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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.

Team Points v Individual Points

In men’s volleyball serving is important, specifically serving to win direct points.  Servers who can score direct points are still highly sought after and for those servers, errors are ‘allowable’.  But what if those servers actually produced less overall points for a team than another server, who made less direct points and, presumably, less direct errors.

The question is …

What is more important : Team Break Points or Individual Aces?

I’m interested in your thoughts.

The Law Of Unintended Consequences – The Playing Area

France's Jenia Grebennikov attempt to save a ballAlmost without exception, when the FIVB makes a rule change I understand the logic behind it.  Virtually every rule change in my time in the game, and before, has had at least one of two main goals.  The major goal of most rule changes is to make the game more attractive.  Most of the time more attractive means making rallies longer as conventional wisdom holds that spectators are most interested in seeing long rallies.  The rule changes generally make it more difficult to attack and/or easier to defend.  Rule changes that affect the length of the game, i.e. rally point scoring, are also intended to make the game more attractive, in this case mostly for television, by controlling its length.  The other main goal of rule changes is to reduce the influence of referees by removing judgement calls.  Unnecessary interruptions are therefore minimised, by extension also making the game more attractive.  Although not all rule changes work, or work the way they are intended to work, at least I follow and accept the logic behind them.  The much derided rule allowing certain net touches, although poorly officiated and poorly explained to spectators and participants, was logical.  Even such poorly conceived ideas as the (completely ridiculous) ‘Golden Formula‘ and the (not ridiculous but not good either) 21 Point Set fit into some (more or less) logical construct.

But every now and again they come up with something that defies logic and will indisputably make the game less attractive.  The press release proclaims ‘Fans will be closer to the action‘.  While an excellent idea in principle, in practice fans may be closer but will actually see less volleyball.  To allow fans to be closer to the action FIVB will reduce the size of the playing area (NOT the court) from a free zone of 8m to a free zone of 6.5m behind the court.  Superficially that does not seem significant.  Unless you have ever watched a high level match.  The actions that are most attractive to spectators present in the stadiums are the dynamic actions at the net, and the desperate actions at the periphery of the playing area, i.e. the last two metres of the free zone.

So with this new rule the spectators close to the court will get close up views of players swearing and kicking the advertising boards that didn’t use to the be there but will be deprived of volleyball action.  That doesn’t seem like the intention of the rule.

Photo Credit: fivb.org

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Training Load

The above tweet is based on my experience.  It often happens that the players experience a level of fatigue that is not related to the intensity or load of practice, but related to the length of the practice.  For example, it is my experience that a two hour practice is more fatiguing than a one hour 45 minute practice regardless of the content of that practice.

I received one comment that interpreted my statement as being an argument against longer practices.  Whilst I personally tend to favour shorter practices, that was not the point I was trying to make.  My point was simply that in calculating the load in a particular training period, one should consider not just the number of jumps (for example) as a measure of load and the number of jumps per minute as a measure of intensity, but also include the time spent in the gym.  The time spent in the gym, just like the time spent in meetings, or travelling extracts a cost in and of itself.

I will argue for shorter practices, but another time…

The Best View?

“There’s no better angle, for sure, than the one from behind.”

Chris ‘Geeter’ McGee, The Net Live podcast.

The angle ‘Geeter’ is referring to here is the best angle for watching a volleyball match.  As all volleyball ‘experts’ know, the best position from which to view a volleyball match is from behind the court.  When I go to a match, I will always head to the back of the court.  During training, I will always wander in that direction.  That is the view I, and ‘Geeter’, feel gives us the best view of what is really happening and therefore provides us with the greatest understanding.

However, this view is not complete.  It provides the whole width of the court, but does not show the subtleties of depth, especially watching on video.  It is essentially a two dimensional view of a three dimensional game.  It is the best of all possible two dimensional views, but still not complete.  From time to time it is very valuable for a coach to check out a different view to improve his understanding of the game. Despite these weaknesses, we all agree that it is the best view.

