike. In trying to speed the healing of Achilles tendinitis, which is known to be a slow process, I’ve purchased four different compression wraps and The Stick, which is a tool targeted at runners for massaging muscles to promote quicker recovery after hard workouts. As I learned from an ultra-runner that I met recently at my gym, this self-massage can really help with Achilles tendinitis. At this point, I’ll try anything and everything to get rid of this nagging injury.

Will it be possible to get back to a 30-inch vertical? I think so. In fact, to play at the level I want to, I need to have a 30-inch vertical. Without it, I’m not much of a force at the net, on offense or defense.

Years ago, when my doubles partner and I would play against “older” guys, we’d get frustrated when they placed the ball rather than hitting it. We were young leapers and could get by with simply crushing the ball. And we hated to lose to guys that could no longer jump and that relied on savvy placement to hit our open spots rather than hitting away against our block. So then when one of us would make one of these placement shots, the other would jokingly say “You’re a smart hitter!” Translation: “You had to rely on your smarts because you couldn’t put the ball away with pure power!”

I’m not ready to be a “smart” player yet. That day will eventually come, but for now, I’m going to do everything I can to get my vertical back to a respectable number.

The Comeback Kid (Part 1 of 3)

I retired from my illustrious volleyball career shortly after our first child was born. OK, “illustrious” is quite a stretch; I was really just a very avid amateur. My first step toward retirement was a couple years before that, in 1996, when I stopped playing on a USA Volleyball (USAV) team. The USAV regionals were that spring, and my wife and I got married at the end of June. She wasn’t going to be happy as a volleyball widow.

So I stepped back from playing USAV, the leagues I played in, and outdoor doubles. At that point, I shifted to running as my competitive outlet. It was something I could do regularly to keep in shape, perform by myself, and fit it into my daily schedule wherever it would allow.

But even then, running was only a means to an end. The “end” was that day in the future when my kids would be old enough to play volleyball with me. Doubles, triples, quads, sixes. That’s what I was looking forward to, and that’s what I was staying in shape for. Running was merely a way for me to stay ready. Ready to play when our family circumstances would allow time for it. Exactly when that would happen, I couldn’t say, but I would be ready when it did.

In the meantime, I continued to drag my kids to some local high school volleyball matches. And to the boys high school district championships. And to a three-night volleyball camp. And to an eight-week volleyball program. And to the 2011 NCAA Men’s Championships. I was hoping that volleyball would seep into their little minds by osmosis. Or something like that.

In Pennsylvania, boys’ high school volleyball is pretty big. Of course, “big” is all relative when you live in Western PA where football rules, basketball and wrestling contest for prominence, and volleyball is still a lesser sport. And even though we have great boys’ volleyball programs, not all of the schools have them. Our school district is one that doesn’t. The relatively small size of our student body caused our school board to turn down my offer to start a boys program, so my boys (now 14 and 12) are now running cross country and track. My daughter (10) is playing basketball, and I’m thrilled about coaching her team. I love basketball. But now I’m working on her to consider playing volleyball too.

This past summer, the girls’ volleyball coach at our local high school asked if I’d be interested in playing in a league with him and his wife. In the past, I’ve turned down offers like that due to our family schedule. But since this league was on a night that works for us, and because it’s a competitive league, I decided it was time to play again.

I’ll admit it—I’m a volleyball snob. I’ll only play if the level is relatively high. It’s just not worth the drive and the time if we’re not playing at a decent level, running plays, and playing against good competition. I bet most of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about! I’m either in or out. If I can’t play competitively, I’d rather not play at all. (Needless to say, I try to avoid playing volleyball at company and church picnics.)

I was getting excited about playing again. Actually, that’s an understatement. I was downright giddy! Looking back, I guess I was beginning to think I’d never play competitively again. As the reality sunk in that I would soon be playing in real matches against real players, I could hardly contain my excitement. Suddenly, I had no interest in running any more. Instead, my desire turned to weight training to get my legs in jumping shape and my shoulder in swinging shape.

But now I had a different issue to deal with: I was still battling Achilles tendinitis in both legs. I caused it in May while experimenting with a new running style and it had sidelined my racing and triathlon plans all summer. Now, with the prospect of playing volleyball again, I had a very real and timely interest in getting my Achilles tendons in proper working order. Because in volleyball, if your Achilles tendons aren’t working, you’re grounded.

So I laid off running, pick-up basketball, and everything else that would delay the healing of my tendons. Since this was the first time I had had Achilles tendinitis, I learned that they heal very slowly due to the lack of blood flow through those narrow areas. Now I’m the proud owner of ankle and calf compression wraps. I was willing to do whatever was necessary to get ready for the start of the league in late September. I couldn’t let this opportunity slip by!

Zen in Volleyball

Back in 1993, after playing competitive volleyball for 14 years, I took a year off from volleyball to pursue something I had always wanted to try: karate. I jumped in headfirst, all in, working out four times a week at our dojo, teaching kids’ classes, and learning all I could about the icon of martial arts, Bruce Lee.

During that time, I read a book by renowned journalist and author Joe Hyams called Zen in the Martial Arts. His book wasn’t really about Zen, nor was it a how-to book about the martial arts. Rather, it was about the many experiences and relationships that Hyams had had as an amateur martial artist. Living as a journalist in Los Angeles and covering the goings on in Hollywood, Hyams knew plenty of A list celebrities. And, more apropos to his book about martial arts, he knew plenty of A list martial artists. He talked about all the life lessons he had learned, through the martial arts and from all the people he had interacted with in the martial arts. The book was a great read.

It was then that I decided that the volleyball community needed a similar book. I even polled the online volleyball community by posting the idea on the rec.sport.volleyball Usenet group. (That was a year or two before the general public would learn about the Internet and the World Wide Web, and these Usenet groups were the text-based forums used by the fortunate few of us in the software industry that had access to the Internet).

Now, almost 20 years later, I’m finally making plans to put pen to paper, bytes to disk, to pull this together. And rather than writing about my experiences only, I decided that it would be more interesting to include the experiences of others, some of whom are “common” folk like me, and some of whom are volleyball luminaries (the “Volluminati”).

This book won’t be for teaching anyone about volleyball or helping players improve their games. It won’t be about promoting volleyball to the unconvinced, nor will it be a series of biographies. Rather, it’ll be meant to entertain those of you that already love and appreciate volleyball, regardless of your level of play.

I’d like some feedback. Am I on the right track? Does this sound like a book that you’d like to read? Leave a comment and give me your input!