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Defining Expectations & Building Team Culture, Keeping Drills Competitive, Serving Accuracy + Keeping Focused


with Jonathan Newman-Gonchar,
University of New Mexico Head Coach;
former University of Arkansas Associate Head Coach;
former Iowa State University Assistant Coach;
2020 U.S. Women's National Team Open Tryout Court Evaluator;
2018 Team USA Pan American Cup Team Head Coach (Gold Medal);
2017 Team USA FIVB World Grand Prix Consultant Coach

This video will introduce you to the energy of coach Jonathan Newman-Gonchar, head women's volleyball coach at the University of New Mexico. Coach Newman-Gonchar has a background of Division I and Team USA experience that he's brought to the sidelines at UNM, and this Open Practice video will give you a glimpse of the methods he's used to create better players over the years.

The "Lobo" Board

Newman-Gonchar starts every practice at the team's white board, or "Lobo" board, to collectively visualize what is in store for the day's practice routine. The white board lists the date, a famous quote, and the number of days before the next match.

"Big rocks" on the board are the areas that New Mexico must work on all the time. These items remain in place for the year and include key terms that are critical to the team's success. "Cultural Big Blocks" are the soft skills that Coach Newman-Gonchar instills in his players that serve as friendly reminders of the culture required to make the program successful. He wants his players to deeply care for one another and to always speak honestly, openly and directly. "Illegal Moves" are those actions that distract the team from reaching their goals. The list of illegal moves includes not connecting with the team, not helping a teammate up, sending a free ball to zone 6, a free ball dig or pass that is tight to the net, and finally an attack error into the net.

The last message to appear on the Lobo board is the resolution for team fight! Listed in the video are the seven elements of team fight according to Coach Newman-Gonchar.

Practice Routine

You'll learn how to get your players active with a pepper sequence involving four overhead passes and four digs during cooperative doubles pepper. Another great warm-up method is working on the pancake move, which gets athletes comfortable hitting the floor on defense. Additionally, all blocker work on their 3-step crossover moves while trying to finish breaking the glass or making sure they extend over the net.

The 8/10/12 Passing Drill is an over-the-net pepper exercise which requires players to send the ball over eight times using pass set sets, 10 times using pass set tips, and 12 times using pass set roll shots. The purpose of the drill is to increase communication and improve defensive posture.

Newman-Gonchar delivers a variety of other drills throughout the session that work on covering the court, placing the ball strategically, serving and other game-relevant skills.


The team offense and defense portion of practice will help you gain an understanding of the aggressiveness required to compete at the college level. Your team will improve its serving effectiveness if you can transfer Newman-Gonchar's knowledge to your program.

One of the best parts of this video is watching Coach Newman-Gonchar remain positive and energized at all times. When something isn't running right, he will huddle the team together to talk about where more focus may be required, but he also does a tremendous job praising his players when they perform a skill the way he wants it.

In all, this is a great video for any coach that is seeking to run a positive, skill-focused practice!

133 minutes. 2021.

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