Associate coach Grove seeks opponent weaknesses, recruits players

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This article is part two in a two-part series about volleyball associate head coach Jeff Grove. To read part one, search “Jeff Grove” on kstatecollegian.com.

These days, associate coach Jeff Grove wears a number of hats for the K-State volleyball team.

“I’m the defensive coordinator, so I write all the scouting reports for the opponent, and I present the scouting report to the team,” Grove said. “I’m also the video coordinator, so I break down all the video.”

As the defensive coordinator, Grove studies the upcoming opponent to combat its strengths and exploit its weaknesses.

“I watch the opponent’s offense, and I try to figure out how to set up our defense,” he said. “If the other team has a really, really good outside hitter, then I might try to emulate that.”

Besides the other team’s front-row attack, Grove prepares his team for the type of serving that it will face.

“The fact that I’ve been coaching for 20 years and I’ve served about a billion balls in my life, I can pretty much emulate anybody’s serve that we see,” Grove said. “I think that’s a strength because then I can teach the players how to serve.”

This also involves choosing where K-State will put the ball on each service opportunity.

“I call the serving for our team,” he said. “When I’m trying to slow down the opponent’s offense, I tell our servers, ‘This is the person I want to serve. This is the area I want to serve, because it’s going to do this to the offense.'”

He also has a part in recruiting, which includes traveling across the U.S. to evaluate players, like at an annual spring tournament in Denver.

“Its got maybe 400 or 500 teams there, different age groups, playing over three days,” Grove said. “We go there, and we can see a whole bunch of kids in a very small time frame. That’s the way club works in our sport.”

All the scouting opportunities means that Grove spends a good deal of time away from Manhattan.

“It’s not that bad,” he said. “It gets a little tedious, but it’s easier to go to one site, like Denver, and see 150 kids, rather than trying to go to individual high schools and see those players.”

And fortunately for him, his family has adapted well to the irregular schedule.

“If you’re in this profession, you understand that you’re going to be on the road,” Grove said. “My wife is very patient and understanding that it’s cyclical in nature. I know that, in May, it’s going to slow down. I know that, in January, when we’re in a quiet period and we can’t go out recruiting and we’re not playing, it’s going to slow down.”

When the busy season is finally over, Grove gets to spend time with his family.

“There are times when you know it’s going to slow down, and so you kind of work your schedule about vacations around that,” he said. “The nice thing about our sport is that our sport is over by Christmas time for sure, so we never have to miss Christmas like basketball does by playing in tournaments over the holidays.”

And when the year revs back up, his family gets to see Grove coaching in the matches.

“On school nights, they don’t as much, because it’s hard to get them calmed down after the match,” he said. “But on the weekends, they come, and they watch, and they’re very supportive.”

Now, Grove is passing on his love for volleyball to his oldest child, Kaitlyn, 10.

“She’s playing on a little Manhattan city team,” Grove said. “She enjoys it. I don’t know if that’s where her future will lie; I don’t know if that’s what she wants to do. I’m not going to force it on her. I’ll be supportive of whatever she wants to do, whether it’s sports or not.”

The passing of skills from coach to player is one of the reasons Grove enjoys his job, he said.

“I love coaching, because I love being around young people, and I love seeing the light go on in their eyes when they pick up something, like when they learn something,” Grove said. “I like watching them grow.

“I like watching them mature and become really good women in society.”

Additionally, Grove said he is very happy working with head coach Suzie Fritz, partly because she allows him a great deal of autonomy.

“We believe very similarly on our defensive principles, so she gives me a lot of leeway to take that area and take ownership of that,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed around here, is because I have so much input and we work really well together.”

In the past seven seasons, Grove has earned a 151-71 record with the Wildcats and a first-place finish in the conference, making him a valuable asset to K-State’s program.

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