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Platonov Book On Sale Now

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During his lifetime, Vyacheslav Platonov wrote several books, mostly of the autobiographical / memoir type.  His last book, however, was intended to be a handbook for aspiring coaches and as such it contains much of the collected, practical coaching wisdom he accumulated during his many years at the highest level of international volleyball.  He specifically discusses developing your own style, building a team, the qualities of a successful coach, training and preparation, and coaching the game.

For the first time ever, this book is now available in English.  It is available in ePub format here, and as a hardcover book here.  There is also a facebook page. I believe this book is unique in volleyball and a vital addition to the professional library of every serious coach.

If you are living in or around Berlin, or somewhere Berlin Recycling Volleys is playing in the near future, you can buy the hardcover version directly from me. Just contact me via the facebook page.

Success Versus Learning

Coaching epiphanies, like other epiphanies, can come at any time.  In my experience they come most often after two often unrelated thoughts that are bouncing around in my head careen into each other and are suddenly considered together.

One such epiphany occurred while I was working with the Australian team.  The team would travel for weeks at a time but some players would have to remain behind and train in small groups of four or five players, maybe less.  Inevitably, upon return the review of the responsible coach was that the ‘homebound’ players had significantly improved.  Equally inevitably, upon returning to team training those players had barely improved, if at all.

Now I knew that the coach was a good and conscientious coach who was working the players well.  And I knew that the players were fully present and motivated to improve, after all their friends were all off travelling the world.  But somehow the work they were doing didn’t translate into actual performance.  There must be something else at play there.

I was reminded of that story as I read this review article.  The particularly relevant phrase here being; “you cannot directly measure or observe learning per se. … Instead it can be inferred by 2 principles – “retention” and “transfer””.  The point being that success in a drill does not equate to learning.  It does not matter how many successes you have in a drill it matters how many successes you have in the following match.  The way I often put it is that the match is a test or exam of the coach’s work.  The coach works / practices during the week and is tested in competition.  Given the performance in competition, the coach can (more or less) perfectly judge the quality of his work (i.e. practice).

The rest of the article is great too.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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First Asian Volleyball Championships

 I have long held the belief that volleyball is a sport that does a very bad job of curating its history.  I could cite dozens of examples, but I won’t. 

I have also long held the belief that one should not complain if one is not prepared to do something about it.

By posting this I hope to give myself the right to complain for a little while.

I will let it speak for itself.

 

First Asian Volleyball Championships, Melbourne, August, 1975

by Walter Lebedew, OAM

INTRODUCTION:

Not so long ago, the 17th Asian Volleyball Championships were played in Dubai, UAE. Much to the disappointment of Australian volleyball fans Australia came fifth, not a very honourable place, considering that our men were Asian Champions only six years ago. Some reasons for the drop are glaringly obvious, others, no doubt, will be investigated and perhaps steps taken to improve the situation. None of this detracts from the fact that in the history of Asian Championships, Australia occupies a very special place. Thirty-eight years ago in 1975, the Australian Volleyball Federation, only twelve years after its foundation, organised the First Asian Volleyball Championships. It is and will forever remain a unique place of honour for the, then fledgling Australian volleyball among the greats of that era, Japan, Korea and China.

THE BEGINNING

It began almost by accident. In 1973, the late Wolfgang Gollong from Melbourne, then Treasurer of the AVF, ventured to travel at his own expense, to Manila, to represent, for the first time Australian volleyball at the Congress of the Asian Volleyball Confederation. The Asian volleyball landscape at the time was fairly simple. Japan was by far the dominant force in the region. Their men’s team under coach Yasutaka Matsudaira had just won the Olympic gold medal in Munich in 1972. The women’s side coached by the legendary Daimatsu, over a decade or more, regularly fought out and shared the Olympic and World Championships with the powerful Soviet Union team, both far ahead of the rest of the field. Daimatsu was the inventor of the roll and the dig and was regarded as the tyrant of women’s volleyball before Russia’s Karpol came on the scene. On the administrative side, for reasons lost in the mists of time, there has been friction between the Japanese volleyball hierarchy and lesser members of the AVC and as a compromise, the top positions on the AVC Board were held by Nemesio Yabut, Mayor of Manila’s business district, Makati, as President and Redentor Bautista, as Secretary, both from the Philippines. This briefly, was the situation when the Congress was held in Manila.

