The BODM Line

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The Interview

What is "The BODM Line"?

It's a complete system of team defense for volleyball.

What does that mean, "system?"

"System" means it includes what, why, how to train it, how to run it, how to modify it, and how to troubleshoot it.

Can you elaborate on those?

OK. Understand some of them overlap a bit.

"What" is really two things: the system itself and the defense it creates.

The system part is about getting to the defensive side of the game. So it defines what must happen in every defensive situation. Then it defines how to train what must happen. Once you train it, you then assemble it into a working defense.

Wait, what do you mean "assemble it"?

In each situation each player has a job (or "assignment"). So you have six players. Each player has an assignment. Put those assignments together for each situation and you have a defense.

So the "system" is about defining and training those assignments. It's about understanding what's really going on on the court, and all the stuff that goes with it. Once you get there, you assemble it into your defense.

That's the second part, the defense itself. I assemble it a certain way, and it's the way I recommend to everyone. So when people say "Gary's Defense" they really mean more than just what you see on the court. Ask me about that again 'cuz there's some important stuff there, but I want to answer your question first. You can assemble the assignments a lot of different ways to create your own defense.

Ok "why" is a little more philosophical. In my opinion the way we've traditionally approached teaching defense has made it a LOT more difficult and intimidating than necessary. Players get a lot of mixed messages and conflicting things thrown at them, little is standardized, and relatively speaking offense is way beyond defense in terms of how well we understand it, train it and play it. I want to change that, simple as that.

That's a pretty strong statement, don't you think? Do you really know that much more than everyone else?

Not at all. There's a lot of people out there a lot smarter than me. What I have is a seriously different VIEW of things. Come back to that one later too.

Ok, that's what and why. "How to train" is just that. You need to be able to train the different assignments first individually, then in the team scheme.

"How to run it" is the assembly process. Deciding who does what and implementing it. That includes using the concepts in different versions of the game: co-ed, four man, five-man, whatever.

"How to modify it" is getting into the adjustments you make on the court.

"How to troubleshoot it" covers what to do when something isn't working.

Aren't "modify" and "troubleshoot" the same thing?

In some ways, yes. But I think of "modify" as ahead of time, as in setting things up to happen the way I want. "Troubleshoot" is after the fact. Understanding and fixing what's going wrong.

That's a lot of stuff going on. No wonder the manual is what, 225 pages or something? Doesn't that intimidate a lot of coaches?

Yeah, that's been an issue occasionally. The system, the assignments, and the basic defense can be covered fairly thoroughly in a lot less than that. But what I find is that most coaches look at things through a very small viewfinder. They want to know what will happen in this situation or that. We've (Amber and myself) had discussions, interviews, whatever you want to call them, with coaches and club directors where they keep asking basically the same questions over and over. "What's so different about it", "what happens when..." or "how does it cover..." and the answers are always basically the same: when you look at the assignments and how they work, they cover every situation at every level level of play. Period. The manual has to answer all those questions ahead of time as well as train everything we've talked about. Once you get through it, well, I've not had a coach yet who hasn't realized how easy it really is. It's logical. It just makes sense, once you've cleared the "conventional" thinking out of the way.

See, the basic defense of The BODM Line is not a "defense" the way rotate, counter rotate, man-up or perimeter are "defenses." Rotate, counter rotate, man-up, perimeter, the russian, man-deep, or whatever are all formations that work at certain times in certain situations. If the situation doesn't match the formation you're trying to run, then effectively you're trying to force the situation to match. It then falls on your players to adapt. With a minimum of guidance, and little or no structure.

The Bodm Line creates the formation that the situation demands. All the time, on the fly.

So you'll see the perimeter formation, or rotate, or counter rotate. At the correct time, when the situation demands it.

That sound pretty complicated. How can players remember all that? However many defenses is bad enough, but how do they know when to change from one to the next?

You're thinking of it in conventional terms because of the way it's "always been done," and that's one of the biggest fights we have. The BODM Line simply doesn't work the same way as the "conventional defenses" work. The player in the BODM Line System generally needs to understand one thing. One assignment. In every situation she has one job, one thing to remember. That is a little bit simplistic, but it's basically true. I've found that some of our kids get to understand the different assignments so well that when we send in the libero she and the the other back row players will decide on their own where they want to play.

