Jim Stone: OK so, Pete, you have coached men and you have coached women. There are some commonalities and there are some differences. What would you say if you were talking to women’s coaches out there? What are segments of the men’s game that you think could be implemented into the women’s game to allow the game to be played at a higher level on the women’s side.
Pete Hanson: Yeah, I think, and obviously we deal with a different set of rules. Our substitutions are very limited. We play clearly what the international teams do. One substitution total of six per set. You know I think there might be some folks that would love to see the women’s game maybe go to a more limited substitution where you’re developing all around volleyball players. You know our players are outside hitters have to pass they have to block, they have to attack, they have to play the full game. You know our opposite has to play the full game. He’s in the back row, he’s in the front row. Clearly, we’re substituting the middle’s with the libero but he has to be able to serve. And now, I think there’s some ways that we’ve taken that and we’ve constructed systems that take advantage of those players attributes in terms of, if we’ve got hitters that are on the court all the time, how can we get them more involved? Not only a front row but in the back row. And I think for me that’s the one area that I see lacking at the highest levels in Division 1 volleyball because I know the athletes are capable of doing this. As I watch the heisted women’s team their athletes are moving as well as my athletes do. How can we get them to maybe become six rotation players and do some of the things that we do with our offense out of the back row and really stressed the blocking defense? And for us that’s why we’ve kind of gone to that and that’s why we’ve worked really hard at developing more options because as we see that the Top End male volleyball players they’re bigger and stronger. We see 6 11 middle blockers, we see 6 10 outside hitters. So, we can’t take a 6 2 guy, 6 foot 2 inch guy and have him go against that guy, you know he is at disadvantage. So, we’re trying to figure out what other attackers can we get into other zones to take some pressure off this smaller player. And so, I think just kind of the creativity in that particular offensively. Now the serving is obviously a little bit different. We’re pretty enamored with the jump spins serve and where we can score an immediate point if we’ve got guys that are capable of hitting it at a real high velocity. I think on the women’s side there, you know, they don’t have the jumps spins. They’re more just flowed and target serving and trying to dictate how their defense can play around that. But when you do have a good jump spinner let’s turn or lose let’s let her go. I think that was the key formula for Russ Rose in his last national championship with his setter who served a lot of aces that year and put a lot of teams under duress and allowed them to play defense and transition at a high level. So, you know, I think there’s some things that you don’t have to buy into everything we’re doing. We don’t we don’t claim to know all the answers and have all the right things. But, you know, I think because of the limitations that we have with sobs and how we have to train the guys that we do have some guys that are good all-around volleyball players and we’re trying to take advantage of that and make that a part of our offensive philosophy. And I know that there’s a lot of female volleyball players that could do the same thing.
Jim: You know, there’s been a different position created on the women’s side. Now I used to be if you’re an outside hitter it was assumed that you played six rotations. Now, people describe themselves almost 6 rotations outside hitter like this is something new and unique and I think to them a little bit to the detriment of the game. But let me phrase this in a question here. Do you feel with all the 15 sobs and well on the women’s side in college and 12 sobs in club, with the idea we’re going to bring out our big kid in the back row put it in a smaller kid? Do they lose offensively by bringing the big kid out who could hit back row? Do they lose more than what they’re gaining in servicing? Can I take an average big kid and with their offensive abilities would I be farther ahead than taking that person off the court for someone who might be marginally better with servicing defense?
Pete: Yeah, I believe so. I don’t have any hard data to back up my opinion, so I’m basing it on kind of some visual empirical evidence that I’ve just gleaned by watching a few matches, but, you know, the few matches that I’ve seen when a team is out of system you’re now down to one possibly two options and a lot of times it’s one option. And boy the block in defense gets really easy when you know there’s one option. So, if you’re not necessarily passing the ball at a high percentage in the box so to speak in that perfect pass zone where you can stress that blockers and the defense with multiple attackers, if you’re a medium pass team you still might be able to get some back row option involved. Particularly she’s a phenomenal athlete and I haven’t seen the blocking on the women’s side be as technically advanced as the men’s side in terms of understanding how many people are available and getting people in those positions. I think more times often than not I see rather than put a blocker we’re going to dig that ball. We we’ve coached our diggers to be so good and they have confidence in their diggers that they’re going to dig that ball. We’re on the men’s game we have to say we’ve got to stop it at the net because if we get past our block we’re probably not going to dig it. Now we need to spend more time on digging. Obviously, we need to get better at that skill as men. But I think, our first and foremost priority is how quickly can we win the point. You know that that’s the philosophy that drives a lot should have a
Jim: Shouldn’t be any different for women? How quickly should we win the point and if we’re going to win the point, question: we have all of our big kids out there taking swings at the ball?
