Behind The Block: The Importance Of Out Of Practice Training

  0 VolleyMob Contributors | August 21st, 2017 | Editorial

Courtesy of James Gilliland, USA Volleyball Referee and Volleyball Dad

Volleyball players, like athletes of most sports, benefit from a variety of training methods. In addition to work on the court, cardio and weight training can be game changers for athletes. 

Looking at our team, it’s apparent that we have solid foundation in the blocking department. Leading the way was our 6’6” Florida commit with 128 blocks followed by a 6’4” MB committed to St. John’s, with 118 blocks for the club season. It was at the end of the night however, that saw the 15’s top team as the leader in blocks for the club. The anchors for this group are not 6’ 6” but three girls that are rapidly becoming average height for girls’ volleyball. In fairness, our ‘Bigs” did contribute their fair share, and all together it was a fabulous team effort which lead the way for their 2nd place finish this year at the NIT in Utah and a 5th place finish at the GJNC.  Our three girls go 6’1”, 5’11” and 5’10”. The difference here? I contribute it to their extra time working out with personal trainer Alex Pena.

I asked Madison the 6’1” Middle Blocker for the team what the training outside of practice has done for her. “Working with Coach Alex got my vertical up 8” in just over 5 months. I wouldn’t be touching over 10’ without his help. Keliee our 5’11” MB/RS said, “The weight training has really helped me tremendously. He really works on upper body weight training and that has helped me with my power in hitting. Katie our RS/OH  stated: “There are only so many days you can actually train and you need to get them in while you can, Coach Alex set up a great program for me”.


The girls train with Alex Pena, Assistant AD and strength and conditioning coach at Prince of Peace herein the Dallas, Texas area. He has a long list of impressive credentials NSCA, CSCS, NASM as a CPT, POT, CES and PES and a level 1 UWSA. His entry into the world of training and sports medicine came after a severe football injury while playing football at Sam Houston State left him temporarily paralyzed. After countless hours of rehab he was able to get back to a functional lifestyle. Alex holds a BS and MS in Kinesiology.  Alex has done a fabulous job working with the girls. He makes things fun and fast paced no down time. I sat down with Coach Pena to get his perspective on the importance of out of practice training.


Me: Is club and school training enough for the athlete that wants to be more than average.

Coach: In many cases no, most public schools and even private clubs, lack proper facilities and certified staff to put proper protocols in place especially for sport specific training. I have been blessed to coach and train a wide range of athletes at my school setting.

Me:  How important is it that training be scripted for a particular sport?

Coach: Very important, and even more so, gender specific. Certain muscles are needed more than in one sport vs the next. Sports’ training develops proper muscle groups needed and particularly kinetic movements needed for that sport. Over and improper training can result in undue stress to muscle groups and joints. Many times having tragic consequences.

Me. Have you seen an Increase in Female injuries given the rise in the popularity of women’s sports?

Coach: Yes, Female injuries have increased dramatically not just because more girls are playing but some institutions are not trained on Sport specific training and the differences between male and female bodies. Protocols need to be both Sport and Gender specific especially in the High demand world we are placing are girls in today.

Me: so it also sounds like overuse injuries are playing a role here.

Coach: Yes, overused muscles are one of the main injuries increasing every year. Most athletes are playing year around and rest and recovery are just not in the calendar for the week. Learning techniques is critical for prevention. One technique we use, and one I see your daughter use allot, is the “Roll Out” also known as Myofascial release trigger points. We vary our gadgets from foam rollers for volleyball, softball or a massage stick for golfers and we also adapt for body type. Stick rollers for runners, PVC pipes for football players. This technique helps to release tight muscles faster than stretching alone. Mobility and flexibility are key, to an athlete using her full ability.  

Me: One of the girls in our club started off the year with many ankle sprains abut after getting her to train with you, she went the rest of the year without one and played great at the GNJC. Can weight training really help with this injury?

Coach: Proper corrective strength training can increase stability and mobility of the ankle joint. What is interesting here is that most chronic ankle injuries are from a lack of hip/pelvic strength. Increasing the strength in these areas will increase the stability of the ankle joint. It must become a consistent routine to achieve best results.

Me: Do you have different protocols for in season vs out-season training?

Coach: The difference here is huge. In season athletes should follow a progressive periodized performance development program usually 12 weeks in duration. This should involve mobility, flexibility, speed development, change of direction, agility and of course base strength training in loading and unloading phases, sport specific condition and very important not to forget the recovery/regeneration time.

In season should be more maintenance and flexibility. High intensity is not recommended because it can lead to overuse and overtraining which can lead to increase in injuries.

Me: Finally what do you think is more important for parents getting their kids into sports in such an early age? It’s crazy for instance in volleyball, that we have a traveling team which competes for GNJC at age 11.

Coach: To me both are important but unfortunately we see skill training more than athletic development now at the early age. This is a problem because skill set is only as good as the athlete’s health. A food S&C program now will do more to develop their own natural athletic talent. Year round sports now require balance more than ever and must include RECOVERY. Kids still need to be kids.


It is important to note that we as parents need to make sure we push our kids, but not to the extreme. I also believe in morphology and genetics as it pertains to which sport your child will have success at. I am not saying to not put your kid in basketball if you are 5’5” and your wife is 5’3”, I’m just saying don’t expect him/her to play in the NBA.

So your child LOVES the sport and wants to do it all the time? Find a good trainer and give them the tools to success. But, speaking as a parent of two kids who are very talented at Volleyball and Football- respectively,  I will say this: Make sure your child’s talent is not their identity. My son chose not to play College football and I am OK with that. He has a 3.5 GPA and is working on a 5 year M.B.A. plan. He’s as happy and healthy as can be.   Sport was not his whole life, just a part of it. As they say “Father time is undefeated” and the playing stops….but then again there is always coaching nes pas?!?!?!?

Heading off to School ball now but then again that’s another article.

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