It won't start off that way, but this is ultimately about improving volleyball coaching and the sport of volleyball--it's far less political than you'll expect, but my view on some politics HAS to be discussed first, so that you understand the angle I'm coming from.
In my glorious youth, I wanted to be a historian, and as a fallback, I wanted to be involved in government--a notion I was cured of over the past two decades thanks to the fanatic close-minded trolls who run the Republican and Democratic Parties. My love of history and politics led me to do a lot of reading. Now add to that the parenting I received--and bless my parents for that--I was taught to keep an open mind on everything, and that to make a good decision, it was always best to find out as many relevant facts as possible. Indeed, not only should you acquire facts, it is important to be willing to ask questions. You learn more that way than any other.
Also important, I grew up and became aware of the world during the 1970s and 1980s. In the aftermath of the Oil Crisis, but still living in a world dominated by World War 2 veterans, that's important as well. The conclusion reached by many historians and politicians was that WW2 was triggered by the walls put up around nations as the Great Depression took hold, that those barriers first halted a recovery and then, worse, made economies collapse everywhere as interntional trade decreased, leading to the rise of fascism and statism and thus WW2--I know that simplifies the argument too much, but remember, this is going to be a rant about volleyball!
So as soon as the war ended, the United States went to work diplomatically to force trade to be opened up, whether by reciprocal trade agreements or huge agreements signed by many nations (GATT, NAFTA) or organizations which encourage and monitor free trade (WTO). There are paranoid people out there who argue against free trade and the free movement of people and ideas, but the reality is that for the past 60+ years, the world has known great prosperity and advances in technology BECAUSE of this freedom and the exchange of ideas.
Of course, some people do take advantage of this in bad ways--they break copyrights or patents and often they get away with it. I know that, too. But ultimately, the advances keep coming. No one hides them away for a rainy day--at least not yet...the attempts of fundamentalist Jews, Muslims, and Christians to stop science's advance notwithstanding.
If you knew, you could improve your own life by sharing--would you? Of course. If you could improve your work/your profession by sharing--whether a safety tip or such--would you? ...presuming it helped you as well? Of course! This is true in almost every avocation--quality circles were a way to improve quality and boost employee morale first adopted fully by Japanese companies and then imitated by western companies (the idea was an American idea in the first place...). Car quality across the board is better now than ever before--better safety, better reliabilty. Better, better, better! You can think of a zillion other areas where this is true, too.
But now, rather than continue on a traditional Republican bent (I'm a rare breed...someone who still admits to being Republican AND holding to the ideals of Eisenhower and pre-1992 Republican leaders)--it's time to rant about volleyball.
A year ago or so, I gave a presentation on statistics and small things related to volleyball at the AVCA meeting in San Antonio. The presentation was the product of several years of number crunching going back to the 1990s for some information--I got enough information to draw conclusions, but it was tedious having to do it all by myself by hand. Ok--wah, wah, wah. I chose the idea--so I'm responsible for the work and at least all of the information I needed was available from various websites, etc. So I can't complain--the information was accessible, unhidden.
The presentation went pretty well--even though I was nervous and only had one hand (the other remained in a cast at the time after thumb surgery) and afterwards, I received quite a few compliments--which made my ego swell to about the size of the Riverwalk. (Just being honest) But JUST as important, the presentation raised some questions in my mind--and got some other coaches to think and ask me questions--I love questions. I love not having answers...because then I get to go find answers and that's GREAT--because most of the time you find out a TON more than you were looking for and you NEVER find answers in the place you expected! THAT is the joy of discovery.
The thing is--to get answers, I needed information that wasn't public. I needed stats, etc that are kept 'in-house' such as serve-receive ratings. To be clear--I didn't/don't need current ones. I would've been happy to get information 3-4 years out of date--because what I've been looking for would be just as relevant in 2008 as it is in 2012.
So...I took the time to find the email addresses for about 80 schools and their coaches. I sent a nice email (and a follow up a couple weeks later) asking for any information they could provide--whether it was individual stats (no need for names of players) or team totals.
Also important in this...I probably contacted 75 women's programs and 5 men's programs. That shouldn't be surprising since there are many more women's volleyball programs out there than men's right now. I heard back from THREE women's programs and FOUR men's.
For those who prefer numbers--that's a 4% rate for women's teams and an 80% rate for men's.
I mentioned this to a couple coaches I respect (one before I emailed coaches...and he said good luck getting a response, the other afterwards)--who will remain nameless since this is my rant, not theirs. And the opinion I received from both...goes back to my ideas on the value of the open trade of ideas across borders. They believe (and now having gone through this, I tend towards their view....) that there are two philosophies at work.
1. With men's volleyball, there are few D-1 programs, so that the coaches all know one another, know the athletes, so that there are no secrets--and logically, why try and keep a secret if it'll leak regardless. Therefore, an open universe is better for everyone--the higher the caliber of the sport, the better all teams get--which should (in theory, always in theory) help bring better athletes into the sport and spread the sport further--meaning more schools, more opportunities, etc. It's hardly a fair sample size, but even as a women's coach at a two-year college, I haven't yet had a men's coach return a call I've made to them and prove willing to discuss volleyball. They have all been willing to talk about the sport.
2. With women's volleyball, apparently the trade barriers of the 1930s are preferred. If you go someplace like Volleytalk (a reasonable online site for vb information), you see a lot of discussion on "we need to improve the quality of volleyball in the United States"--which is true. The US lags behind in a lot of ways (not all though!). But then go to a coaches clinic and listen to what most coaches talk about--when's the last time you actually saw a coach discuss something in detail, not just a 'generic' passing drill or normal cliched crap like "you need to really speed up your quick attacks". Duh!
4%. Four. Percent. That's not quite true--and sparked this rant. I did hear from three other coaches who directly said "Sorry, but we aren't sharing any information that could help our opponents." But really--if everyone pooled their information (just like conferences have video exchanges, etc) then EVERYONE gets better. But instead, volleyball improves at a snail's pace because the coaches are so secretive.
--Maybe this is why men's coaches are in demand for women's volleyball? Not only are they used to faster volleyball (just the natural difference between men and women), but they are better versed in advanced techniques--because the men's coaches share that information all of the time!
So for the 10-20 people who will read this (because it's about volleyball and not farts, politics, or anything else), if you are really interested in helping grow the sport of volleyball, improving the skills--be open. Share information. You'll get information in return that changes your perspective, gives YOU information, and MAKES YOU A BETTER COACH AS WELL.
Last bit of the rant--in Illinois, there's a high school coaching association for each of the major sports...except volleyball (the one started that only meets in Chicago and doesn't send stuff to downstate coaches is NOT a state organization...even if Chicago DOES think it 'is' the state of Illinois...yet again, a different rant). I tried a decade ago when I was a high school coach--I'm not a new convert to open sharing of information by the way--but was stymied by some established coaches who, if they would've jumped on board would've made things go forward quickly, but instead responded "It's not my business to help the competition." When I mentioned to one--"But isn't it helping the kids?" I got a blank look and she walked off.
So what if you improve a poor team to an average team? An average one to a good? If you are truly a 'great' coach, you'll still overcome those obstacles, you'll still win. But most importantly, you will have helped kids...which is the whole reason for youth sports in the first place!