Pete: Well you would think if conventional wisdom bought into that theory that that would happen. You know if I had an opportunity to coach and to get some of those types of athletes I think I would certainly look into it. I would try to coach them along the vein of what we’ve coached our team at Ohio State over the course of time and we’ve certainly involved. There were years ago or we weren’t much of a back row attacking team because we didn’t have those type of athletes. But as we’ve gotten them and as the kids have done them more in their junior development now we’re able to bring them into our system and use that a lot. And I think what you’ve experienced when you coach internationally that other countries are doing that they’re doing that all the time. You know we’ve had a young man arrive at Ohio State from Belgium
Pete: He’s 17 years old but he’s well ahead of any American kid that I’ve had walk into my gym in terms of how he’s been exposed to the training and into the environment and to the types of things that he’s doing. It’s just phenomenal. And you know Belgium is a pretty small country but I think there volleyball’s pretty advanced in terms of what they’re teaching a 16 or 17 years old versus what we’re being able to get was 16 and 17 years old here in the United States.
Jim: And I tend to feel you get better at things when you have to get better at things. And you mentioned the relative weakness of blocking on the women’s side. Would women become better blockers if they were stressed more with a back row attack. Setting middle of not a great pass, I mean, you catch my drift in terms of, you know if we developed our offense more both front row and back row the blocking and defense would get better.
Pete: Sure. Oh no doubt. No doubt. I think when you raise the bar on one aspect of your game within your gym if you’re going to help those kids succeed you’re going to find a way to raise the bar hopefully on the defensive side. And if our blocking were to get ahead of our offense then we have to become creative enough to find out Well how do we negate the quality blocking and put our offense back in an advantage. And so, yeah, I truly do believe that that if you continue to challenge those elite athletes they’ll find a way and they’ll work at it long enough whether it’s through just pure repetitions or film study or developing a system that takes advantage of what they can do. But, yeah, there’s no doubt that there are elite athletes playing college women’s volleyball that can do these types of things. I think it’s just a matter of someone willing to say, I’m going to try this I’m going to force the issue and see how it goes and you know, really put their kids in situations to try those things.
Jim: Yeah, I think women’s coaches are the women’s game not so much women’s coaches the women’s game follows the men’s game. If they don’t they should be. And but they’re involved five or six years behind. And I’m saying that in a bad way it’s just it takes a while to put things into a system. If I’m a women’s coach right now I’m watching guys play and I watch women play I’m watching guys play because I think what the men’s game is fast and exciting. I’m watching your championship match up against BYU. You got a front row center that can attack. You got to hear Zach in attack. You have to back row hitters that are attacking. So, you’ve got five people that are better on this. And we never see that in women and I think they’re capable of it and I hope the women’s game moves that direction. I think it’s kind of fun and exciting to watch.
Pete: Oh, absolutely. I’ve taken some teams international competitions and you know I think sometimes we have a pretty myopic view of well the game was invented in the United States. We must know everything there is to know about the game and you know I was at the World Championships a few years ago with a junior team and know we weren’t the best we were by far the not the best team in that whole tournament. In other countries with smaller populations are doing some very innovative things are training their kids way more than we get to train them. You know I think there’s obviously at the college level there are some limitations with the number of hours that we can spend. But I think that that goes back to how can we get these younger kids more prepared before they get to college. They’re playing a lot but are they training a lot. Are they being exposed to higher level concepts where when they get to the gym at Ohio State or Penn State or Nebraska or wherever. It’s not a foreign concept it’s something they’ve done and something they’re excited to do and they want to continue to do it. And I think that’s what drives our kids for the ability to want to come to practice every day because we’re not going to do just kind of the old boring routine but we’re going to try to innovate and kind of kind of keep looking at some cutting news things to see what our system can be and what our guys can do.
Jim: It seems like the smart coaches have kind of an open mind where a men’s coach can look at a women’s team training and maybe pick out some things roll out of the back row defense like you mentioned, a women’s team can watch a men’s team and pick up some things in terms of back row attack or serving strategy or passing strategy. If both parties do that, the game will become better on both sides. And I think that’s the excitement in terms of as we move forward as a sport is how we make our game a better game.
Pete : Absolutely.