Saturday, December 19, 2009


You got the touch!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Okay, here's the deal. I haven't exactly been burning up the blog lately, mostly because I'm not sure if I have that much to say. So, things will probably be pretty up and down around here for the foreseeable future. I might get excited and post like crazy or I might not post again for a substantial amount of time. Or, another option, I might post a little bit here and a little bit there.

Mostly, I feel like I've said most of what I'd like to say at this point. And match reports aren't necessarily the most exciting things in the world. Hopefully, everyone has enjoyed the blog so far and maybe at some point it will be a source of more entertainment, but for now, I'm just putting out the reservation that things might go dormant for long periods of time...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Triumphant Return

I figure that the beginning of September marks the unofficial beginning of the volleyball season. And since this blog has been on life support for far too long, I thought it was time to try and breathe some new life into it.

I've had a really interesting summer as far as volleyball goes. But since there isn't anything worse than talking about recent history, I won't spend any time revisiting it, with the exception of one thing...

At the beginning of August, I had the chance to visit the KidsVolley camp at VK Hjallese on the Southside of Odense. When I got the invitation to come by and spend time working with the kids, I was a little nervous about accepting, I knew very little about KidsVolley and didn't really have an idea as to what they would find interesting or fun to do. In the end, I couldn't say no, and as it turns out, it was one of the best volleyball/social experiences I've had in some time.

I don't want to make it seem like this was a huge production, in fact it was the opposite. I showed up at the camp, was greeted by the always positive Aase Bechsgaard, who had sketched out a rough schedule, and Dorthe Windeleff who was helping as well, and then we started. Even though many of them had been to last year's Pokal final, none of them really knew who I was (not surprising when you play on a team with Shaun and Geo).

So, we started with a small introduction, told a little bit about our experience in volleyball and explained what kinds of opportunities there were in the world of volleyball. After this, we spent a little time playing pepper, setting and showing off. I got the chance to warm up the old shoulder and hit some balls on a KidsVolley net, etc... Finally, Dorthe and I played short matches against all the different levels of KidsVolley players at the camp. Everything from age 6 to 13-15 I believe. We got a chance to learn the rules for each level and to experience the game from on the court. Once we were done, we signed some autographs and took a picture. About two hours in all.

The kids seemed to have a great time, and all of them were better than I had imagined. They were obviously excited to have the chance to meet some real volleyball "stars" and it didn't really matter that they had no idea who we were beforehand. It's not news that KidsVolley has been an incredible success, and that the future of volleyball looks positive, but for me it was a special experience.

I wanted to share my visit to VK Hjallese because the more I thought about it afterwards, the more obvious it was to me that it should be happening in every KidsVolley club in the country. As I said before, the kids didn't really know who I was when I came. Sometimes I forget in the small world of volleyball Denmark that there are lots and lots of people who play who don't really keep up with the elite division. That includes almost every KidsVolley player that doesn't play in one of the big elite clubs. The more they get exposed to the Elite level players, the more role models they have to look up to and the more they see what higher level volleyball looks like, the more I think they will be engaged with the sport. If nothing else, it can be a fun experience for younger players to meet someone who is at the top of the sport. I know when I was younger, a big part of my attraction to the sport came from watching the older players play. I simply wanted to be like them.

Clearly, the practice program that I described earlier could be easily copied. I know that I'm not even close to being one of the most interesting players to meet in the league. If the kids think that watching me hit is exciting, then I would love to see what they would do if Kristian Knudsen, Geovan Santos, Mads Ditlevsen or Shaun Powell showed up at their training one day and put on a little show. I don't know if there are other KidsVolley clubs out there that would find it interesting to have an Elite player come by their practice but I would bet there are...

The bottom line is that I really had a good time getting out and meeting what will hopefully be the next generation of volleyball players. I think the kids enjoyed it as well, and I'd love to hear if there are other clubs out there that have done the same thing...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oh the Anger.

Someone's BITTER........

What's the point of taking a little shot like that? Factually, I guess it is correct, but the argument behind the statement doesn't really hold up. Marienlyst has two former national team players who played on the team as recently as last Summer. Of course, the total would be higher if not for certain problems this year. But, just because some of the guys have been injured or need to spend time with their families or just don't want to play with the national team this year, that doesn't mean that they aren't going to in the future or aren't national team caliber players. I think Aalborg knows a lot about players deciding not to play for the national team for lots of different reasons.

Did anyone tell Svend that there were two foreigners on his team this year?

Anyways, I got a little chuckle out of this, just thought I would share.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Gold 2008.

