Denver Volleyball Keeping Eye on the Ball

During this time of uncertainty, what do top coaches do to create stability and plan for success following the COVID-19 pandemic? Just take a look at one of DU’s most successful programs, volleyball, to find out. Led by head coach Tom Hogan, assistant head coach Katelin Opitz and staff, the program believe they can use this uncertain time to build a stronger team and create a competitive advantage. 

As background, in 4-years Tom Hogan and his staff have three Summit League titles and four NCAA appearances. His record is 96-27 and he was named two-time Summit League coach of the year. Opitz has nine years of experience at DU and the team is used to achieving at extremely high levels. So, it comes as no surprise that they see opportunity in chaos.

In an email to volleyball stakeholders, Hogan shared the team’s current plans and activities during the COVID-19 shutdown.

The team crafted three pillars to guide them during ‘safe at home’ guidelines for COVID-19. These pillars include inspire each other to get better every day, connect every day with each other (formally and/or informally) and motivate each other to stay in top physical and emotional condition.

The squad is reading a book, Wolfpack, written by two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA World Cup champion Abby Wambach. Wambach challenges woman athletes to optimize their skills unite together and emerge victorious together. The book provides a common baseline and experience for the team to share going forward.

With team members and staff at different locations, it is not possible for group workouts. As a result, visual learning is used by the staff via video sessions and film review. By seeing ‘best practices’ and using mental repetition, players are expectied to refine their skill set. And, face-to-face weekly virtual meetings focus on the team’s physical, mental and emotional well-being during this chaotic time.

Not surprisingly, a team that consistently delivers on-the-court excellence knows how to deliver in the classroom as well. Hogan believes this year’s squad could conclude this year witht their higest GPA ever.

While still uncertain, the University of Denver athletics department is drafting plans and procedures to get back to team practices, perhaps sometime this month. Of course, any decision to do so will rely on NCAA and school guidlines along with local and state guidelines.

Team schedule:

Monday– Individual check-in meetings with every player. One meeting from a coach to check in on family, situation, academics, etc. The other meeting switches every week between Crystal (our Athletic Trainor Coach to check in on our student athletes mental health), and Tim (our Sports Performance Coach) to check in on workouts, level of fitness and nutrition.

Tuesday/Thursday– Team Zoom workouts created by Tim Murray , but led by players on the team. This incorporated band exercises, core strength, and body weight exercises.

Wednesday/Friday: Team Zoom meetings led by the coaching staff. This included group discussions from the book Wolfpack, film sessions of system review, group breakout discussion sessions on program culture related articles, player-led skill review presentations, inspiration video review and discussion, fun competitive team games (family feud, virtual scavenger hunt, charades, etc), and many more exercises…

For the past two weeks, individual meetings with every player (2x), helping them create goals for the summer, and then a plan to accomplish those goals.

In order to learn more about Tom Hogan and DU volleyball, follow this link to the Pioneer Podcast.


Photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

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