THE FIRST STEPS

When Wolfgang returned from Manila and proudly announced that Australia had been authorised (unopposed) to conduct the first ever Asian Volleyball Championships in 1975, we initially rejoiced and drank his health. However, naturally the euphoria did not last long. Soon we had to make a sober evaluation of the enormity of the project we had committed ourselves to and the pathetically puny finances we had available, to bring it to fruition.

THE FIVB AND WORLD VOLLEYBALL

The situation with world volleyball at the time was nothing like what it is today. Although it had become an Olympic sport in 1964 and over one hundred nations were members of the FIVB, its status on the world sporting scene was negligible. Paul Libaud, French engineer and President of the FIVB since its foundation in 1948 ran the organisation on a shoestring budget, derived mainly from very low membership fees and whatever else he could scrounge. Such concepts as sponsorships or TV fees did not exist. His headquarter staff consisted of Madame Canaff, a French lady who did the typing and when travelling carried a portable typewriter and all the necessary office equipment like stapler, hole punch and manila folders, with her in a large case.

The powerbase of volleyball was Eastern Europe with dominant nations like the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland and East Germany. The USA was so backward, it even used a different set of rules for domestic competitions, adopting, what they called International Rules in matches against other nations.

In Asia, Japan was head and shoulders above the rest. Matsudaira as coach, developed a team which was mostly smaller in height than the East Europeans, but fast, agile and more dynamic, led by the superb, chain smoking setter Katsutoshi Nekoda, who incidentally was sponsored by Japan Tobacco Pty Ltd and, sadly, died of emphysema at a fairly early age. At the 1972 Olympic Games, Matsudaira with his style ambushed the more fancied East Europeans to win the gold medal ahead of East Germany and the Soviet Union. Later he became Japan’s volleyball promoter, marketing guru and television personality for Fuji TV. Strangely, although money has been pouring into Japan Volleyball Association’s coffers for many years since, Japan’s volleyball never managed to return to the glory days of the 1970s. Maybe there is some truth in the old adage, that money is not everything. The Asian Volleyball Confederation did exist in name, but it was as toothless as the proverbial tiger, as well as virtually penniless.

SPORT IN AUSTRALIA IN THE “DARK AGES”

As for Australia, well, sport was bereft of any government support at either federal or state levels and there was virtually no private sponsorship. Ministers of Sport were as common as unicorns and when it came to opening some sporting tournament, usually the Ministers for Education or similar, was invited to attend to come up with some platitudes at the Opening Ceremonies. All that they did was make a speech, express thanks to the competitors and give moral support to the organisers.

Can somebody imagine today, that, when athletes were selected to represent Australia at an Olympic Games, they themselves, supported by their State Associations and Olympic Councils had to raise the necessary funds, through private donation, the famous Australian chook raffles and any other means that they could think of. There was a time when, for instance, if three basketballers from South Australia were selected to represent the country at an Olympic Games, but the money raised by the state only stretched to one, it was a matter of: “Sorry guys, we cannot afford to send you,” and their places were filled by players from the eastern states, which usually had more success with fund raising.

Some other examples of how elite athletes achieved their success were almost funny, but pathetically true. Dawn Fraser, between her first (1956) and second (1960), 100 metres freestyle gold medals, lived for some time in Adelaide and trained in the then only venue available in our fair city, the City Baths, which had a pool about twenty metres long. When Shane Gould came back from the 1972 Olympic Games with three gold medals around her neck, to be feted by a grateful nation, her father wryly commented to a newspaper journalist, that Shane’s pride and glory had cost him about $70,000, a huge amount of money at the time. This was of course for employing coaches, renting swimming pool time, travelling to events and so on, to allow the teenager to develop her God-given talent to the highest peak over a period of many years before the event.