Some random thoughts from the 2007-2008 season:

The first thing that I want to say is that volleyball has developed in Denmark. The difference in level of play from 2002 when I got here is easily measurable. Even compared to two years ago, the league has gotten better from the bottom up. I think that was obvious from the openness of both semi finals. It's also obvious from my perspective on the court. Years ago, there were consistent blowouts, the top teams didn't have to really put pressure on the worse teams to get them to fall apart, and the result was a lot of matches that ended 25-12, 25-14, 25-18. There was an obvious cut off line between the "good" teams and the "bad" teams and there was very little excitement as to who was going to be left standing at the end of the year. Now, things are more difficult. A lot more teams are competitive and winning isn't always a given. There must be several reasons for the development of volleyball in Denmark but I'll let others try to figure them out. I just wanted to note that we're hopefully moving in the right direction.

We're also tremendously good at backing each other up and giving each other positive feedback. I'm talking to most of the "blog community" which has flourished in the last couple of years. And great, we should generally be positive. But, at some point, people are going to need to be thicker skinned. When you have your own blog or forum, the whole idea is to publicly trumpet your opinions. When someone comments on your opinion, or viewpoint, it is their prerogative to offer their own viewpoint or feeling. If that feeling is negative, it is in my opinion, ridiculous to attack that person. Attack their arguments but not them. That doesn't mean that people should constantly throw around negative feelings towards each other, but let's all try to deal with things with a little more perspective. I only say this because I feel like people have gotten a little chippy with each other at different points of the season, and in my opinion those people need to relax a little bit. If someone thinks your product is poor, then prove to them it is not, don't just automatically shut down and start name calling. Then again, I do enjoy reading from the sidelines, so maybe everyone should just keep it up...

That brings me to my next point. I was at the two finals that were played in Fortuna and I, of course, was at all of the semi-finals and finals that we played in. Every match was an incredible experience. The crowds were great and it made for a special feeling on the court. I can't imagine someone seeing one of those matches and not coming away with a little more interest in the sport. But, I also read the war of words between the Holte supporters and the Fortuna staff about where they were given seats, etc... That was an inane debate. Holte fans did an amazing job of showing support and beating on drums for hours at a time, Fortuna did a great job of setting up a nice arrangement. Who cares where someone was sitting. We weren't in an arena that seats 15,000 people. I'm pretty sure that everyone could see the match pretty well from.......their courtside seats. Overall though, it's been nice to see the level of fan support. Hopefully a bunch of kids have something to look forward to for the future.

Being one ball away from getting the boot from the playoffs and then to be able to rally and win convincingly in the final was a great feeling. I don't know exactly what happened, but something certainly changed when we won that last ball in the fourth set of our second semi-final vs. Gentofte. We were a different team from that point. And to play HIK in the finals instead of Middelfart was also a big deal for us. Straight volleyball-style it was a much better match up for us, so it seems that everything worked out perfectly in the end.

We switched over to the all Shaun Powell offense two times in the playoffs and both times he carried us. I'm really glad that he ended up getting recognized as the year's best opposite. I thought Ryan was very good for Middelfart, but there is no doubt if we were on the school yard picking sides, I would take Shaun instead of him every time. The 4th and 5th set against Gentofte in semi 2 was one of the best performances I've been apart of. I don't have the stats but he was given every sideout ball and most of the point scoring opportunities for those two sets and I would guess that he made one or two errors and was stopped three or four times, the rest were kills. It was impressive to say the least.

I'll probably write something about the rest of the year's best at some point but not now. I've already blabbered too much. It feels good to win gold. It's definitely a different feeling when you've been favored all year to do it, but not in a negative way. It's just different. And I'll take being favored every time as opposed to the other possibilities. Hopefully next year won't be any different.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

One Step Away

When we left for Aalborg yesterday, we felt good. We felt good about the way that we played our third semi final match against Gentofte. We felt good about the way that we were able to respond to the pressure of being the favorites. And most importantly, we felt good about getting the chance to play in a final.

All that positive energy allowed us to play a very solid first final. Our passing was really consistent and that allowed us to get into an early groove. We sided out well and made it difficult for Aalborg to win points in their own serve. It's a perfect scenario when playing an away game, it doesn't allow the crowd, or, by extension, the home team to get too excited. Not that the crowd wasn't alive or loud, but there simply weren't enough opportunities to go crazy. I would argue that against a team like HIK that means a lot. As soon as they get on a roll blocking, you know you are in trouble and the momentum is almost impossible to stop.

