Rosen Discusses His Time Coaching National A2 Blue Team to Gold Medal

June 3, 2010

University of Michigan head volleyball coach Mark Rosen recently led his U.S. Women's National A2 Blue Team to the Open Division gold medal at the USA Volleyball Open National Championships in Phoenix, Ariz. The Blue Team went 6-1, sweeping all three matches during the playoffs to capture the gold medal. He sat down to recap his time spent with USA Volleyball.

What were the first few days like?
"We had 24 athletes, all from different colleges. There were two head coaches and four assistant coaches. We (the coaches) all knew each other, but this was the first time we got to coach together. We talked a couple times on the phone prior to it to work out some logistics, but it was still pretty open ended when we got there. We got together before practice and before meeting the team to figure out how we were going to do this. We then met with the whole group to talk about our expectations, goals and some of our rules. You could tell everyone was really nervous, feeling it out. We then went to the gym that night to do some training. We did a little bit of teaching but focused on competing. We wanted to see who would go out there and just play. We mixed the teams up and just to get a feel for everyone. After a few practices, we decided that it was time to split everyone up."

How were the teams split?
"The goal was to split them evenly. Through the process, we felt like we had two very different types of teams. One was much bigger, much more physical but maybe lacked some of the defense and ball control aspects of the game. The other team was much smaller, very fast and very ball-control oriented. The ironic part of it was that Beth's (Launiere) college teams (Utah) tend to be very big and physical. My college teams tend to be smaller with more ball control. I had the big physical team; she had the more athletic, ball control team. We joked about that, how it was interesting that we ended up with different type teams."

After the teams were split, what was your approach to coaching your team?
"We had three practices where they were a team. The first practice we did some competitive-type stuff that we could film and stat, so we could figure out where we needed to improve. Then the coaches sat down and talked about what we needed to get better at. The list was crazy long, kind of like what happens during a college preseason.

"Normally, a few days into preseason, we have a long list but have two or three weeks to get it done. Here, we have two practices left and one of them is a "get used to the gym" practice where we were going to be competing. We had to prioritize and figure out what was the most important right now. The next practice we had, we had a chance to fix three or four things. Our last practice, when we were getting used to the facility, we focused on one or two other things. And then the rest of it, we said we were going to have to learn it in the games. We knew that going in we were going to have to get better as we went."

Was it hard to run a system with a team so different than what you have at Michigan?
"We stayed a little bit within what we do (at Michigan). That was a big reason why we split teams, because Beth and I are very different in our approach to the game. We gave ourselves time to work with our own team instead of train together. It was not hard, just different. In some ways, it is easier because you are in and out. You don't have to get too in-depth with things. But at the same time, it is frustrating because some of the stuff we were not good at, we just had to work around because there wasn't time to fix it. If I had had a week or even a few more days, I could have fixed it."

What was your approach to coaching the players who you just met?
"I said right off the bat to the players that I was never going to get too hard on them because I don't know them well enough. Here, we can sometimes get after our players if they don't do something well enough because we know them and have a good relationship with them. I didn't think that I had a good enough relationship with these players to be able to do that. We just had to understand that there are things they have been doing for a long time within their program. Can we use some of those things without changing too much, because if we do (change), it is just going to get frustrating and probably not be successful. I was really impressed with how much they were willing to change. They were really open to it. They were super receptive to everything, new stuff and new ideas. It was fun."

What were your goals going into this?
"I told the players from the beginning that if I am going to be gone from my job that I really like and my family that I really like for 12 days, there are two things I want to get out of this. First, I want to have fun. If I am not going to have fun, what is the point?

"The other is that I want to learn something; I want to get better as a coach. They all said the same thing. This is their summer; they could be sitting at the beach or training on their own campus, but they are here. They wanted to learn something, to get better and most importantly, have some fun. We definitely accomplished those things.

"The final thing we talked about was adversity. We wanted to see and for them to see in themselves. How are you outside your comfort zone? When adversity shows up, how are you going to handle it? That is something that Hugh (McCutcheon), the national team coach, talks to his team about all the time. It was cool because there was a time in the tournament where we lost five straight sets. At that point, it could have gone either way. But they found a way to win a really tough sixth set and then ended up winning the match. We won every set after that. I was really proud of our team, coaches and players, for handling adversity well and getting better through it."

What does your selection as head coach mean for Michigan volleyball?
"I think that it is certainly a reflection of our program. I think that they asked me to do it because our team has been good. Just like when Lexi (Zimmerman) gets All-American or Juliana (Paz) gets All-American, it is a reflection of our team.

"Ironically, I was asked because we didn't have any players in the program. Lexi had to pull out because of her hand and Alex (Hunt) clearly would have been in that group if she had chosen to. It worked out for me that they didn't do it. Working with these great players for two weeks showed me that we have some players in our program that are at this level. It was really good for me to see that.

"I don't think that any college team out there has the level of talent all-around that my team had during this. Looking at the players individually, they are really good. But so is Lexi, so is Alex, so is Sloane (Donhoff) and other people we have here. It was cool to see that some of our kids here are at that level. I think it would have been a great experience for anyone. I would love to have players in the future get involved with this. It is a great 12 days, and you certainly get better playing against other good players."

»  Learn about Michigan volleyball ticket opportunities for the 2017 season.