THE ORGANISING COMMITTEE

I thought, it was worthwhile to create this background in order that the reader could more fully understand the enormity of the task, the AVF tackled and turned into a successful event. The first thing we had to do was put together an organising committee. At the time, there were only two people in Australia, who had ever seen a world class volleyball game or games. It must be appreciated that before worldwide television, internet and all the other modern gadgetry, the only way of seeing any sporting event was actually to be at the place where the game was played. Eric Hayman, then President of the AVF and the author, Secretary, went at their own expense to Mexico, where the 1974 World Championships were held. Apart from the thrill of seeing world class volleyball, I was very interested in the organisational side of the event and befriended the then Chairman of the FIVB Sport Organising Commission, Sinan Erdem, a Turk, who was in charge of overseeing and directing the event. In the end, I spent as much time as possible in his office, helping him and absorbing as much information as I could on what were the requirements to run a large scale volleyball tournament. At the time I did this purely for my personal interest.

However in the event, we became the logical bunnies, sorry candidates unanimously elected to head the organising committee. Eric was a shrewd and successful businessman, who came from the wrestling fraternity and had no volleyball background and little if any practical experience. I was a Department of Defence public servant, cofounder of the AVF and its secretary with the experience of about twenty years of volleyball activities in all its facets, playing, coaching, refereeing and administration, behind me. Despite the apparent discrepancies, there were never any disputes or disagreements between us. Eric assumed the role of Chairman and I became the Executive Secretary. Furthermore, Eric, quietly and unflinchingly took over the burden of initially financing and underwriting the event, although we were both dedicated not to run at a loss, come hell or high water. His business acumen and sporting and business connections in Melbourne were invaluable. My contributions were organisational skill and volleyball knowhow.

So we set out to form our organising committee and here, with Eric’s connections, we were lucky to attract two leading members of the Australian Olympic Federation (forerunner of the AOC) and highly experienced sport administrators, Sir Edgar Tanner, who took the role of President and whose name and title looked good on letterheads and Julius (Judy) Patching. Sir Edgar, a member of the Victorian parliament had been (in an honorary capacity!) Executive Secretary and driving force behind the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games Organising Committee and was knighted for his efforts. Judy, a businessman, former hurdler, a key member of the Australian Olympic Federation and the nicest guy you would wish to meet. Several other prominent Melbourne sporting identities offered to help us. Wolfgang Gollong, took on the task of treasurer, with the Organising Committee’s account standing at zero, which somehow did not deter us. I attracted quite a few of my South Australian friends, all capable and reliable volleyball activists, who shared my enthusiasm and came into it at their own expense, just for the thrill of being involved in something unique and help promote our common dream, the sport of volleyball in this country.

THE FUN STARTS!

So we had the Organising Committee, all that was left to do was to start and finish the organising. The first step was to set a date and invite Asian Confederation countries to the tournament. I sent a circular to all affiliated nations; there were twenty seven at the time, and almost immediately received positive responses from the big three, Japan, South Korea and China. There were enough expressions of interest from the rest to be able to say – It was go!

The venue city, virtually by default, had to be Melbourne. Next step was to locate suitable accommodation, playing and training venues and so forth. We had set the playing dates to coincide with the university vacations, which enabled us to secure accommodation at the Monash University student hostel. With the other it was more difficult. Indoor sports facilities in those days were a rare commodity throughout Australia. Even school gyms were at a premium and of course Taraflex and all those other volleyball surfaces were yet to be invented, wooden floors were the only playing surfaces. After some searching we settled on a reasonably suitable hall, the Festival Hall in North Melbourne, it had some spectator accommodation and an acceptable wooden floor. The secondary major venue became Albert Park Basketball Stadium, in those days a converted, corrugated iron shed, an ex wartime military store facility. A few school and university gyms were found that passed as training venues.

All that time I worked from Adelaide, outside my “daytime job”, spending virtually every second weekend in Melbourne. Communications were a problem, since even simple telephone calls were exorbitantly expensive. As planning progressed it became obvious that my task was not only that of the organiser, but also the technical director, since there was no one else on the organising committee, who had the volleyball knowledge and experience that I had collected at the World Championships in Mexico. One of the major, initial tasks was to write the Tournament Rules and Regulations. It was just another penalty for being first! Sure, Japan and South Korea would have been able to help, but they did not offer and we were much too proud to ask.

