Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mariner International: Kenya 2015

This post is parsed together from several conversations from Coach Alli Kirk who is leading a team of 6 Current and 1 Former Coastal Georgia Volleyball Players to Nakuru, Kenya.

"Hey! We have pretty much no access to FB, just messaging sometimes. This trip has been absolutely insane. 
Everyone is doing very well, a few people have had some slight stomach things but nothing bad. I'm so full of joy that I have been on the verge of tears pretty much since we got on the airplane in ATL and have cried a lot. Not sobs or anything, just it's unreal how Gods presence is HERE. 

The first day our nurse on staff asked if anyone could help her set up a clinic, so Cayley and Rachel have been getting legit field hours at the make shift hospital they set up at the school.  Cayley and Rachel worked both days 8-5 so far, that has been the highlight of the trip. It is one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed! Taking blood pressures and temperatures, writing down symptoms and ages and assisting the head nurse (Bethany) with medicinal distribution, wound care, and anything she needs. They sit and talk with all of the patients, and it's people age 2-90. They have come from not just the school, but another school nearby and people are walking in from the town because they heard there is a clinic. We prayed outside the clinic the first day and I cried a lot because Cayley and Rachel are literally the hands and feet of Christ right now, healing the sick and broken and orphans and widows. Unreal. There were supposed to be a few nurses coming from northern Kenya to help and they bailed. So the Lord provided!

Allie spoke in the staff meeting this morning to all of the teachers about the school supplies we brought and she organized them all and helped distribute them. Alyssa and Jen and Shelby are having so much fun, and our trip leader Gideon made a special trip to town to buy a cake and ice cream to celebrate Shelby's birthday. Complete surprise!"

Sunday, February 22, 2015

USA Women's National Team Tryout - Day 3 - Jeff Huebner

Today marks the end of my first USA experience. In all 3 sessions we competed in mock teams. I assisted the Associate Head Coach from Kansas State all day, and after a slow start, we finished the day 4-4 with a point differential of 0. There is good parity in collegiate volleyball. It was truly a great opportunity, learning experience and affirming in many ways. 

The weekend reminded me of something my Dad has always said: "K.I.S.S." A very manly acronym that holds a lot of truth: Keep It Simple, Stupid. USA believes firmly in this idea. In Tony Dungy's book he talks about drafting production over promise. This is where the WMNT staff falls. 

This weekend there were 8+ DataVolley specialists tracking every contact from the weekend. On some quick very estimated math I would guess about 120,000 contacts. I was able to see first hand the balance of the eye test vs. analytics. USA has point thresholds for each position based upon that position's critical stat lines. For example, a libero needs to have an average score of 43 based upon her ability to pass and defend. Liberos outside of those thresholds might still make the team, if they are still better than all of the other options, but USA Staff may decide to give a player from a different position a shot. The idea is that there is a certain risk/reward in working with a player who cannot meet a given minimum standard.

While the process of decision making and evaluation was laborious and painstakingly involved (I had exactly nothing to do with either, just an observer), those numbers are well researched, and keeps everything simple. Emotional decision making is not based in logic, and therefore has no place at the highest level. I was encouraged by this idea, because it is precisely how we decide playing time and roles at Coastal. We stat track everything, and commit ourselves to Team First choices regardless of age/experience/previous years' performance.

Volleyball is an interesting profession because the profession is so broad in its range of ability (from DIII to NAIA/DII to DI), but if you do well, you almost always get to rub elbows with some of the greats. Spending the weekend with some of the best players and coaches in the country there were 2 things that stand out to me. 

  1. Successful people are Type A. If you have ever heard Colin Cowherd talk on this, you'll know that I stole this sentence from him, BUT he is right. When you are put into a team with 6 people you don't know, the best way to win is get everyone where they need to be. I watched SIGNIFICANTLY less talented players (especially setters) WIN on Day 3, which is the players' last shot to make a team, just because they were disciplined, organized and had a plan. 
  2. Successful people are Optimistic. There is nothing that says you cannot be realistic and be optimistic, but if you want to hold onto anything, you must hold onto it in hope. Hope to improve, hope to grow, hope to be the best. Without it, you have nothing to achieve, nothing to work for and nothing to drive you to be the best version of yourself. Hope often separates the Good from the Bad, not on the good days, but on the bad ones, which is where Greatness takes hold. If you can find a way to make a good day good, you're just the same as everyone else. Not set apart. Not different in any way. BUT if you can find a way to make a bad day good, or even average, then that is where you separate yourself from the rest of the world, who wallows.
Lastly, the major things I'll take from this tryout and experience into my coaching philosophy and life experience are Chaos and "Just Good". Train with a degree of Chaos, make a good play on the ball. While it is a classic slow and stead wins the race cliché, it isn't wrong, and in our culture of "do more faster averagely", we sometimes forget to "do less well."

