Valentine's Day Special: Team Chemistry and Roundnet Newlywed Game

Throughout the years of competitive roundnet, the phrase “team chemistry” has been thrown around a lot. It is often used when talking about a new team during preseason or a mash-up team heading into a tournament. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here is some of what myself and other roundnet players have learned about team chemistry over the last few years.

Defensive Team Chemistry is Most Important

Joel Graham and Scott Wilson played together as Nashburgh for all four official roundnet seasons and for a year even before that. Graham notes that defensive team chemistry is so important because you will know where your partner is likely to be without having to even think about it. This allows for you to know where to move, what to cover, and where to set the ball without having to observe everything around you.

When playing with a new partner for the first time, the most common question I hear is “what do you want to do for defense?” Harding Brumby, who has played with countless partners in his roundnet career, noted that he always like to get defense figured out first.

Graham is moving into 2018 with a new partner, Caleb Heck, and will be without Wilson for the first time. He says their chemistry should form soon as they have played together a lot before, but defense is one thing that may struggle initially.

Setting Preferences Can Make or Break Teams

Another question that is common to hear is “where do you like your sets?” Players can be particular about their sets and the shots that one player can pull off are a lot different from what another can. Graham has seen this first hand as he tends to set to players’ left hands after all his time with Wilson who has one of the best off-hands in roundnet.

Joel Graham dives to set the ball at East Regionals 2017.

As players have gotten better, most seem to answer with “just over the middle,” but that is not always the easiest thing to do during a game. Should you play it safe and loft the ball to the far side of the net or should you launch it down for your partner to get a quick hit and kill? Knowing where to set your new partner for them to be successful is something you can best learn with experience. Of course, it also helps if you have played against or watched your partner beforehand.

Team Chemistry Can Be Extreme

Back in 2015, the Midwest's Monkey Business consisted of (for the most part) a dedicated setter and a dedicated hitter. Seth Showalter was a great serve returner and setter while Peter Jon Showalter could hit well from all angles. This led to tons of hits on two from Peter Jon.

When Peter Jon Showalter and Tyler Cisek teamed at SummerSpike 2015, Cisek was forced into a similar role as Seth. Cisek was a strong hitter for The Rookies then but spent a lot of that day as a “setter" while Showalter hit on two. Nowadays, Cisek and Showalter share the hitting wealth.

Team Chemistry is About Trust and Experience

As mentioned above, team chemistry has to do a lot with how the two partners work together. Graham let me know that any mash-up of talented players can do well because “two solid players with good knowledge of the game can play comfortably and well knowing their teammate will put in the necessary effort and try to make the 'right' play.” He then noted that if you add solid team chemistry into the mix you can amplify this success by working around your team's strengths and weaknesses.

“You can see many examples of that in the first few years of competitive roundnet with successful multi-year teams like Chico Spikes, Handsome Beavers, Nashburgh, Strange Embrace, etc.,” he says. Once you have the game plan set, experience and trust bring results to the next level.

Team Chemistry is Also About Mindset

Competing in roundnet isn’t 100 percent about roundnet skill; mentality plays a role, too. Teammates that differ in competitive mentality may not be the best mix for competitive tournaments. Graham mentioned that his long-time friendship with Wilson allowed them to mesh well on and off the roundnet court over the years.

Harding Brumby hits a ball versus Bolivia at the Philadelphia Tour Stop.

Brumby also noted that mindset can differ for him depending on who his partner is. When playing with his steady partners, he is more focused, but with mash-up a partner he is often more concerned with having a fun time playing with that person. Sharing a similar mindset and goals as your partner help with having an enjoyable day, along with long-term success as a team.

Teams with Great Team Chemistry Also Know Each Other Very Well

I reached out to two teams to test how well they know each other in similar fashion to the “Newlywed Game.” Here are the players’ answers:

Nashburgh – Joel Graham and Scott Wilson

What is Scott’s all-time favorite tournament?
Scott: Nationals 2014.
Joel: Probably East Regionals 2015.

What is Joel’s all-time favorite tournament?
Joel: Nationals 2014. Or East Regionals 2015.
Scott: Nationals 2014.

What would Joel say is the best part of Scott’s game?
Joel: Lefty hitting/encouraging attitude.
Scott: Lefty wrap. 

What would Scott say is the best part of Joel’s game?
Scott: Joel's power push angle is bonkers! He did it well before anyone else and is still the best at getting power on insane forward angles.
Joel: Finishing ability with variable sets.

How would Joel rank grass, sand, and turf as playing surfaces?
Joel: (The nicest) grass, sand, turf.
Scott: Joel ranks pristine perfect (the old Belmont field) grass as the highest, then sand, then turf

How would Scott rank grass, sand, and turf as playing surfaces?
Scott: I rank pristine perfect (the old Belmont field) grass as the highest, then sand, then turf
Joel: (The nicest) grass, sand, turf.

Cisek/Showalter – Tyler Cisek and Peter Jon Showalter

What serve does Peter Jon like better: his sidestep or his fwango?
Peter Jon: Fwango
Tyler: Sidestep

If Tyler had to add a third person to Cisek/Showalter for 3v3 roundnet, who would he add?
Tyler: Ryan Fitzgerald
Peter Jon: Ryan Fitzgerald

If Peter Jon had to add a third person to Cisek/Showalter for 3v3 roundnet, who would he add?
Peter Jon: Jesse Showalter
Tyler: Jesse Showalter

It is the night before a tournament and Tyler has a personal chef, what meal does he has made for himself?
Tyler: Honey bunches of oats and Powerade
Peter Jon: He's probably got some chicken parm type thing going on the night before a big tourney, and then the morning of he's gotta have is bagel to get him going.

Does Peter Jon prefer chocolate or vanilla?
Peter Jon: Chocolate
Tyler: Chocolate

How would Peter Jon describe Tyler in one word?
Peter Jon: Ever-improving
Tyler: Stubborn

Got something related to roundnet that you want to know more about? Have any topics you want to be discussed on the podcast? Contact Mike White at or @mwhitey17 on Twitter.
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