ASU women's volleyball coach brings in men's club team to motivate team

Sun Devil volleyball players benefit from men's team helping at practice

Head coach Sanja Tomasevic understands that one of the most important things for any team is to have players who challenge each other in practice.

“It’s the most important thing,” Tomasevic said. “I’m a firm believer that if your practices are hard, mentally and physically, then the games are easy.”

It is why Tomasevic works so hard to challenge her team in practice. 

Tomasevic has started bringing men from the ASU club volleyball team to practice with the women, in order to improve her team's ability to play against opponents with a big block.

“Bringing boys in, they have to come in with big guns and they (the girls) have to hit high,” Tomasevic said. “They (the girls) have to hit hard, otherwise every ball is going to go straight down.”

Tomasevic said her team has embraced the challenge the men are bringing to practice, adding that she believes it will help them improve.

Assistant coach Macey Gardner has noticed that the club players are helping to change the atmosphere for the team.

Gardner said the men come into practice very relaxed, which helps remind the women of how fun the game can be.

The presence of the men in practice has served as a motivator for second string players, who Tomasevic hopes will be motivated since they see their jobs being taken.

“I don’t think our non-starters have been challenging our starters,” Tomasevic said. “That’s why we decided to bring the boys in the gym. I also think that put fire into the non-starters.”

Tomasevic said she plans to continue to integrate the men's team into practice as long as she continues to see improvement.

Ideally, Tomasevic hopes the program will grow so that the starters and backups can challenge each other, but right now feels the mens' presence is making the team better. 

Bringing men into the mix is nothing new for senior middle blocker Oluoma Okaro, who practiced with men last year.

Okaro agreed that the mens' sheer size has helped prepare the team for matches against the big blocks Pac-12 teams will be dealing.

Part of preparing mentally is making sure that the players are being mindful and focused in everything they do on the court.

The coaching staff measures this mindfulness by checking in with the players on a scale from 1 to 5, one being the most mindful and five being the least.

It is one thing to talk about being mindful and practicing hard, but it is another to follow through on those things. 

And the Sun Devils are trying to deliver on these characteristics.

“I see the team coming in early to get in extra reps,” Okaro said. “I see the hitters, the blockers — we come in early — we come in and work on the things that will prepare us for practice and get going.”

Okaro also sees her teammates coming in early to work on passing, which is a key part of the new offense strategies being emphasized by the coaches this season.

Above all else, Tomasevic wants players to gain confidence in practice. She believes that confidence comes from success on the practice court.

“Good practice gives you confidence,” Tomasevic said. “Confidence comes from you practicing well the whole week, and from you hitting well against boys, and hitting well against your teammates.”

 Reach the reporter at and follow @JoshZaklis on Twitter.

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