Editor's note: Coaches and players constantly search for an edge through the most modern ways. More and more teams focus on technology as a key to success.
What's happening at West Virginia University is a good example of what's happening across the country. This is the first part of a 5-part series.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When Jill Kramer was hired as West Virginia's volleyball coach a day before the start of fall camp in August 2010, she was well aware of where the Mountaineers stood in relation to the haves and the have-nots.
And of all the things she could have asked for and been granted by Athletic Director Oliver Luck, Kramer requested Data Volley.
Not more or better practice space. Not extra money for recruiting and paying assistants. She wanted the statistical program that tracks and records every touch and every outcome during a match and gives players and coaches greater insight into how to scout opponents and how opponents scout WVU.
"The biggest part of it is using the statistics to give them analysis," Kramer said.
The two greatest tools for the WVU players are how they do during every side out and what their hitting percentages are in each rotation. That's the most realistic representation how effectively the Mountaineers bump, set and spike or how well they defend and pass during a match. If WVU scores a lot of points and attacks at a high percentage, it's worth remembering. If the opposite is true and the opponent is successful with its offense, then those areas need some attention.
"We use that to figure out which rotations we need to work on, which play sets worked for us, which aren't," Kramer said. "The other thing is we're able to see what the other teams are seeing. If they look at a certain rotation and look at the statistics for a certain rotation, they might decide to defend us a certain way.
"There are a lot of different things to look at like that and Data Volley gives you everything. It helps us see which areas are our strongest and which are our weakest and helps us know what we need to do training-wise and if we need to spend time working on one rotation more than another."
Finding strengths and weaknesses
The Big 12 requires teams to use Data Volley. They must also share the statistics and upload matches to a server. There is no hiding from weaknesses within conference play.
The Mountaineers designate a volunteer assistant, Will Cornell, to track and qualify every touch. That means every serve, set, attack, dig or block gets a grade of either good, average, bad or an error.
From there, the possibilities are limitless. The Mountaineers can scout themselves to see what happens whenever a certain player sets for a certain teammate's attack. They can look at rotations and see how most attacks end. They can spot tendencies of their servers. They can see who's good at digging and who's good at blocking and where a player generally tries to send a spike.
And so can the opposition.
"It's no different than baseball when a team's shifting its defense to right field because the left-handed hitter is a pull hitter," said assistant coach Ted Wade.
Suppose there's a timeout in a match. The Mountaineers need a point to close a set or get the win. They reference Data Volley. They see where their server usually goes. They know the opponent will have a player there. They can change it up for an advantage or they can play to their strengths.
Say they stick with their strengths. They can look at the opponent's personnel and use Data Volley to see where a set will go and where that attacker will aim.
Wade goes through a scenario for an opponent that must remain nameless for the purpose of this explanation.
"When they pass the ball now, they're going to back-set to No. 22 and she's going to hit the ball here," Wade said, pointing at one of the nine areas Data Volley tracks on the court. "So we're going to shift everyone so they can get to that. Those are the percentages.