Ask Emily Lawrence

Oct. 26, 2000

Jessica Gin (South San Francisco, CA)
What are the most important things to remember to do and drills you can do to improve your digging and passing skills?

It is easiest to start with your feet and work your way up. For one, you need to move them and it is as simple as that. If you focus on your feet and getting your feet to the spot before the ball gets there, good things will happen. Of course, it is easier to move your feet if you are low to start with. I am sure you have heard shoulders over knees and knees over toes, this is a good position to dig balls in. You can be a little higher when you pass. And lastly get those arms out.

Any drill that allows you to get repetition is good when it comes to digging and passing. Standing on one side of the net and just having someone serve at you is my favorite drill to practice passing. And likewise, having a coach hit balls at you is the most effective. Good luck!

Linda Merslich (Redwood City, CA)
I am the coach for a fifth grade volleyball team and was wondering what drills you recommend for this level player? Also, what is the best way to teach the kids to GO for the ball? Thank you for your help.

I would keep the drills very simple. At this age, the kids probably just need to learn the basic skills. A lot of times doing drills WITHOUT the ball is most effective - just getting the kids used to the correct form and positions. Drills teaching the kids all the different positions on the court would probably be useful. For example, if a hit is coming from the left side of the court and you are right back, where are you supposed to go? Building communication skills between players is also key at this level. Simple drills like having two people in at a time in the back row and giving them free balls so that they will have to call it.

I remember a drill I loved to learn how to just go was a drill that the coach made fun. Two girls would start at the ten-foot line and the coach would be in the middle. The coach would just throw the balls and the two girls would have to race for the ball. You have to be a little careful about the girls running into each other, but I used to love that drill. You could also implement rules like if a ball hits the floor without a player on the floor, the team has to do a punishment. Hopefully this helps.

Michelle (Unknown)
I was wondering how much you practice each day during the season? Also, how do you prepare for matches? Thanks and good luck for the rest of the season!

Hi, Michelle. During the season, we usually practice two and a half to three hours per day (except game days). We always get at least one day off a week to rest. Three days a week, we lift weights and usually two days a week we watch film. But there is a limit of four hours of practice in a day, so we never go over four hours.

Preparing for a game for me usually starts at our pre-game meal that is at 3:00 p.m. They put film on of the opponent and this is when I start focusing in on the game. I kind of have a ritual when I put on my uniform for a game. I put on my bikers and shirt first (obviously!) and then I put on socks, then knee pads and lastly my shoes and ankle braces. Usually in the locker room Lindsay Kagawa brings her CD's and I am usually the DJ, and in charge of keeping the tunes going. This helps everybody, and me especially, stay loose and relaxed before a game.

Karen Tongson (Berkeley, CA)
To what extent does the team prepare for a match emotionally/motivationally? Are there certain team traditions used to 'get up for the game', or does this tend to be more of an individualized, private ritual? Finally, how difficult is it as a team to prepare for a road trip, like the one you just had to the Los Angeles schools?

Yes, there is definitely emotional preparation for a game. And it happens on both the individual and group level. You might have read in the previous question how I personally prepare for a game. Every player has their own 'ritual'. But when it comes time for serve and pass, this is the team's preparation. Not only are we warming up our bodies but we are getting our minds focuses on doing the right things.

Our team has a few rituals we do before we go out at Maples. Right before we come out, we have a stomp that we do. We turn all of the lights off in the locker room and get in a circle and we stomp. Then we say a cheer and we're ready to go.

Preparing for away trips gets easier as you get older. Preparation starts when you pick your classes. I definitely try to pick classes that are Monday through Wednesday just in case we have to leave for an away game, that way we don't miss as much. And if we do miss classes, most of the professors are very helpful and if you email them they are happy to catch you up. Usually, all our bags are very heavy because we pack lots of books to keep us occupied! Other than getting our classes taken care of, it isn't that hard at all.

Janae Delane (Foster City, CA)
I've noticed that the floor at Maples has a bit of spring to it. Does it have a mental effect on the team when playing at facilities that do not have such floors?

You know we never really think about that when we go to other gyms. We obviously feel very lucky to have that bit of spring in our floor, but we can't really control whether other gyms are going to be as nice as ours so we try not to worry about it.

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