Follow along on Twitter: @CCGAVolleyball or Facebook.com/ccgavolleyball

Pictures of the even can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153133027743524.1073741900.61156893523&type=1

Saturday, February 21, 2015

USA Women's National Team Tryout - Day 2 - Jeff Huebner

Day 2 was long :-)

We started today having split the athletes into 3 separate groups. Practice started at 8am and finished at 8pm. With a 20 minute break for lunch between 1:30 and 1:50.

It was awesome to see the level of play improve with the comfort of the athletes in the gym. As the players begin to better understand USA expectations, they are able to see their gains quickly, and it is really remarkable how quickly a system can be put into place when the expectations are clear and simple.

There were two highlights to my day:

First, during my break, I got to head over to the US Olympic Hall of Fame. 

It wasn't a very large display, but it was obvious that what USA cares about is Gold. They care about humility and hard work. Most of the additional information relevant to the athletes was about longevity and excellence over time. It was obvious what we value at Olympic Plaza.

The second experience that was unique today was the opportunity to work directly with the final stages of the US Junior National Team Tryout. Though it sounds like 'Junior Volleyball' it is actually for athletes born after 1996, which includes some Collegiate players and some high school seniors. 

We got to see 22 players in the gym together competing for the final 16 spots. Almost all of the players in the gym had previously competed for USA in some capacity, so they were all aware of the expectations. That being said, I was impressed by their ability to be genuinely encouraging with one another. It was obvious that they understood that County came before individual, which is something we have already talked about with our Captains for this year, that our choice making needs to be "School", "Program", "Team", and then "Individual." Though we are on a smaller scale, I am always encouraged when we align our ideals with what the Highest Tier of athletics is already doing.

Tomorrow is the last day. We have 2 competition groups in the morning and then it is over! We are looking forward to seeing the completed product for the Senior and Junior National Teams, and I have been so fortunate to see SO many collegiate coaches that pour themselves into this process as volunteers, just to learn from, grow in and impact USA Volleyball.

Follow along on Twitter: @CCGAVolleyball or Facebook.com/ccgavolleyball

USA Women's National Team Tryout - Day 1 - Jeff Huebner

I'm wide awake on the morning of Day 2 here in Colorado Springs, CO at the Olympic Training Center. Its 5:00am, and even though I don't need to be up until 7:00am, My Eastern Standard Time internal clock is winning the sleep battle.

After getting into Colorado 2 nights prior, getting my official OTC ID Card (SWEET) and wandering around campus to see all history of the place, Day 1 started yesterday with a staff meeting at 1:00pm. Karch Kiraly came in to talk to us about how the process of Tryouts would go. He gave us a ton of US-Team Gear, and told us about how the last few Olympic Cycles have gone. Just recently, our Youth Teams claimed their first ever medal in an international event, AND our Senior National Team won their first ever Gold at the World Grand Prix.

Coach Kiraly was particularly adamant about how awesome it was to wear Red/White/Blue, and how this Tryout is a big deal for America, because just 2 years ago, Kim Hill, an OH from Pepperdine, was a last minute sign up for the Tryout, and 5 month later she was the USWNT Team MVP. Nobody even had her on their radar.

Once the first group came in, he spent a lot of time with the group and a white board explaining the scope of practice and some key ideas for the day. I was pumped about this because it was pretty much the same way we start practice at Coastal. Practice starts and we are off.

There were a lot of interesting points to the first 3 sessions. I'll start with the good. 
  1. The athleticism of the grouping was so high that most of the kids were able to over come early nerves just by jumping high and hitting hard.
  2. Most of the highest rated players move, talk and compete like we do in our gym.
  3. Volleyball is the SAME on any level. Decision making, team culture and effort are the 3 most obvious means to improve a team, and it was a great reminder, and very affirming that we are talking about and doing the right things.
  4. USA is ALL ABOUT playing the ball 'good' instead of perfect. Dig Off, Set Off, Swing/Serve In. Be 'good' out of system and live in a little bit of Chaos.
The bad.
  1. Even kids at the highest level don't really know rotations. I was proud of Na'Ch (Our CCGAVB rep at the tryout) for always being in the right place at the right time.
  2. The setting at the National Level is as 'Pretty' as it ever has been, but there are very few setters who are real competitors and make good decisions. I'm confident our setters would do well here.
As a side, it is very cool to get to rub elbows with some of the best coaches in the country, and be involved at such a high level. One constant among the coaches here is their passion for the game and love of people. 

Today will be a very long day. Our first session start at 8am and we don't finish up until 8pm. Looking forward to Day 2!

