Volleyball "getting down" to business at practice sessions
Waiting for the afternoon practice session to start on the second day of preseason practice, you could tell there was hard work going on in Gregory Gym – The Horns' House – just by watching the players trickle out of the locker room and onto the court. Even summer weightlifting and conditioning work couldn't mask what the players were feeling after the first day-and-a-half of many double practice sessions. Players were walking gingerly around, careful in their movements.
With four practices in two short days (the players would tell you LONG days) under their belts, the Texas volleyball team has gone back to basics and is "getting down" to the business of improving its defense and ball control.
When asked what parts of their bodies ached from the training sessions so far, players: responded hips, calves, lower backs, upper backs, knees, ankles - all parts of your body that deal with getting low, staying defensive and not letting the volleyball hit the ground.
UT head coach Jerritt Elliott has only had his players actually hit a ball a handful of times in the first four practices, and that says was a reward for hard work. Instead, the focus of the coaching staff in the first few days of practice has been defense, defense, defense and ball control, ball control, ball control.
"These first few days, we've placed a huge emphasis on defensive positioning and defensive movement, as well as ball control and passing," Elliott said. "We're starting from the beginning. We've introduced some new things and new techniques and the players have really responded well. We've just started introducing new defensive systems, showing where players are positioned on the court, and whose role is what in each system. The players have really responded and are having fun.
"We haven't even begun to think about offensive rotations yet. We're focusing on the basics," Elliott added.
With a total of seven new players on the court for the Horns – and a roster composed of just two seniors to 10 freshmen and sophomores – training proper defensive techniques and ball control now will go a long way in setting up the future success of the team.
"What we're working on now is so important for this particular team. We were not very good defensively last year, and we struggled with ball control. Our team is so young that everything we focus on now and correct will benefit us, not only this year, but in the next several years," Elliott added.
Yet, with all of the focus on fundamentals, Elliott's squad is still having fun. "This group of players is so much fun to be around. As a coaching staff, we can't wait to get to practice and work with them. All 12 players have wonderful attitudes, are unified in working hard and leave it all out on the court," Elliott said.
After Friday's afternoon training session, the Longhorns went as a team to the welcome home celebration for Austin's hometown hero – Lance Armstrong – that the city staged downtown outside the Texas state Capital.