We have managed to catch up with the coach of City of Sheffield Volleyball Club who are last year’s BUCS and Super 8 Play-Off champions, to talk about the pre-season preparations, ambitions for the season ahead and some tips for up and coming coaches.
Exclusive Interview with coach Keith Trenam on pre-season preparations
Q: What have you been doing with the team over the summer since the Super 8 play-off finals victory that you ended your season on?
A: Of course we celebrated the win and then as with any university based team, the players went away for the summer. It was important to get everyone back as early as possible to start preparations for the upcoming season. As the dates of the first fixture of the season are not announced till quite late on, I always make sure that the team is going to be ready by the first official super 8’s weekend that is in the calendar.
We have also gained 3 new players, so they have to be integrated into the programme straight away, hence we push to start physical training 3 times a week and volleyball specific training 4 times a week almost immediately.
Q: How are you able to draw the best players in the country towards Sheffield?
A: We are not just about winning, the idea is that we develop players. 30 to 40 players have been abroad on professional contracts following time spent in a Sheffield programme, so we produce players to a good technical level. My philosophy is that is that if you are good technically, then you can exploit the tactical side of the game. If a player does not possess the technical skillset then they will be more likely to struggle in a professional environment abroad.
Q: Would you say that this is your secret formula to success?
A: Wouldn’t say it my secret formula, but it’s definitely a toolbox. The more tools you have the better the outcome are of what you are trying to achieve. This year for example, we have a few experienced older players, who have already been to play professionally. I will still change aspects of the way they play, preventing their boredom and giving the players a more expansive overall game. If we have people that are interchangeable in positions then we can make that work to our advantage.
Q: You had a great season last year, how can you improve on what was achieved?
A: Last year we started the season poorly, but were able to peak at the right time. We had to change the training regime, becoming stricter in practice and setting higher expectations of both the quality and training intensity. This gave the players more discipline on the court and we benefitted from that as the results started coming in. Aiming to embed that early on this year should give us even better results.
Q: Were there any situations last year where things didn’t quite go right?
A: Well, we were the only team in the league that conceded to bottom placed Warwick Riga and this was solely down to the lack of mental concentration. We were 2-0 up and ended up conceding 3-2, after cruising 23-19 in the 3rd. This can happen, hence we have to develop a team with character, confidence, ability to play in different systems and with the ability to adapt to whatever happens. As much coaching input as I can provide, in match situations it is about problem solving. In training we set targets on where to place or hit the ball, creating a problem, getting the players to think and come up with the solutions themselves.
Q: What was your pre-season plan?
A: It starts for us at the last week of August and goes straight into the full time training environment. With players slowly coming back at different points of pre-season training I made the decision to start those that have been training regularly and make sure everyone else gets plenty of court time too. My philosophy is that at the start of the season we should develop the whole team, so that at the end of the year we have a strong squad ready to play and when the unexpected pops up, we have contingencies ready to deal with it.
Q: If you could give 1 piece of advice to an up and coming coach what would it be and why?
A: Getting a good routine is key. When you start training, you should have a routine to the first 30 minutes that gets players engaged both physically and most importantly, mentally. I set up drills with targets, where a certain number has to be achieved without an error and you reset back to zero if it is not done. This gets people switching on in the session and turning off from everything they have had going on during the day. It focuses the players on what they are there for, helping to set good concentration levels for the rest of the session.