SPONSORSHIPS AND OTHER CHORES

Meanwhile we cast around for sponsorships. It was a great thrill, when an approach to Holden resulted in the donation of six brand new Premier sedans, to be used as VIP transport for the duration of the tournament. It paid to have names like Sir Edgar Tanner on the letterhead of the organising committee! I kept one of them for exclusive use of the organising committee headquarters and for the other we turned up enough volunteer drivers to be fully operational when the time came. My approaches to Japanese volleyball equipment manufacturers resulted in Tachikara donating some match balls and Tiger agreeing to print tournament posters with their promotional slogans, of course. At the time I had good connections with Ansett Airlines, then the major Australian domestic carrier, and managed to extract a $1000 cash donation, which would have been by far the biggest cash grant volleyball had received up to that time.

Not everything went as smoothly as that. Far from it! A few months before the event, I received a phone call from the Tiger agent, to say that the posters were ready and how did I propose to pay for the freight. I had never thought of that! Trying not show my apprehension, I asked, as casually as I could manage, how much did they weigh and when he mentioned a figure of several hundred kilograms, my mouth dried up. No, they were sorry, but covering the cost of airfreight was not in their budget, was the answer to my next, obvious question. We did not have any money for that either and the only possible solution that came to my mind, was to go, cap in hand, to Qantas, the airline that proudly announced being Australian and supporting Australian sport. It turned out to be the right move. After some negotiations Qantas agreed to transport the posters to Australia. Unfortunately, when we received them they turned out to be very large and although beautifully designed and coloured, printed on high quality thick paper, they were not very practical. There were not many places in Australia, where we could readily display them and we had almost one thousand of them.

REAL WORK BEGINS

I had decided to take a month off work, running up to the event. This was more than my annual leave, a time that rational people usually spend with their families or relaxing with a cold beer. There were a myriad of details to sort out and arrange before and during the tournament. Initially I was put up by Eric Hayman and one of the bedrooms in his house became my office. Finalising details about participants and their travel details was done by telegram. It was too late for letters and too early for internet – about thirty years too early. Despite everything, information ranged from scarce to non-existing and to make the event program reasonably interesting, I had to scrape up whatever information I had and make up the rest.. The program was ready on time, but that, as it turned out, was the least of our problems.

About a week before the event, I moved my “office”, a room, kindly provided by Monash University. This was also, where the teams would be accommodated in student hostel facilities. At last I had a dedicated telephone and as it turned out, a very efficient secretary. I could at long last finalise the details of team accommodation, allocation of training venues and times and complex bus transport schedules, always with an eye on savings, no matter how small.

THE TEAMS ARRIVE

The first teams to arrive, six or seven days prior to the commencement of the games, were the Chinese. This was still the era of Mao Tse Tung and the proper attire for the team officials were the “monkey jackets” as we called them before the era of political correctness. From the very beginnings, as if deliberately, they set out to make life as miserable as possible for the organisers. The accommodation was not up to standard, the food was not very good and the biggest sticking point was one hour training time allocated per team per day. Some of the complaints, especially the training times, may have been valid, but we could not afford to provide any more and it was in the rules – which I had written. They repeated the requests several times a day, until, in desperation, I arranged with my secretary Sue Harris to make me unavailable to the Chinese.

