Focus on a Coach - Mike Marshall
Back in the eighties, when I was a boy at high school in Johannesburg, I remember one break time a teacher erected a volleyball net in the grassy area behind the central block of classrooms. This was all very new to us as our school did not participate in volleyball at the time. Back then, it was all about Rugby, Swimming and Athletics. Each day the student numbers grew and more became interested in playing. Of course, it was mayhem as we knew nothing about the rules of volleyball. We were also playing in our school uniforms, not the best attire. Shanks, scoops and catching were the norm, plus we had about twenty players on the one court, all attempting to get a touch on the ball. It was shambolic. After about a week of this madness, a student said he knew a guy who knew a little about volleyball and would be happy to give us a hand to learn the game properly. Steve was his name, and he committed his time to train willing students after school. I was one of them. The huge amount I learnt from Steve still lives with me today. He was a fairly quiet guy, but his passion and energy for the game left a deep impression on me. He taught us how to love the game.
A few years ago, when I heard KingsWay was looking for some help to assist in getting volleyball off the ground, I jumped at the opportunity. It was now my time to be that "Steve", imparting the energy, passion, and love for the game to young and willing players. Plus, it was also a way I could give back a little to the school all three of my boys attend, even if they did not want to play volleyball at the time. I'm in my third year of coaching, and amazingly, now all three of them are as keen as mustard about the game.
To me, there is something so special about witnessing a perfectly executed attacking play in volleyball that results in our team winning the point by crushing the ball cleanly over the net, outfoxing the opposing block. In that moment, you can feel the team's energy explode as they joyously shout out as one and rush to congratulate each other. My aim in coaching is to get them upskilled enough to experience that level of elation and that feeling of being part of a team playing well. Getting there obviously takes time and practice, and so these players need to first learn the basics.
Like most things in life, once you have a solid foundation, it’s a lot easier to start building towards the end goal. I usually ask the players at the beginning of the season what they see as the most important shot in volleyball - spike, set, serve or dig? It's not often they mention what I'm thinking. For me, it's the ability to dig pass the ball with control, for without being able to do that, you cannot create attacking plays to win points on a regular basis. So we practice passing often, which involves not only good body position and technique but the footwork needed to get to the ball to make the pass. From there, we build up skills to set and spike the ball correctly. Once the basics of those shots are at a decent enough level, we work on how to play various rotation strategies and specialist roles within the team.
This year our super league team has reached the point where they are more often than not able to execute that high level of play. They know they are in the big leagues now, and hopefully, I've been able to prepare them well enough to withstand the pressure from opposing teams.
As the coach, and as the seasons have played out over the years, I've been able to observe the upward progression of the students’ skills. It gives me immense satisfaction to know I've had a part to play in that.
Coach of the 1st Team Volleyball