We’re embarking on a summer series today that takes a look at how technology is shaping the college sports we play, watch and cover at WVU. The ideas are all around us and they range from very modest to very expensive, but they’re all, on some level, extremely important to players, coaches and whole programs.
We begin today with volleyball. Coach Jill Kramer does a little of the modest and the expensive stuff — the modest being her own design, the expensive being a requirement in the Big 12, if you’re counting pennies at home.
Begin today with Data Volley. It’s hard to explain exactly what Data Volley does, but know that it tracks and grades every touch during every match and produces everything from expected outcomes to scouting reports.
It’s an irreplaceable asset.
With the help of Data Volley, the Mountaineers distribute and digest very detailed scouting reports that show statistics for serves, attacks and blocks and diagrams illustrating where a player is known to go with the volleyball.
“There is nowhere to hide anymore and there are no secrets,” Wade said. “When we start a match, our weakest passer is getting served every single ball. They know, especially as the season goes along and we have 20 matches of the team passing volleyballs. They take the stats and they use them. They look at it and say, ‘Well, who’s the weakest passer on the team?’ Then when we put six kids on the court, they can say, ‘That’s the weakest passer, serve the ball at her.’”
And what of those scouting reports? Glad you asked. Here’s one from a match this past season — I’m going to keep the identity of the opponent to myself because I’m a gentleman. But what the program does is give visual explanations of what to expect from specific players during certain rotations.
There you have a look at, and thus a very good idea about, just the attacks. You see the path the players like to take and the direction they hit, or spray, the ball. The notes below the diagrams are supplements. It’s pretty easy to position your defense properly.
There’s more, I promise, but it reveals the opponent and player identities and some detailed information about specific strengths and weaknesses that, again, we’re not going to share. Nevertheless, through percentages computed by Data Volley, WVU’s players are well aware of everything the opposition can and can’t do and what is preferred and avoided.
Granted, there’s a little more depth to the sport, to the preparation and the competition, than relying on a statistics program. Of course you know the volleyball team practices, but what you probably didn’t know, especially after the explanation of the somewhat intimidating Data Volley, is that the Mountaineers use a really basic, yet still critical device to help them get ready for their matches.
A mobile cart carries a modest flat-screen television with a small camera attached to the top. That camera records practice and a cable runs to a Tivo digital video recorder, which operates on a brief delay.
“The camera doesn’t blink,” Wade said.
When something happens in a practice, be it good or bad, players can stop to review it.
“It’s such a great coaching tool and teaching tool,” Kramer said. “There are so many things we tell them that maybe don’t resonate, but when you can go right over and see yourself do something, that puts another layer on that. We see them improve, I think, at a much faster rate.”
Hey, guess what I found out today! Ted Wade is no longer an assistant coach with the Mountaineers. He left the team
when I was on vacation earlier this month, according to Abby Norman, the SID who works with volleyball. “Ted Wade left the program to pursue other job opportunities in Texas. He left the college coaching ranks and is now running a volleyball club in Austin. Jill is almost finished with the process of hiring her newest assistant.”