“Sorry, but Mr Lebedew is not in the office. No, I don’t know when he will be back.” It worked for a few days, but then they changed the angle of attack, or so I thought. They asked to meet Mr. Lebedew urgently on an important matter. Assuming that this would be a blow up of atomic proportions, I had Sue put them off as long as possible, but then deciding I would have to face the music eventually, allocated a time and place. I arrived deliberately a little late, with the apology that I was very busy and found my worst fears founded. All the Chinese officials, managers, assistant managers, coaches, the team captains and the interpreter were gathered around the conference table. I barely listened to the interpreter, who passed on the management’s platitudes on what a difficult job I had and how brilliantly I was carrying it out, waiting for what I thought would be the inevitable crunch line. When it came, it was totally unexpected. The general manager asked for my permission to present me with a gift on behalf of the volleyball teams of the Peoples’ Republic of China. The presentation was made jointly by the two captains and it was a beautiful set of black lacquered nesting boxes with a traditional Chinese design. I was touched almost to tears. There were handshakes and embraces all round and for the rest of the tournament I went to some trouble, if necessary, to accommodate my newly found Chinese friends, if it was at all possible. However, albeit inadvertently, that was not the end of our Chinese problems.

TEAMS AND TEAM MEETINGS

We made it compulsory for all team managers to attend a briefing session every morning after breakfast, to pass on the latest instructions and hear any complaints or suggestions. Whilst everybody usually had something to say, the Korean Chef-de-Mission stood out with his standard response: “No problems!” Although his name was Kim, like seemingly millions of other Koreans, he became known to the organising staff as Mr No Problems.

Other teams started arriving and things got really busy, for me anyhow. I met them all at the airport, gave them all the necessary familiarisation speeches, listened with sympathy to their problems and found good reasons why we could not fulfil their requests. Pleading poor, which was mostly the real reason, was not the option. After all we did have our national pride. Apart from that, there were the playing venues and equipment to organise, the VIP reception, the Opening Ceremony and God knows what else. My working day stretched to between eighteen and twenty hours, the rest I badly needed for sleep and to achieve that essential peace and quiet, only two people knew the number of my room at the Monash University students’ hostel and they were under instructions not to wake me unless nuclear holocaust was imminent.

THE INDONESIAN SAGA

A mystery emerged a couple of days before the opening ceremony. The time for the arrival of the Indonesian team came and went, but there was no Indonesian team. Enquiries with both Qantas and Garuda Airlines hit a brick wall. This was the era of airliner high jacks and no one would divulge passenger list information to may be terrorists. After spending a day, pleading, cajoling and offering bribes in the form of free volleyball tickets, I eventually softened the hearts of the airlines booking girls. This was not much help either. Nobody, even remotely resembling an Indonesian volleyball team could be found on the passenger manifests. I left my office number with everybody, to get in touch with me if there was any news and continued with the other chores one of them being a discussion with Eric on our options to cover the holes in the program, assuming the team would not show up.

To fast forward somewhat to the conclusion of the saga, the day before the opening I received a phone call from customs at Tullamarine Airport, to say that they were holding a group of Indonesians, who said that they had come here to play volleyball. My Holden Premier beat some more speed records on the way to Tullamarine, after leaving instructions to organise a coach to pick up the team, as soon as I had confirmed that it was the lost party. At the airport I was ushered into the customs inner sanctum, where I found the long lost Indonesian volleyball team, with their luggage spread over several tables. I barely listened to the customs man who tried to explain what they could and could not bring into the country, the latter seemed to be all of the food delicacies they had in their luggage, I just wanted as soon as possible to get them out of the customs clutches and into mine, after all they had to play volleyball the following day. Back at the hostel, they were settled in and then the manager dropped the bomb shell, ordinary explosive this time, not nuclear. The team was not ready to play on the following day, he said, they had been travelling and needed to rest and train. After all the trouble they had caused with their late arrival, this was the last straw. They received little sympathy and were firmly told that if they did not turn out for the game tomorrow, they would forfeit their right to participate in the tournament.

