A Newsletter for the Wootton High School Boys Volleyball Community


Make Yourself at Home

Patriots defend home court on Senior Night against Sherwood Warriors 25-18, 26-24, 25-22

Thursday, April, 20, 2014

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. 
 - Matsuo Basho (17th Century Japanese poet)

Add the names Cary Chin, David Li, Paul Malinauskas and Benjamin Wang to wherever the list is carved.  The names on the list reach back to the past and leave room for more in the future. The list says "these people were here and are us, and in them are we." 

The Wootton volleyball  family list is carved in individual and collective memories that travel beyond the school gym walls. These memories are stirred by the friendships, the photos, the stories collected along the way.  Before the match, Wootton VB Alum  Joe Moyer, now a terrific coach for the Sherwood boys (including his son), shared with me some of his Wootton memories. As we sat in the gym on the bleachers under championship banners in familiar surroundings, he described his friends and experiences from his Wootton days with fondness and perspective. He was smiling as he told his stories.

You create for yourself a home, where you become what you are.

If you are on the list,  you do not need to explain why you are on it. Everyone on it already knows.  Cary, David, Paul and Benjamin have already done their explaining at home in Wootton's gym. They have completed their regular season home matches without a loss, going back four years.  More importantly, they have become who they are, and they are us.

Wootton takes some time off for Spring Break before  traveling to Richard Montgomery to Play the undefeated Rockets on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. The boys match follows the 5:15pm coed match.


Eight Matches and Seven Habits

Patriots win on road against Blair Blazers 25-17, 25-9, 25-15.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

It was Senior Night at Blair and, ironically, no seniors were on Blair's boys volleyball team. So, after Blair's coed seniors were honored, and the coed teams played (a 3-0 Wootton win), the boys took the court to take measure of their progress as teams.

Eight matches into the season provides some perspective on team dynamics and sheds light on the kind of learning opportunities that athletics offers to high school students...and coaches and parents.

Just recently, a wise friend of mine (and successful D1 collegiate volleyball coach) shared the article The 7 Secret Habits of Navy Seals, written by former Navy SEAL combat veteran Brent Gleeson.  What does it mean to be a productive member of a volleyball team? No matter a player's skill level or amount of time spent on the court, on the bench, or outside the gym, there is value to be offered and gained. Here is what Gleeson has to say:

Be loyal.  Loyalty to the team starts at the top. If it's lacking at the senior executive level, how can anyone else in the organization embrace it? Loyalty is about leading by example, providing your team unconditional support, and never throwing a team member under the bus.

Put others before yourself. Get up every day and ask yourself what you will do to add value to your team, such as simply offering your assistance with a project. The challenge is overcoming the fear that your team member might say: "Yes, I really need your help with this project…tonight."

Be reflective. Reflective people often spend too much time analyzing their actions. But imagine if you could harness this talent into something highly valuable? Reflecting on your mistakes, ensures you never repeat them.

Be obsessively organized. Some people innately have this ability, often to a fault, and some have to work at it a bit more. You have to find a process that works for you. Whatever your system is, make it work for you.

Assume you don't know enough. Because you don't. Any effective team member understands that training is never complete. It's true in any elite team. Those who assume they know everything are not good for the team. Those who spend time inside and outside of the workplace developing their knowledge and skills will provide the momentum for their team's forward progress.

Be detail-oriented. Attention to detail is an individual and a team value. Do we get it right all the time? Of course not. Imagine, though, if all members of a team are obsessed with detail in their delivery? Don't ask yourself what you are going to do today to be successful; ask how you are going to do it.

Never get comfortable. Always push yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you do this continually with every task you take on, that boundary will continue to widen. This process will ensure that you are continually maximizing your potential, which will positively impact your team.

Gleeson notes, "I've gotten these habits right, and I've gotten them wrong. But those mistakes of yesterday have forged me into a better leader and team member today. If you want to be part of an elite team and are going to shed old habits, make sure to keep these!"

Wootton's ninth match of the season will be at home on Thursday, April 10 against Sherwood. It will be Senior Night for four great teammates: Cary Chin, David Li, Paul Malinauskas and Benjamin Wang.


With Respect for Churchill, Wootton Unyielding

Patriots win dogfight against Bulldogs 25-22, 25-19, 25-23.

"This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
— Winston Churchill @ Harrow School,    29 October 1941.

Winston Churchill knew how to speak and to lead during trying times, mobilizing the British people toward "their finest hour" in an unrelenting battle against their WWII enemy. Spend some time reading about Churchill on www.winstonchurchill.org .  The man would have made a great volleyball coach, even if he knew nothing about the game. Check it out.

There is no doubt that the coaches of Churchill's boys volleyball team are great volleyball coaches. That alone was enough for Wootton to respect the force that the Bulldogs would bring to Wootton's home court on Monday night.  It was a battle where neither team gave in.