Follow along on Twitter: @CCGAVolleyball or Facebook.com/ccgavolleyball

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

MOM Entry #9---Player Entry 7, Holly Hammer


So, almost two years ago I was applying to the Nursing Program here at Coastal. I was nervous because I didn’t know how I could possibly do the work load of nursing, the clinical schedule, and continue to be a collegiate athlete. The start of each semester since then has seemed even more daunting than the one before. I had conversations with my mom, my coaches, and my teammates that included many statements like “I don’t know how it’s going to work out, how will I be in two places at once, I’m just not sure”. Recently I was reminded of a quote that states “It is simply not possible to be simultaneously grateful and resentful”. There has maybe never been a more accurate quote to drive my attitude. The root of joy is gratefulness. So, I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank my team and coaches and express to them how GRATEFUL I am for their continual support and understanding.

Throughout this year and last I have had to miss two matches, and a series of practices to meet my clinical requirements. Never once have I felt anything less than excitement, interest, and support for what I am doing. I can’t count how many times this group has listened intently to me talk about things they don’t particularly care about. Sometimes, they listen to my stories that might even make them want to throw up. Several of them have let me practice assessments on them for hours at a time to ensure that I get it right. Not to mention the countless times I’ve stayed up studying on the bus with my lights on late into the night while most of them are trying to sleep. I am so thankful that this program has given me the opportunity to pursue both my career in nursing as well as my collegiate career as a volleyball player. I couldn’t do one single day of it without them. :)

If you have read any of the previous MOM blogs then you know that a common theme is that we make each other successful at life, not just volleyball. I can only hope to be yet another testament to that foundation.

The Mariners return to action with 4 matches at home this week: Friday at 1pm AND 5pm at the Coffin, and then Saturday at 9:00am and 3:00pm. Students get in free with ID!

Monday, October 13, 2014

MOM Entry #8---Player Entry 6, Cayley Meiners


"A championship team does not win because they got lucky or because they are the team with the best talent.  They may have great talent, however that is not the only factor behind their successful season.  To me, a championship team is a team that is made up of people who truly live for their teammates.  Every aspect of your life on this team is going to be infiltrated by those who are intentional, loving and there to allow you to grow into a better version of yourself.  At Coastal, our championship team has been in the works since the volleyball program here was started.  Investing life and love into one another is something that is extremely valued to us and what sets us apart from other great teams.  

I am a very black and white, concrete thinker.  I separate my life into 3 categories: School, Volleyball, and Other (for what little time I spend here while I'm not doing the other two).  So when I said life will be infiltrated in every aspect - I meant it.  With this team and these girls, its not so categorized. They are my classmates, they are my teammates, and most importantly my best friends.  And we were so lucky to be able to come together by the love of volleyball.  

We just know each other. It makes playing next these girls so simple and so much fun.  We know how each other respond and we know where each person contributes.  At the end of the day, we may rejoice in the memories of getting sweet revenge on Mobile, or that really awesome play that one time, but ultimately we will remember the connections we made on every step of the way there."

The Mariners return to action with 3 matches at home this week: Tuesday and Friday at 7pm at the Coffin vs Allen and Belhaven respectively, and then Saturday afternoon at 2:00pm vs Faulkner University. Students get in free with ID!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

MOM Entry #7---Player Entry 5, Madeline Jeanne Bounds

The following is from CCGA Volleyball Freshman, Maddie Bounds. Maddie was named 'Player of the Week' last week and is currently in the top 5 for hitting efficiency in the NAIA and leads the SSAC in Hitting Efficiency and Blocking:

"I have been apart of quite a few and very different volleyball teams in the past 5 years, but none could compare to the team I am apart of now. I honestly consider the volleyball girls my family rather than just a team, because that is what we are.  Coastal Georgia’s volleyball program started just four years ago, and in that journey of four years, an amazing family was created. This program started at nothing, but the coaches, players, and fans involved turned it into a top 25 ranked team in the nation. The heart and dedication that my teammates have put into this group has made a huge difference, but we won’t stop now. I am lucky enough to be apart of this team who will continue to push themselves and strive to be the best.  
I’ve only been apart of the Coastal volleyball team for a short period of time, but I’ve learned more than I ever have: on and off the court. The biggest lesson I came to learn while being here is to be me.  I learned that my teammates and coaches love me for who I am, and not who I’m trying to be just to please them. With the help and support from my teammates and two coaches, I overcame the silly phase and I’ve never been happier and more comfortable with a group of people. 

I’ve learned a number of things on the court as well. I’ve learned that nobody wants to go to Nationals as much as the Coastal volleyball team. Nationals is a word you will hear almost everyday in the CCGA volleyball locker room or practices. Every time the topic about Nationals comes up, I get chills. Having already accomplished a 13-0 record this season just shows how much I and all the other girls want it. I can’t even imagine how our 3 seniors feel. They were the very beginning of this program and stuck with it through thick and thin. Their dream from the start was to make a name of the program and to compete in Nationals, and this year IS the year."

The Mariners head back on the road this weekend to Belhaven University and Faulkner University and return home for Family and Alumni Weekend 9/26 and 9/27. Follow the Mariners on Twitter @CCGAVolleyball or www.coastalgeorgiasports.com