And you let them...?

You bet. They do a great job at it, and unless there's an issue they can't deal with, we let 'em play.

But how can they go out there and just have to "remember one thing" as you say?
You yourself say that the game is fast and complicated, so...?

The BODM Line looks at the defensive side like this: Any time the opponent touches the ball is a potential attack. When there is a potential attack, there are four things that MUST happen on the defensive side. Those four things translate into assignments. There's a fifth thing, a fifth assignment, but it doesn't have to happen every time. You have six players on the court, so a couple of those assignments get doubled up. More than one player does it. Blocking is the most obvious example of that. One assignment, two (or three) doing it. The front row assignments change, depending on where the attack is from. You set the block, you close the block, or you're an off-blocker. The off-blocker has a specific responsibility. The three back row players each have a responsibility that never changes. So each player has her assignment every time. Every situation. That's pretty easy to remember.

Ok then, what are the four things that have to happen?

Get the manual, or have us do a clinic for you.

Ah, the greed comes out.

Oh you caught me. Seriously, though, if you don't have a clear answer for what those four things are, then how will your players know? I'll give you one hint though. The four things are NOT about going to "base" or spots on the floor or areas on the court. That's the conventional way of thinking.

But you do get paid for what you do.

I do. Yes there is the idea that I want to be compensated for what I do. There is a practical side to it too. The years that I spent developing and fine-tuning this system (and doing it a lot of the time for free or a minimum of compensation) I found that a lot of our club coaches would begrudgingly give in to the wishes of the club and bring me in. Then basically take the night off. They'd be there and watch, but not really pay a lot of attention. Sometimes they'd actually not show up, saying they had business or whatever, and that'd be a great time for me to come in. So at the end of the practice they'd know little or nothing about what we did or why. They could see that their kids were playing well and had obviously learned something, but have no clue how to reinforce it, follow it up, or make it work. They go back to whatever they were doing and assume everything we did would just carry on by itself. Of course, when it didn't, it was either my fault or my system didn't work or the kids weren't working hard enough. It didn't seem to occur to them that it might be valuable to actually learn what we were doing. Or maybe they did, but god forbid their egos allowing them to do something about it.

So now, besides making a little money, I think if you cough up a fee for a clinic or pay for a manual, you maybe are a little more likely to try to learn it. And I have never yet had a coach, once they've seen it in action and gotten to understand it, go back to the old way of doing things. I'm proud of that fact. If you are the first coach to do that I want to know why. If you have a system that is more effective than The BODM Line in terms of not only it's success on the court but also in the ability to teach it to basically any level of player in the same amount of time, I want to know about it.

Same amount of time? How much time?

I can install the defense into a typical high school varsity, intermediate level club team or college team in one three hour session. That's to a working level at their level of play. And the defense will will grow with them. As they get better, the defense will continue to be effective. A really young team like 14's or a really young inexperienced high school team can actually be done in less time.

Less time? Doesn't the younger team have more to learn?

They do, but they have a lot less to un-learn. They also have less adjustments and adaptations to deal with at their level of play. I always leave the coach with the tools to add those adjustments when it becomes necessary. With the older teams we go through it on the court, real-time, real speed, because they need it right away.

Let's go back to why, if conventional teaching is so bad, there are great teams and great defensive players out there.

"Bad" isn't necessarily the right word. Obviously the conventional way works. Sometimes. For some players, some teams, in some situations. You have to ask yourself "why"? Why are there only SOME great defensive teams? Why are there SOME great defensive players? They have access to the same books, the same camps, the same clinics, the same videos. And there are players of all levels, ages, sizes, etc. who somehow manage to be great defenders. Why do we have the stereotype of "big middles can't play defense"?

Ok, I'm asking. Why?