They did play, albeit not very well, but they never told officially why they had turned up late. Through my spies, I gleaned that, they had spent several days at Djakarta Airport, waiting for Garuda to allocate them cheap, last minute seats. We were obviously not the only ones who were on a shoestring budget! This seemed strange, since the country at the time was a military dictatorship and their manager turned out to be an army colonel

MORE CHINESE PROBLEMS

Meanwhile, another trauma turned up to punish us for our sins. A souvenir tournament program had been printed in five thousand copies and after having a look at it, the Chinese delegation, registered a complaint, this time with a very valid reason. In the program, the Peoples Republic of China (Mainland China) was listed as the Republic of China, which was the official name of Taiwan, now known in the sporting world as Chinese Taipeh. At the insistence of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan had been officially expelled from the FIVB at the Mexico Congress in the previous year, after a political tussle, involving the Australian delegation that sided with the underdog. Somehow, the printing error was missed by everybody involved. This was indeed serious and the irate Chinese delegation demanded that the brochures be destroyed and new ones printed with the correction included. This was not on, even if we could afford to pay for it. Not very friendly negotiations dragged on into a second day. We even contacted the office of Frank Stewart, the then Minister for Tourism and Recreation in the Whitlam government, in the hope that there may be an elegant diplomatic solution. His response was not very helpful, it was: “Tell the ……….(unprintable word) so and sos, to get………” (another unprintable word); not very elegant, we thought and did not take it on. Eventually we dreamt up an alternative to which the Chinese reluctantly agreed. That was to make a large stamp and to stamp the front cover of every program, telling the readers to insert ‘Peoples Republic of China’, wherever they see ‘Republic of China’.

THE OPENING CEREMONY

At last it was O-day, time for the Opening Ceremony. Everything seemed to be in place. The teams would march in and line up on the court. The team chiefs and other VIPs would take their places on an elevated platform, under the flags of the participating nations displayed high under the stadium roof. All seemed to be in order – but not quite. The Chinese Chef-de-Mission buttonholed me as soon as he saw me. “Our ambassador will not be very happy”, he said. When I looked puzzled, he pointed silently to the Chinese flag above the VIP platform. Sure enough, it was hanging upside down; the little circle of golden stars was at the bottom of the flag instead of at the haft. I mumbled an apology and it was obvious to both of us that nothing could be done to reach the offending object at the time. So it did not cause an international incident after all. The show went on. The two Australian teams’ captains on behalf of all the athletes read out my modified version of the Olympic amateurism and spirit of fairness oath. The final address and official opening was performed by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (no Sport yet!), The Honorable Frank Stewart. Unfortunately, at the pre match reception in the VIPs room, my overzealous helpers made sure that his glass was never empty, so that by the time he got to the podium, he mumbled his words and stumbled over his feet, but in the end, all was well. I firmly believed in the old adage that in any undertaking at some stage a point is reached when everything that was going to go wrong, had gone wrong and from that point on it was all plain sailing. As far as I was concerned, that point was reached with the referee’s first whistle, announcing in fact – let the Games begin.

IMPORTANT MATTERS

The only contribution, the powerful and rich Japan Volleyball Association made to the First Asian Volleyball Championships, was to include in their party a very experienced international referee. He assumed the role of Chief Referee and, with the help of our officials, took over the rostering of match officials, thus relieving me of an extra burden.

One other matter was to be resolved. This was the beginning of the era of drug testing and the FIVB decreed, albeit without stipulating any details or offering any assistance that after each match one of the players from each team was to be drug tested. At one stage I took aside the Japanese Chief Referee aside and flatly told him that we did not have any money for drug testing and what could we do about it. After some discussion we agreed that after a couple of matches we would repeatedly announce throughout the stadium, that one player from each team was to be tested, presumably to scare the drug cheats, and then, conveniently forget about it. So it was done and no drug cheats were unmasked, maybe because there were none. After all, what did volleyball players of the 1970s know about ephedrine or any of the other performance boosting concoctions and what was performance anyhow? The Australian teams assembled in Melbourne and trained together for three or four days before the event. For that time, it was considered very good preparation.

