This is the first of my periodic updates in my role as Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England. I laid out the high level priorities under which I’m operating in my initial post.

We’ve had three major activities since I introduced this journal in mid-March.

Easter camp

Over Easter weekend we had U18 and U20 men’s and women’s groups. The U20s were there for two days, while the U18s each did two days. This isn’t how we plan to do camps generally, but we needed to do more talent ID with the younger kids than for the older ones. That required larger cohorts for those younger age groups. Thus the shorter camp for them.

We went Friday to Monday. Because our agreement for the National Volleyball Centre (NVC) basically limits us to about 8 hour days on weekdays (no real limit on the weekend), we had each group do a 90 minute morning court session, then 2 hours in the afternoon. During part of their off-court time each group did some kind of informational or developmental session, though we made sure to allow for true down time for recovery.

My big priorities for the camp were to start moving the ENG programs toward more of a performance focus and to ensure every player there (and their club coaches) received useful feedback. The latter is pretty self-explanatory (though it was something seen as lacking previously). Let me explain the first part.

For the last number of years the age group England camps were weekend affairs most months throughout the year. The major focus was often on skill development. My attitude – and the coaching staff largely agrees – is that we simply don’t get enough contact time with the players to expect the national team environment to be the main source of skill development. That has to come from the clubs, which see the kids a lot more than we do (which is why coach development is such a big focus). We, instead, should focus on performance. After all, we field teams in international competition where it’s all about performance.

Of course you can’t just flip a switch on something like that. It will take time to really set hold. Easter camp was a reasonable start, though. We filed away a fair bit of feedback and thoughts to use moving forward.

August camp selection

Coming out of Easter camp, we fairly quickly turned our attention to our next camp near the end of August. The August camp is one where the main focus will be selection of U17 and U19 teams for the October NEVZA tournaments. NEVZA is our zonal association within the European Confederation (CEV). It’s basically England plus the Scandinavian countries. This year’s NEVZA tournament isn’t a Euro qualifier as it was last year, so we’re looking at it from mainly a developmental perspective.

When we started the selection process we set the clear objective of only inviting to camp those players we felt had a legitimate chance at being selected for NEVZA. We had to not only review the kids from Easter camp, but also a number of coach referrals, and players who’d missed Easter camp for one reason or another (many did so because their club teams were at a tournament in Italy).

Invitations went out in mid-May. We may add a handful of players seen in competition since then, but that’s expected to be it.

New athlete management system

The other big piece of work was putting in place a new athlete management system (AMS). Up to now we were basically just using a series of spreadsheets. That plus the general V.E. registration system. Definitely not an optimal set up for tracking player development over time. We needed a proper AMS with considerably more functionality.

After researching the options, we decided on Perfbook. We signed up in April and have been working to get things set up since. The platform is going to have a major update in July, so we haven’t rushed to put it into action. That would just require retraining. The plan is definitely to have everything up and running by August, though.

We’re extremely excited at the prospects of using Perfbook. It will, of course, make it far easier for us to keep tabs on the players. It will also provide us with a ton of additional functionality. There’s loads of potential around athlete wellness. And the possibilities around coaches being able to monitor player development and provide feedback are huge.

Senior National Teams

While my role definitely involves oversight of the senior national teams as well as the age group ones, I’m not as hands-on with them. Last year we decided to start fielding U22 teams for Euros competition. The choice was made to sit those squads with the Senior coaches to give them an opportunity to coach in European competition at a time when the Senior teams themselves are not doing so for cost reasons. The next U22 Euro qualifiers are Summer 2025. We plan to enter.

The men have been fairly active over the last few months. The Seniors did a training trip to Austria recently. A U22 group went to Northern Ireland in April to play against their Senior men, and have had some other activities as well. The women are expected to get things rolling later in the year. They just got a new manager earlier in the year.

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