Every weekday, the Michigan volleyball team gathers in Cliff Keen Arena for a few hours to practice. Its time is limited to just two or at most three hours a day, but in these few hours the team never stops moving. This constant activity in practice will help the Wolverines (4-2 Big Ten, 8-5 overall) as they travel to take on Illinois and Indiana on the road this weekend. Speed is an important part of the team”s practice mentality.
“No matter what we are doing we want to keep it fast paced,” coach Mark Rosen said.
The team does this for two major reasons. First, volleyball is a fast game. The team endures rigorous up tempo practices to prepare for the rapid pace of the game. Second, the Wolverines cannot afford to practice at a slow pace because they do not have the luxury of unlimited practice time.
Not only does the team try to practice fast, but players constantly try to go faster through specific drills. Their coaches assist them in this by constantly urging the players not merely to get through a drill, but to get through it faster than they have before. The players have bought into this philosophy and try to be quick in everything they do, including putting up and taking down the nets.
Another major component of practice is that the coaching staff tries to incorporate competition in all aspects of the practice. This is done in part because of the competitive nature of the players.
“If we can find a way to score it, or put some kind of goal or some kind of competitive scenario in to it, it motivates them to play at a higher level,” Rosen said.
This competitive feel usually takes the form of a game, where the team tries to build a specific skill. One side will be trying to win a certain amount of points, while the other side is trying to stop them from scoring. For the most part, these games are fun for the team, which is exactly what the coaches want.
“We want them to enjoy being here, we want them to have fun,” Rosen said.
The coaches will not let the players get too distracted by the fun and games. Like so many other aspects of life, equilibrium is the key.
“You have to find that balance where we have fun and enjoy what we are doing,” Rosen said. “But when the ball is in the air and we are trying to execute something we are focused on doing that.”