THE TOURNAMENT

When at long last the first whistle announced the beginning of the real thing, seven men’s teams, Japan, South Korea, Peoples Republic of China, Australia, Philippines, Indonesia and New Zealand, and five women’s teams, Japan, South Korea, Peoples Republic of China, Australia and New Zealand, (both in order in which they finished), took to the courts to play a total of thirty-one matches, six of them in country centers, Bendigo, Wangaratta and Warnambool. Since the numbers were less than eight, the method of play was round robin. In the absence of any convoluted instructions for the draw, I seeded the team to the best of my knowledge, so that the matches on the final night could be advertised as the finals. This was the way it turned out. In the Festival Hall, North Melbourne, in front of some 3,000 spectators, Japanese women easily beat Korea in three sets, to take first place, whilst the men’s team completed the double with some difficulty in four sets. Both Australian teams thrilled the final night’s crowd, bravely but vainly trying to counter the might of China to take fourth place. It was well past midnight, when the final whistle blew and after the medal presentation and the appropriate national anthems, it was all over

There was an intriguing twist to the finals night. It turned out that during the course of the Championships the top Japanese representative team had been touring the Soviet Union, playing six matches in different cities. However, so important was our event for the Japanese, that, to make certain of first place, they flew the great pair of spiker – blockers Oko and Minami with the world ranking setter Nekoda, directly from Moscow to Melbourne, just for the final match.

MY FAMILY

Two or three days before the end of the tournament, I brought my family to Melbourne and we moved into a motel near the venue. At that stage of their lives, Mark, eight years old and Alexis, six years, were both equivocal about volleyball; past the stage of just knocking the ball around, but not sure what to do next. At the time volleyball did not cater for kids until they were at least in high school. So the brothers’ first exposure to world class volleyball did not presage their future in any way. Watching with their mother from the stands, Mark apparently exhibited some interest, whilst Alexis, despite the noise, quietly dozed through both finals. Not even their biased father would have dared to predict that here were two future Olympic coaches and that would be only the start.

THE WASH UP

During the following days all participants received attractive participation certificates, compliments of the City of Melbourne and featuring its coat of arms. There were fond farewells at the airport and that was the end.

All that was left to do was to tie up all the loose ends and with some trepidation, wait for the profit and loss statement. To the great relief of everybody in the know, Eric and Wolfgang declared that no losses were incurred. The only damage was to one of the Premiers and the pride of the volunteer driver, who ran it into something solid on the last day of the tournament.

So, we had succeeded in our two major tasks, to bring the spectacle of world class volleyball to the Australian public – and to break even.

GRAND FINALE

Finally, it was all over!

The First Asian Volleyball Championships marched into history as an unqualified success. It was made possible because of the vision of a few individuals, with a blind belief in the cause, who ignored the difficulties and were prepared to put up the necessary huge amount of time, effort and risk money, their own, purely for the glory of our sport and some personal almost spiritual satisfaction that the challenge can be met. They succeeded in switching on a spot light, to illuminate a sport little known at the time in this country and becoming pioneers in this completely new venture.

For virtually all sports, this was still the era of honorary officials, be they club or association secretaries, administrators, coaches, referees or for that matter, players. They were often called amateurs, which many rightly regarded as a derogatory term implying lack of competence. Far from it! In most cases they were highly skilled administrators / organizers; it is just that they were doing it for the love of sport rather than monetary rewards.

The author, whose professional career was spent at the Weapons Research Establishment, now the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, Salisbury, South Australia, some years later was honoured by the award of the Order of Australia Medal for services to volleyball and sport administration.

Appointment of the first full time volleyball administrator in Australia was still some years away. He was to be Eric Granger, who became General Manager of the South Australian Volleyball Association Inc.

Would this type of undertaking be possible in our era of paid CEOs and their staffs, budgets, balance sheets, risk assessments, grants, subsidies and sponsorships?

I do not think so!

SEQUEL

The Second Asian Volleyball Championships were held in 1979, in Bahrain and, of course, fully funded by the Bahraini government, as were no doubt all the other fifteen after that, by their respective governments. So it could be said, that we were not only the first swallows but also the Last Mohicans, The Professional Amateurs.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

Cover v2

 

Blocking Statistics

For a long time I didn’t think much about blocking statistics. The standard measure was blocks per set and that is the measure I used.
I had my first epiphany on the topic when I first noticed that the best blocking team in my league was only ranked fifth according to the current statistical norm. In this case the statistics were clearly not an accurate reflection of the actual game. So I started to dig deeper.
The first two logical steps were opponent’s attack percentage, as a general guide, and block percentage (ie percentage of opponent’s attacks blocked), for more detail. With these two figures I feel I have a much better grasp of how my team actually blocks.
But in the individual sense this doesn’t completely fill the void of understanding, especially when it comes to judging the real effectiveness of middle blockers.
Which leads me to my question…

