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Hugh McCutcheon on Coaching Men vs Women

This past Sunday, I was in a volleyball conundrum. The USA Men and the USA Women played at the same time. Ironically in very different time zones as the men played France in France and the women played Brazil in Brazil. Both coming out victorious, 3 sets to 1 set, on the opponent’s home court. I spent part of my Sunday flipping screens on my computer to watch them both.

There are debates on how the women are becoming comparably physical to men (especially with the lower net) that many of the techniques and strategies used in the men’s game should be or are adopted by the women’s game. Having an Olympic Gold Medal Head Coach of the USA Men’s Team in Hugh McCutcheon move over to the USA Women’s Team that is now ranked #1 in the world, might have add some credibility to this debate.

“With the men, so much of it is getting through the ego, getting to the core where they are willing to be vulnerable enough to admit they need to make changes. With the women, there is a lot of fear and insecurity, so it’s more about validating and helping people build trust so they feel like they belong out there.” ~ Hugh McCutcheon

Although, there are certainly aspects of the game that are unique to men and unique to the women’s game. Watching the two team matches side-by-side on my computer I recognized how passing and defense (back court) in the women’s game still reigns supreme. Not that it doesn’t in the men’s side (men’s blocking – defense – is a great priority), but watching the men, there is very little tipping or roll shots. All in system and most out-of-system balls are swung with maximum force. On the women’s side, I am watching an aging Logan Tom (sorry Logan), be a very roll shot and tip player. I don’t think her arm is as strong as it used to be (reminds me of Karch on the beach in his last few years) or maybe she’s not getting up as high and resorts to be being a smart L2 (ball control outside hitter). But the women were able to win by keeping the ball in play (Team IPE), relied on their defense, their physicality came into play at the net, and ball control. It will be interesting to watch Megan Hodge play this coming weekend to see if she can contribute offensively enough (and hold her own passing) to be on the roster to the Olympics.

The underlying story (as we all know) is the serving and passing game. If you look at the FIVB stats pages, the USA Teams, on average are ranking near the top as a team for passing and serving. You can keep up with stats and matches on these websites:

Volleywood.net (live online feeds)

I am excited to watch the last matches of the World League and World Grand Prix matches and even more excited for the Olympics. Of course I’m hoping the USA Men will repeat and the USA Women will win their first Olympic Gold!


  1. This is very comparable to tennis. The men’s game is very much power strokes where as the women’s game is more defensive, biding their time until they are in position to put away a winner. However, also like tennis, there seems to be more power coming to women’s volleyball. With players being better, servers (in both sports) can no longer be happy to just get the ball in play. The opponents are such now they will take easy to handle balls and crush them. Same with in-rally volleys – give your opponent an easy ball to handle and they will bring the heat.

  2. This is definitely apparent in college volleyball as well. I have worked both men’s and women’s teams collegiately and I’ve noticed the difference of power vs. shots. I think another huge difference is the approach you take to making players better. Hugh made a great point – with men it tends to be overcoming their ego’s – with women it’s breaking past their fear/insecurities. Obviously this is not always the case but it seems to be prevalent at the moment. Good article Coach!

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