In a short post after the game on his blog Joakim Larsen declared it the best match that either team has played all year before replacing the post with a little more detail. It's hard to tell how the match looked from outside the court but a few different people told me that it was well played. I'm not sure if I'm ready to say it was our best match of the year, but it was definitely a good one. I think that we missed a few opportunities to really blow the game open, especially in the first and second sets. But that's all subjective so there is no point in saying more about it.

The most important thing for us is that we came home with a win. With two chances now to win gold at home we're not taking anything for granted. But, we also played all season to have the advantage we have now and hopefully that will translate into a win for us.

It feels like forever until Thursday and match number 2...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bronze - Meaningless?

I went to Middelfart last night to see the bronze medal match between Middelfart and Gentofte. I've got a few random thoughts from watching.

1. Thanks to Middelfart for letting us come in for free. I don't know if it is a rule (It was at some point), but we really should let other elite volleyball players into our matches without paying.

2. There should absolutely be a rule about referee stands and their closeness to the court. Middelfart's referee stand is by far the worst, there are two legs that sit probably 50cm from the sidelines. They are right where a player trying to hit a set that travels slightly too far outside of the court would land. I saw three different situations last night where players were centimeters from ruining their legs/ankles/knees. I didn't think it was a big deal until three other people noticed the exact same thing.

3. There is little question in my mind that the semi-final matchups worked out perfectly for us in Marienlyst. Middelfart gave us problems all year and the physical nature of their play definitely didn't give them as much of an advantage against HIK as it would have against us or Gentofte. Time and time again, when they needed an important side out or to score an important point, they would just set a high ball to the opposite and let his height do the work. Gentofte didn't really have an answer for it and that was the biggest difference in the match.

4. It took me awhile but I've finally decided what I think about Gentofte. My take is that they are the team that is the most able to score points and put pressure on other teams by actually "playing volleyball". I know that sounds ridiculous, but let me explain. What I mean is that they can play defense and turn that defense into points. They don't rely on powerful serving, and while they are a capable blocking team, they usually don't dominate at the net. What sets them apart, as far as I've seen, is that they have a knack for making plays. The ball that you think is down is almost never down. They cover extremely well and they are usually in the correct spot. While a lot of mens teams rely on their serving or their blocking to create point opportunities, Gentofte is good at creating those point opportunities even when the other team is passing well and running an in-system offense. And it makes for exciting volleyball........usually.

5. I have to give credit to Middelfart for playing at a high level to end the season. A lot of teams would have just packed it up and not really cared about the bronze medals, but Middelfart was concentrated and solid. So, congratulations, that third place is actually very important looking ahead to next year.

And that brings me to my last point. This is difficult for me to discuss because I'm coming from a place of biased ignorance. But, I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about the end of the season and how to kind of spruce things up. I've got a few ideas that I want to use this space to unpack a little bit.

First, I think that the playoffs need to expand. If it is only going to be the top four teams that make the playoffs (which is correct in my mind) then the series should be turned into best of five format. Take a little bit more time to play them and pack a few more "quality" matches into the schedule. It's best for everyone.

Second, and I've talked about doing this a million times before, it could be really cool to set something up with Sweden. The format could work in many different ways:

The two champions could meet a few days after each country's finals are finished. Say, the weekend after both are done. It would be one match and it could alternate between Malmo and Copenhagen. An Oresund series if you will. Make it an arrangement with women's and men's teams playing like the pokal final. Minimal work to get it set up and I think that people would enjoy watching it. Am I totally overestimating the rivalry between Sweden and Denmark? Do people care at all? I think it would be fun.

Thinking about it last night, something that would be even more fun would be to setup a kind of tournament that would culminate in the best teams playing each other right after season's end. Take the top three teams from each league and let them play a one day tournament in two pools separated by country. The winner of each pool gets to play the next day in the "finals". This would be interesting because the teams that get second and third in their league would have a kind of second chance to win a championship. It would also add interest in the bronze medal match as the fourth place team would be out of the running. A great example is Middelfart this year, they would have a second chance to prove how good of a team they are...

A third format could be an all-star competition. We tried to do this four years ago, an all-star team from the Danish Elite against the Danish national team. It was kind of fun, but it lacked any real excitement. What if we took an all-star team from the Danish elite and put them up against an all-star team from Sweden? Put a limit on the amount of foreigners that could be on the court and play.

I realize there are a lot of logistical problems with the scenarios presented here, but I think they could be overcome. If everyone was interested in the concept and made an honest effort to win this could be a great way to add some more quality volleyball matches to the schedule. It would also add some excitement to the end of the year and create an interesting showcase for fans if done correctly.