I believe it's because we depend way too much on their instincts. I've heard more than one coach say "I've taught them EVERYTHING but they just don't get it". That tells me two things. One, coach didn't teach them EVERYTHING. Two, their instincts didn't kick in to make up for it. Physical ability isn't necessarily the biggest factor. I think ability to learn and the instinct for the game are big factors. Ability to learn is affected by what they're being taught and how they're being taught. Ultimately, this combination works well for the coach that says "they just don't get it" because that shifts responsibility to the kids and we seem to have given in to that. The answer then seems to become "recruiting". Weak team this year? That's ok just recruit bigger better stronger kids next year. Get better kids and the season will be just fine.

And, by the way, big middles CAN play defense.

Are you saying instinct isn't really that important?

No I don't say that at all! I'm saying we depend TOO much on those instincts kicking in on their own. The better their instincts at the beginning, the faster they will develop into a great player. If they don't have great instincts to begin with, we need to help develop them. And the better job we do of working with their instincts instead of against them, the better they'll be.

How does this tie into The BODM Line?

The BODM Line works WITH those instincts instead of against them.

How so?

I said earlier I have a very different view of things. When you watch a great team play great defense and you want to play like them, what's the first thing you do? You try to emulate what they did.You create a map of where they went then teach your team to go the same spots they did. They ran rotate so we run rotate. Or Perimeter. Or Blue. Or whatever. Again, those "defenses" are the formations we think we saw that successful team use.

What's not addressed is WHY they went to those spots.

And "why" is NOT "because that's where coach told us to go".

The BODM Line is not about running those formations. See, I don't think running those formations create the success. Something else the players do creates the success. The formation is a result or symptom of that success. So my different view has to to with cause and effect. The BODM Line gives your players that "something else". Those formations will happen. You'll see all those formations at different times. At the times they match what the offense is doing. It's funny to listen to coaches scout a BODM line team. They can't figure out what's going on because it's more effective than anything else they've seen and it's always changing.

And you're not going to tell me what that "something else" is, are you?

Nope. Buy the manual or have us do a clinic. I will tell you it doesn't have anything to do with spots on the floor or memorizing a map of areas to cover.

Does your different view effect other things on the court?

It does. I have my list of "volleyball myths". And it irritates a lot of people. Centerline passing. Playing spots. Target zone for hitters. Being locked in place to pass. And before you blow a gasket, let me put that in context.

All of those things are valid. All great players do those things. But are they great players because they do those things or do they do those things because they are great players?

I'm not following.

Ok. We already talked about playing spots. Going to the spot didn't make them successful. Something else made them successful, going to the spot was part of the success.

So, look at centerline passing. Yes, most great players pass centerline, and they do it most of the time. But are they great players because they centerline pass or do they centerline pass because they are great players?

Watch young players. They're generally awful at spatial relationships. So we do Tan-den passing exercises, catch the ball exercises, run-throughs and all that. Eventually they learn to pass centerline. When the ball comes right to them. Or when the action is slow enough that they can put themselves into position. But as the game speeds up and gets more unpredictable, they begin to struggle. Eventually, again after more learning curve, they get back to centerline passing. Somewhere in that process they learned something that enabled them to get back to centerline passing.

When I do ball control they learn to pass every ugly way you can think of. This enables them to be more successful in more situations. More successful, more confident, and that allows them to learn from their playing experience as well. The more playing experience, well, you start to see them pass centerline more and more.

So again, does centerline passing make them great passers or does being a great passer bring about centerline passing?

Are you talking about reading?

Uh-oh you said that four-letter word. Read. And yep. that's exactly what I'm talking about.

Playing experience translates into learning to read. Developing instincts translates into learning to read. The better they read, the better they anticipate, the more they move, they better they pass. And that's when you see centerline passing.

Even in serve receive, until they get used to the spatial relationship piece and they begin reading the server, they'll still struggle with centerline passing.

Ok I get that. So is reading the key to this system? Is it a read defense?

Well, in order to work ALL defenses have an element of reading, don't they? You can't tell a player to "go where that line crosses that board" and have it work every time, can you? They go to their "spot" in the defense and no matter how you look at it there has to be an element of reading it in for them to be successful. So certainly in that context it's a read defense.

What other context is there?

