Honesty is key for ASU women's volleyball

Head coach Sanja Tomasevic is using a straightforward approach in her new coaching strategy

Different coaches teach the game in different ways. 

For some, it involves yelling at the players, and for others, it is a quiet, kind type of leadership. For ASU head coach Sanja Tomasevic, the key is being honest and blunt with her team.

“You’ll never be confused on how she’s feeling,” senior libero Halle Harker said. “She’ll tell you point blank on what you need to work on, what you need to fix.”

Harker said that this honesty helps her focus on a day-to-day basis, adding that she needs the consistency Tomasevic’s coaching style provides.

“It (the system) is very strict, and when you go outside of that, she’s not going to be a happy camper,” Harker said. “She’s probably not going to play you.”

Harker worked with Tomasevic during the 2016 season, so these coaching methods and ideas are nothing new to her.

However, for junior opposite hitter Peyton Grahovac, her first encounter with Tomasevic was a shock when she started practice in August.

“It’s very different from the style of volleyball I have been playing my whole life,” Grahovac said. “So, I had to learn it from the very beginning.”

Now, Grahovac said she understands the system and has been getting some significant playing time – she has played in 43 of the team’s 50 sets this year.

“I completely, 100 percent trust her and everything she is coaching me, so I just trust the process ... It gets worse before it gets better, and now it’s finally getting better,” Grahovac said.

Grahovac is not the only player who has adapted to the system over the past few months – Tomasevic said that the entire team has made progress during the pre-season practices in August and into the regular season.

Back in August, the team surpassed Tomasevic’s expectations, but the progress has since slowed down. 

“Our progress has been a lot slower,” Tomasevic said. “All I can ask is for us to keep improving, and that was a nice, pleasant surprise that we started off pretty strong in pre-season.”

Despite these disappointments, Tomasevic is still supporting her team and sticking with her coaching philosophy.

“It’s growing pains, but we just always talk about staying mindful and present throughout practice,” Tomasevic said.

Both Harker and Grahovac said they know how much Tomasevic supports them and wants them to succeed.

Grahovac said she appreciates when Tomasevic tells stories about her experience as a player because it puts what the team is feeling into perspective. 

Tomasevic said the key is staying consistent with the team and making sure they know she cares about them.

“I’ll do whatever it takes for them,” Tomasevic said. “Whatever they need that is within NCAA rules, they’ll get from me.”

Tomasevic said she does not yell or scream and will not throw chairs or knock over Gatorade coolers, but she is very demanding. Part of that is not accepting mediocrity from her players.

“I will not have mediocre people here – we will not be mediocre,” Tomasevic said. “If they are going to play for us here, they are going to be great; they are going to be the best that they can be ... Why settle for mediocrity?”

Reach the reporter at jzaklis@gmail.com and follow @JoshZaklis on Twitter.

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