Back on the Court with Jason Tanaka
July 24, 2007
The last week has been very hectic and non-stop, but everyone involved in the camp, both coaches and players, are very excited about how things are going.
After breakfast on Wednesday morning, we went through a two-and-a-half hour practice. As a staff, we set up five different stations for our athletes to work through. I was paired with Charlene Johnson-Tagaloa, a former assistant coach at the University of Nebraska and a 2004 Olympian, at our station. We worked with our players on passing a down ball and working on out-of-system plays to set up our attackers out of the back row. It was fun to see how the players were able to adapt to the drills that we were running, and they helped us determine who was able to control the ball, as well as see who could attack out of the back row. One thing that I am constantly reminding myself is that we are dealing with athletes who are 15 and younger.
We had some downtime following practice and were able to do some fishing in a creek near the dorms. Rod Wilde, the University of Wisconsin assistant and former USA men's assistant, was full of information about the fish around the area. Some of the players even showed some interest in fishing, with a couple of girls hanging out with us and catching some peacock bass.
On Thursday, we had just one practice, versus the two per day to start the camp. We were very close to picking our teams for the High Performance tournament that started on Sunday. I thought I had mastered all the names until we had a dinner on a cruiser ship with all of the campers, which included the USA boys program and the youth and junior girls programs. With the players in normal clothes and fixed up, it was hard to tell who was who after just seeing them in their athletic gear. It was also a nice change to get out of the dorms and eat different food.
After dinner we headed back to campus, and as a staff we had a meeting to determine the make-up of our different teams for the tournament. Over two hours later we had finally made up five different teams. I was paired with Jill Pearson, a former assistant at the University of Minnesota, to coach the USA Select Gold team.
Friday morning was our first practice as a team. It was fun to finally get to know the 10 players in our group and figure out where they would best be suited on the court. In our first practice, we established who our best passers were. As coaches, we know we will only be as successful as our passers. We also decided what kind of defense we would run. Based on the time that we had with our team, both Jill and I felt that a rotation defense would best suit this particular team. Towards the end of practice, we had the opportunity to scrimmage another team, which enabled us to see how our players would react in a game situation.
Our evening practice consisted of passing and hitting combinations. We focused on having all the players ready to attack the ball from anywhere on the court. We also implemented our serve-receive rotations and went over a couple of plays.
On Saturday we moved from our dorms to the Embassy Suites, which was within walking distance of the convention center where the tournament will be held. I know I was really excited to get out of the dorms and finally sleep in a normal bed. After checking in, we headed over to the convention center for a quick practice. During the practice, we worked on passing and attacking the ball, and for the last 40 minutes, we scrimmaged the USA Select Silver team. We won the first game, but in game two we suffered an injury to our libero when both she and the setter went after the ball and collided. She suffered a cut on her forehead, which the athletic trainer treated and she was fine.
The players are very excited and we felt that we had a great team going into the tournament. The tournament is set to begin Sunday. I will check in and let you know how we are doing.
Think Purple and Go Frogs!