There's the "perimeter read" context. "Go to your position, spot, base or whatever and read the hitter." Or the "pure read" context. Basically the same. Go to base and read the hitter. No guidance or real structure beyond "go to your spot". The BODM Line is not a "read defense" the way those are.

The key to the BODM Line is the structure and guidance built into it.

What are they?

I'll tell you what they do. They define each player's job in the defense and create the players' relationships to one another. Then there are adjustments to make that cover all the variables like single block, double block, block not closed, no block at all. But if you want to know what they are, the manual.

Somehow I knew that was coming. Ok it sounds more and more to me like we're dealing with a read type defense. What about younger inexperienced players? They can't do a read, can they?

They can do it. We're training 14-and-unders all the time. While it's true that read defenses are scary to most coaches, we've proven over and over players of all ages and abilities can do this. We don't bill it as a read defense, and that helps eliminate the anxiety that goes with a read defense. By the time they realize it's a read defense, they already have it down so it's not an issue anymore. Remember, we add in a piece that no one else does, and that's the difference.

Anxiety for the players?

Players AND coaches. I had a very high powered assistant coach once tell me they didn't run a read defense because "they couldn't trust the kids to always make the right reads". I won't say who that coach was, but I will tell you she and her head coach get to choose from the top one hundred high school players every year. And they can't trust their kids to make the right read? That's anxiety for the coaches. Anxiety for the kids is the "oh god I don't know how to do this and I'm so afraid to make a mistake" and stuff like that. The structure of the BODM Line minimizes that anxiety, because there's always an answer, always a solution. We've got high schools and juniors teams running this every day. And running it well.

So did she buy your manual?

Nope. She said to me, plain and simple, "he won't change anything, his way is the only way". Can't really argue with that...I think he's won a national championship or two. At that point there's ego and politics involved, and those coaches just aren't going to be interested in me for the most part. What's ironic about it is what all these coaches are waiting for, what they want their athletes to "get" so they can go to that next right here in The BODM Line. It's what we teach up front, from the very beginning, to everyone.

You're saying you've got a better way of learning team defense and people either don't believe it or don't want to believe it. Why would they not want to believe it?

It's all in their perspectives. If no one stepped in and showed them that defense can be a relatively easy thing to learn and they basically learned and play by instinct then they have no reference point. They honestly can't comprehend that there is an easier, structured, sensible way to go about it. Amber has a great story about a really good adult woman player who literally told her "we just stay in base and hope the ball comes to us" while discussing a situation in defense. Think about that. She was a really good college player and coaches juniors. I've seen her play and I guarantee she doesn't just wait for the ball to come to her. She moves, she reads, she adjusts. But she's doing it instinctively, and doesn't really know how she's doing it other than she was "in the zone" or had a great day.

Why teach a read defense without it sounding like a read defense? What's normally done?

The typical thing is something like "go to base and read the hitter". There are so many pieces missing from that statement that it is at best just a start and not a good start at that.

Why is it a bad start? Isn't that what most players do eventually?

It is, sort of, but really reading the hitter is the most advanced read, and comes after experience. See, there are different kinds of reads. We start with the easiest read, let's call it a positional read. It's not so much a read as it is a view. There are more than one. We define them, train them, and they open the door to the other reads, to movement, to understanding of what's going on on the court for player and coach. That's all I'm going to reveal. Get the manual to find out the rest.

Not giving away your secrets, huh?

Nope. The manual is forty bucks. It's got a load of information. You can use it a piece at a time or go the whole way.Your choice.You'll understand what the other defenses are and when they work and don't work. You'll be able to train offense out of defense because you can set up situations that match what will really happen when they play. So the question is how much are you willing to invest in yourself as a coach, or in the success of your team? How many camps and clinics for the same information over and over? I guarantee The BODM Line is a different way and it works. And I can't say this stuff unless I can back it up. Take a chance. Learn something new for yourself, for your players, and for your program. At forty bucks for a manual or a couple hundred for a clinic the question shouldn't be "can you afford to try it". It should be "can you afford NOT to?".

Well, gee, when you put it THAT way...


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