Thomas Sprigg Wootton, on the other hand, was a Patriot whose convictions on defending the best interests of his homeland were part of the growing solidarity that led to American independence from the British Empire. Right on cue with their historical namesake, Wootton's volleyball Patriots defended their home court, led by seniors Paul Malinauskas, Benjamin Wang and Cary Chin. Senior David Li was instrumental in keeping the team's wits above the curve...OK, he kept the coach from chewing his nails off. Juniors Robert Severynse, Adam Kaplan, Mark Pang, Andrew Merchant and Ethan Frymark provided steady support for the cause. Freshmen Omar Nunez and Victor de Avila joined forces with their older teammates to hold off the Bulldogs. Of note, Junior setter/hitter Jeremy Chung took control of the Patriot offense in the third set to complete the victory.

Sophomores Justin Wu, Henry Shu, Nathan Xie and Jimmy Ho compete every day in practice against their experienced teammates, and they are unyielding. Preparation, perhaps, is the best way to show respect.

Wootton travels to Blair High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 to take on the Blazers. The boys match follows the 5:15 pm coed match.


At Mid-Season Against Walter Johnson, There Are No Halfway Points

Patriots win battle against Wildcats 25-18, 25-16, 18-25, 25-19.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The scoreboard picture to the right gives us some clues:
  • There are spaces to show points and sets earned by Wootton and the opposing team.
  • At 7 minutes and 21 seconds until the match begins, neither team has scored a point. The teams must actually play the match to earn points, and win sets.
  • When the teams do earn points, only whole numbers can be recorded where the scoreboard shows a "0." A team earns a whole point after a rally... or doesn't. Same with winning a set. There are no half points awarded.
Hmmm... awarding partial points is an interesting thought.... Maybe 3/8 points awarded for "style." How about 5/12 points for "effort." For some things in life, points are awarded to people who just "show up." That's worth a half a point, eh?

No no no no no. Not in volleyball. The team that wins the volley get the entire point. The team that loses the rally gets no points. The scoring system works well as is.  Otherwise, uniform choices could be a deciding factor in a close match.

Wootton and Walter Johnson had similar uniforms. And records. Aside from the fact that Wootton was playing against a school named for a great baseball player at the same time the Washington Nationals had their home baseball opener (points for baseball-volleyball "metaphors"?), both teams came out swinging for de fence (get it? defense. ). 

This one was a close match.  Both teams showed up to play and battle for every whole point in each of the four sets.  Both teams started the match with zero points, and with no style points to burn.  The Patriots earned enough points in this match to get the win. For the Patriots that were on the court at times, and for the Patriots that were on the bench during the match, this counts as one win for the whole team. THEIR team.

There is no other way to score against talented and well-coached Walter Johnson team except to earn every point. The second half of the season will present the same challenge to the Patriots.

The Patriots play at home against Churchill on Monday, April 7, 2014. The boys play following the 5:15 pm coed match.


Wootton vs. BCC: Learning by Doing

Wootton bounces back against Barons 17-25, 25-20, 25-17, 26-24

Those of us that have been around volleyball for a long time still remember vividly how we first got hooked on the game and then learned the skills needed to be competitive on the court. Here is a typical story I often hear:
I had an older brother/sister who would sit me down on the couch while I tried to do my math homework. I would drop my pencil, look up and listen to his/her recount of every single contact made on the ball at the most recent volleyball match. Every mistake was highlighted for dramatic effect. I became more intrigued the longer big bro/sis would talk about other people playing volleyball.
After flunking several math tests I decided to try volleyball for myself, since I knew so much already. At tryouts, the coach made a great two-hour slide show presentation with bulleted phrases with exciting words like "bump," "set" and my favorite, "smash." It was after the 24th slide that I was hooked. I made the team because I truly understood what "C'mon, don't miss your serves!" meant. We would practice not missing our serves by standing in long lines waiting for our turn to not miss.
My favorite part of game day was when coach would call a time-out and tell us other things not to do. The longer the coach talked, the better we got at waiting to not do things wrong. I would imagine myself doing great things, if only the net was lowered...and if I could listen to the great volleyball masters talk about when they used to play
Said no one. Ever.

Can we play now, Coach? The Wootton-BCC match was fun to watch because the teams showed up to PLAY.  It is competitive matches like this that should feed the desire to play more. And, to play better.

An unavoidable element of volleyball is error. Every volley ends in error. The objective is to force your opponent to make the errors, and to reduce the number of your team's errors. There were many errors on both sides of the net in this match. But that is beside the point.  By playing the game, the players are learning essential volleyball lessons, such as

  • recovering from an error
  • distinguishing between good errors vs bad errors; errors of commission vs errors of omission
  • executing game strategy one volley at a time
  • applying "technical" skills in system and out of system
  • responding to "pressure"
I could drone on. Kudos to the Barons of BCC and the Wootton boys for competing on the court. It's about halfway through the season and there is a lot of playing to be done. And learning.  The game teaches the game.

