The Value of Coaching
It was the simplest of changes. It was the most critical of changes. Stay balanced. Get your body behind the ball.
In truth, it’s what Marcio Sicoli has been telling Corinne Quiggle for years. Four, to be exact, at Pepperdine, where Sicoli will be taking over head coaching duties for Nina Matthies this season. But something about the week of preparation in p1440’s developmental system, surrounded by an armada of coaches – including Sicoli – before the Manhattan Beach Open made the mantra stick for Quiggle. Or maybe it was something about Nicole Branagh and Caitlin Ledoux, a pair of AVP finalists this season, ripping balls past her in the first set of the second round that made it click. “I was thinking ‘I should be able to control these balls,’” Quiggle recalled. “I quickly just thought about it, ‘Oh, if I just get my body behind it, stay balanced, then that ball is going to go up.’ It completely turned around the second game. That was a game-changer for me.” Indeed. Though Quiggle and her partner, Kim Smith, dropped that match in three sets, they would both take a career-high finish, a fifth place in beach volleyball’s most prestigious event. “I think it’s huge,” Quiggle said of the impact of p1440’s developmental system.
“Having a coach, you see so much more. You can take your game from one level to the next so much faster. I think it’s a ton of credit to them that they’re seeing me all the time, and there’s a lot of them, too, who get to have eyes on you. The staff that [p1440] has is unbelievable, and it’s definitely helped me speed up my learning curve so much.”
It is no coincidence that a number of up-and-coming players in the p1440 developmental system, like Quiggle, are enjoying either career years or have matched or improved upon career-high finishes. Those who have come out of the qualifiers in the past two AVP events are essentially a who’s who of p1440 athletes. In Hermosa Beach, Delaney Knudsen and Jessica Sykora didn’t drop a single set in the qualifier en route to their fourth main draw on the year. Cassie House and Molly Turner, too, came out of the qualifier, going on to win three main draw matches to claim seventh, career-highs for both. Jessica Gaffney, a 22-year-old out of Cal, set the AVP record for the highest-seeded team to make a main draw, beginning at Q84 and finishing 17th. Manhattan Beach two weeks later was much of the same: Knudsen and Sykora made another Saturday, Quiggle was one match away from making her first Sunday. “It’s been so valuable,” said Sykora, the blocker between her and Knudsen and who helped land perhaps the biggest upset of the AVP season, a stunner over Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes in New York. “Our coach runs back to back drills, so we’re getting those conditioning reps and he also does the technical stuff. I’m learning better form, to be more technical. It’s beyond valuable. In what sport can you be a professional athlete and not have a coach? It doesn’t exist.” And it’s not just one coach, nor are they just any coaches. p1440 has assembled one of the finest collection of coaching talent in beach volleyball, beginning with Sicoli, who coached Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Misty May-Treanor to a gold medal in 2012 and Walsh-Jennings and April Ross to a bronze in 2016. Alongside Sicoli is fellow Brazilians Leandro Le Pinheiro – another with multiple Olympics of experience – and Arthur Carvalho as well as American John Daze. If it seems that p1440 has a Brazilian slant, well, perhaps that’s the point. Since 2004, no country in the world has been as dominant as Brazil in beach volleyball, namely because of the abundance of talented coaches there to develop the continuous pipeline of talent, one that seems to feature a conveyor belt of the next best player in the world – Emanuel, Alison, Bruno, Evandro, Predro, Andre. The list could go on. “Brazil,” Phil Dalhausser said on the podcast, SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, “is stacked.” Caitlin Ledoux, one of the fastest-rising blockers in the country, spent three months in Brazil this off-season getting the types or reps that has turned Brazil into a beach volleyball juggernaut. It is not much of a surprise that she is having the finest year of her burgeoning career.
“I feel like anyone who is training like that is going to become the best,” she said. “It’s impossible to have that amount of coaches and not become better. If you go down there and don’t become better, you probably shouldn’t be playing.”
P1440 seems to be bringing the Brazilian developmental system to the West Coast, bringing in two, sometimes three coaches at a time for a single practice. “The touches we get are all fast-paced,” Quiggle said. “Everybody’s going, no matter how big or small a group is but you’re getting such solid touches.” And those touches, no matter how big or small, are paying in dividends for the athletes in the system. “You have to have reps,” Sykora said. “It totally gives you confidence. It’s a game-changer. I wish I could just quit my full-time job and just get coached for twenty hours a week.” Soon enough, perhaps. For now, there’s more reps to get. There’s work to put in.
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