Coach Amber Warners, who led Calvin’s women’s volleyball team to win the 2013 national championship title, is set to work with legendary Karch Kiraly, currently the head coach of the U.S. national women’s volleyball team for the 2016 Olympics, for two weeks in Anaheim, Calif. for the winter national training group.
During this time, Warners will pitch her idea to Kiraly about a new sophisticated wireless microphone system she invented which allows players and coaches to communicate through earpieces during practice.
Kiraly is the only person to have Olympic gold medals in both indoor and beach volleyball and is widely considered the best volleyball player of all time by the Federation Internationale de Volleyball.
Over the next two weeks, Warners will have the opportunity to work with sixteen women who are aiming to make the Olympic team, including the 2013 player of the year and several Division 1 All-Americans. Her work will be part of a pilot study to understand the potential of her device. If all goes well, Warners may be returning in June to work with the nation’s top level Olympic team.
Warners will also partner with the sports psychologist of the Seattle Seahawks, Mike Gervais, to explore how self-talk affects performance.
According to Warners, the idea for the device found its roots when she found that instructing her players during a play was difficult.
“A couple years ago I tried to come up with a creative way to really get into Megan Rietema’s mind on where she was getting stuck and why,” said Warners. “I couldn’t instruct her in the middle of a play very well so I randomly asked if I could borrow the soccer referee’s two way microphone system they use for soccer games. I strapped her up on it and found that it was a great way for me to know what she was thinking and for me to give her pointers in the middle of a rally.”
After researching methods to best communicate with her players, Warners found the answers she sought last July in the form of a sophisticated wireless microphone system that could be placed on players to talk and record all their verbal thoughts.
“For me as a coach, if I have a player struggling with something, I love to manipulate the situation which almost forces them to address what they need to do different,” said Warners. “To be able to get into somebody’s mind and to hear what they’re thinking was just fascinating.”
Warners believed that the device would act as a great tool to study the impact self-talk has on performance.
“Let’s say that we find out that middles should be thinking about three things and then we collect the data and we find out that one of his middles is only thinking about two things,” explained Warners. “We can then go back and use this device to get in her head during the game and train her with the device.
“It could be a very quick learning device to help improve some of these tactical games and if you talk about self-talk, you could be putting positive self-talk into the system and having a certain player listen to it and watching how it affects their performance. You could do these studies on how does a coach’s verbal comment affect performance.”
When Warners returns she expects to apply much of her learned training and experience to her own team at Calvin.
“I think it could really give us an added edge and I’m excited for the opportunity to work with Karch and see what he does and pick up some volleyball tips,” said Warners.
Warners plans to further explore both the device and data she collects when she takes her sabbatical next January.
According to Warners, working with Kiraly and Gervais is “probably the best honor I could receive as a coach, to be able to work with the best in the world, which is a thrill for me.”
Looking ahead, Warners expressed her excitement for the prospects of the device.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity of seeing if there’s potential to find out a piece of the sport that’s never been found out,” said Warners. “To be able to take your sport and something you love to do and to dive deeper and to get at something that’s never been done is really exciting.”