Wootton returns home to play Walter Johnson on Friday, April 4. The boys match follows the 5:15 pm coed match.


On the Souls of Our Feat(s)

Wootton slides past Whitman 25-10, 25-12, 25-18

Monday, March 31, 2014
by John Hartranft

The Spring 1988 Whitman volleyball teams stand tall in my memory, though only a few of the individuals hovered near six foot in height. Gil Thompson coached the varsity teams and I coached the JV coed team (see photo).  There were 24 players on that JV coed team--that's a lot of footwork to be trained to pass, set, hit and block. Part of the challenge that season was to give everybody meaningful time on the court during matches and to maximize the practice contacts needed to improve.

I thought about that 1988 Whitman team today when my current Wootton boys team played Whitman. I thought about the many steps taken by that 1988 team to get better. I thought about how we went toe to toe with some good teams in Montgomery County that year. I thought of some tracing their footsteps back to their parents' homelands in Burma, Brazil, South Korea, Israel, and China, and bringing back candies and soda for their coach. I thought about the giant leap Ingrid Chen made when she was named All-Met by the Washington Post two years later.

In addition to Ingrid, the names of these good souls were Dmitri Siegel, Sarah Smith, David Hisle, Mia Keefe, Ryan Kaplan, Mauro Rosenberg, Liz Henry, Noah Berlin, Lee Chen, Chris King, Patricia, Andrade, Aung Htut, Francesco Cibo, Christine Huo, Jiwon Paik, Carlos Castro-Neves, Ben Goldberg, Youngmin Park, Ana Corta, Barbara Sullivan, and Belle Chen.

Their teammate Gustavo Machado (second row, third from the left, behind #3) and varsity player Dov Fischman were also in my thoughts today. Gustavo and Dov, along with Samir Gafsi and Bruno Perrone, were brilliant young men who were suddenly gone later that same year.  Rest their souls. I think about them to renew my perspective about life, volleyball and the greater value of teams.

The youngest of the group is turning 40 this year. Their feats have no doubt been many and great since 1988.

I also thought about how that team travelled to Wootton that year to play against one of the legendary Mickey Lipman-coached teams that dominated Maryland volleyball in the 1980s.  Now I find myself sitting where Coach Lipman created a dynasty of seven straight state championships. Lipman's feat is humbling to those following in his shadow. And on the bench with me is a team of 16 players and 4 managers. That's a lot of footwork currently being trained to pass, set, hit, and block.

Every Spring 2014 Wootton player got to play against Whitman, except for Henry Shu, who is just now getting back on his feet after hobbling a bit this season. In addition to Henry, their names are Nathan Xie, Benjamin Wang, Henry Shu, James Ho, Andrew Merchant, Cary Chin, Justin Wu, Victor de Avila, Omar Nunez, Jeremy Chung, David Li, Mark Pang, Robert Severynse, Adam Kaplan, Paul Malinauskas, Ethan Frymark, Max Shin, David Juhnn, Noah Ru, and Timothy Chang.

All good souls contributing to the greater value of team. May their feats be many and great.


Facing Northwest, Wootton Maps Win

Patriots ace test against Jaguars 25-6, 25-12, 25-21.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

Finding the right direction to go can be made clear by the stars in the night sky, road signs along the way, or the GPS talking in a voice of preference. Given the name of Wootton's opponent, Northwest, there was no issue about where to be and which direction to go. It's on the map.

Three weeks after forming a team, the Wootton boys are getting to know their own team's strengths and weaknesses and can train to improve in all aspects. But, unknown challenges and opportunities of  respected opponents presents murkier roadmap. Wootton formed it's own strategic 'map" to prepare for Northwest.

That map included 3 major "routes': 1) Serve aggressively to take Northwest's formidable hitters out of system; 2) Control the ball and eliminate careless errors; 3) Implement a new lineup designed to optimize strengths and match up against Northwest's strong block.

The first two strategies worked well for Wootton. The team scored on 16 aces and served Northwest out of system another 38 times while committing on 5 service errors. Holding onto the serve also mitigated the impact of Northwest's strong serving game and sharpened Wootton's focus on controlling the ball to win rallies.

The new lineup, however, presented challenges in several rotations. Though fifteen Wootton players saw court time during the three-set match, a few unnecessarily played out of position, though performed admirably.  Players finding a way to play good volleyball despite the coach's lineup shortcomings is a step in the right direction.

Maybe following these steps will help the Wootton coach figure things out?

Wootton continues it's 2014 journey when it returns home to face Whitman on Monday, March 31 at 5:15.