Assuming access to all raw data, which statistic would most accurately measure the contribution of a middle blocker to team success?
Discuss

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

Cover v2

Peter Blange Scouting Video

While digging up my old VHS tapes to convert to digital I came across an old scouting tape I made of Dutch master (witty, eh!) setter Peter Blange.  At the time I was looking at how setter’s decisions were influenced by their position on the court.  I don’t know if Data Video existed at that time, but if it did I didn’t use it.  I had a friend (thanks, Clarky, wherever you are) who had an Apple editing suite and did all the edits by hand.  It took forever!! If I had my time again, I would have a longer lead in time to each set to watch his movement better.

The matches are semi final and final of the 1997 European Championships played in Eindhoven.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Don’t Blame The Rules… (Part Two)

I have had and heard several discussions in recent years about the current ball handling rules that allow ‘double hits’ on the first contact.  What I often hear is that the game has become less skillful and ‘dumbed down’.  I find these statements to be utterly at odds with my personal experience.  Volleyball players are far more skilled than they have ever been in the past.  Twenty years ago it was easy to produce an aesthetically pleasing underarm pass in very large part because the serve took several seconds to arrive at its target.  In 2014 serving is many degrees more difficult, especially the jump float serve.  When I watch women’s volleyball I am constantly astounded at how they can receive at all.  I would contend that the technical proficiency required to receive those serves is extremely high, although it doesn’t seem to meet the aesthetic requirements of some.

Just because a particular technique becomes legal it does not mean it is automatically better and it definitely does not mean that coaches are required to use it.  The reality is that at the highest level the ability to successfully perform an underarm pass continues to be an essential requirement.   All players should learn and be proficient at it.  However, I understand that many coaches teach their young players to receive serve in the first instance with an overhand pass, leading to the ‘unskillful’ and ‘dumbed down’ comments of appointed judges… er, spectators. As I wrote in my last post, it is vital to remember that the coach controls his own training environment.  It is the coach who decides which techniques to teach his players and at what stage in the development.

So if you are unhappy with the technical (and aesthetic) level of the players, don’t blame the rules…

… blame the coaches.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Don’t Blame The Rules…

I have had and heard several discussions in recent years about the current net touch rules that allow to touch parts of the net without a fault being called.  Unsightly and dangerous are just two of the many criticisms that are directed at this particular rule.  And my particular favourite, that players don’t learn body control – ‘like in the good old days’.  While I have not seen them, I have heard of many situations that occur at lower levels that are indeed unsightly and dangerous.  And perhaps the players do not learn body control.

But all of these situations describe matches.  Players learn to play volleyball in practice.  They learn to avoid dangerous situations in practice.  They learn body control in practice.  The practice environment is controlled by the coach and guided by the rules.  In his own gym the coach can, and must, impose appropriate training rules to optimise individual and team development.  Dangerous activity and learning body control fall into those categories*.

So if you are unhappy with the game, don’t blame the rules…

… blame the coaches.

 

* Coaches can’t do much about unsightly.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Technical Feedback

A coach that I worked with once told me that it was the responsibility of the coach to know everything there was to know about each technique to the smallest and finest detail.  I completely agree coaches must be extremely knowledgeable about technique.

Another colleague maintains that all techniques can be boiled down to a maximum of three key points.  A ‘Rule of Three’, if you will.  I completely agree that the coach must be able to choose the most important of the multitude of elements that he already knows about.

Learning exists only in the presence of feedback.  But a coach who gives feedback on all of the details that he knows will get nowhere with the player.  Even a coach who focuses on only three elements dilutes the attention of the learner and so the effectiveness of the feedback.

The art of providing effective feedback is to find the particular point in the chain of the technique that will have the greatest efvfect on the whole.  Is there one single element that will improve the whole movement? That is the point on which we should concentrate our feedback.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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