But is it really the best?  The market says no.  When actually buying tickets for the biggest events, the tickets at floor level, behind the court are the cheapest and slowest selling.  The most expensive, fastest selling tickets are those along the sidelines, closest to the middle, in the first level.  So while volleyball ‘experts’ agree that the best place to understand the game is in one place, volleyball ‘fans’ understand that the best place to enjoy volleyball is a completely different place.  The view from the side definitely gives a much better impression of the dynamism and athleticism of the game.

So when hear that the TV coverage of volleyball is bad because of the camera angles, specifically the lack of a camera behind the court, I am not so sure.  I personally miss the level of understanding that I might normally have, but maybe I am in the minority, and maybe TV producers shouldn’t cater to my needs anyway.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Doug Beal, The Man Who Reinvented Volleyball

The following interview was conducted by Sidronio Henrique, a Brazilian journalist who covers volleyball in Brazilian and Canadian publications. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the recent World Championships and he was gracious enough to allow me to reproduce this interview with Doug Beal. The original article appeared on the Brazilian website www.falandodevolei.com.br

Doug Beal is a reference when it comes to volleyball. His interventions in the American team in the second half of the Olympic cycle towards Los Angeles 1984 resulted in a new passing system, something that also brought changes for attacking and blocking. Team USA grabbed the gold at those Olympic Games and also won every major for the next four years. Since those days, volleyball has never been the same.

He is currently the president of the American Volleyball Federation (USAV) and tries to popularize the sport in a market that loves baseball, American football and basketball. He has not advanced that much, but still believes it is possible to get a generous slice of the attention of the American public. “We need a very strong sponsor”, says Beal.

The man who created the modern volleyball is 67 years-old. He complains that volleyball is very physical now, that every team plays almost the same, and says the sport needs some changes. He talked about the 1984 squad, the development of the sport and about his plans to make it big in the USA.

 

Reporter – How could a team that had been placed 13th at the 1982 World Championship become Olympic champion in 1984? What happened in a span of just two years?

Doug Beal – Sometimes the outcome of a tournament does not reflect reality. The worlds in 1982 had 24 teams divided into six groups of four, only two moved on to play for the first to the 12th place, while others vied for the consolation tournament, from the 13th to the 24th place. Our team had played together for the first time in the previous year, we were just beginning to make some adjustments and our pool at that tournament in Argentina was very strong. (Editor’s note: In pool play Team USA finished third in a pool where they beat Chile 3-0, losing 2-3 to a strong Bulgaria, with 14-16 in the fifth set, and 0-3 for then the best team in the world, Soviet Union, but with very tight scores in every set)

However, our squad was already a good team, we had practically the same players that would eventually participate at the Los Angeles Olympics, so the 13th place in the 1982 worlds definitely did not reflect our status back then. The USSR was certainly the best team that year. Who was the runner up at that World Championship? Continue reading

The Law Of Unintended Consequences: The Libero

liberoFor as long as volleyball has been a performance sport, it has been defined on and off the court by the central battle between offence and defence.  The belief has long been held, and held to be inviolable, that the advantage of offence over the defence is to the detriment of the game.  Nearly every rule change over that time has been an attempt to redress that imbalance.

In the mid 1990’s the idea was hatched to improve the defence by including a specialist defensive player: the libero.  Secondary issues to be addressed were the increasing size of the players, and the ‘fall’ of Asian volleyball. The libero was going to solve all of those problems.  So did it?

In the short-term, there were no liberos, only outside hitters who couldn’t spike as well as other outside hitters.  And there were coaches, whose job it was to create the best solutions for their teams.  The coaches put those backup outside hitters to play backrow for the middle blockers. The short-term effect?  Reception became better, the offence became stronger.  Defence didn’t improve by very much.  On balance offence became even stronger.  By the Law of Unintended Consequences the libero rule was a failure. Continue reading

“How Volleyball Was Intended”

As one wanders through life as, one often comes across those among us who find that what one does now is not authentic.  Things used to be better.  They are no longer done as they were ‘intended’.

I am reasonably comfortable in the belief that upon reading those last two sentences you will immediately be able to come up with some volleyball specific examples.  But if not, I am talking about those who complain about the net touch rules, or the ball handling rules, or the scoring system, or the size of the court (in beach volleyball).

The argument goes something like, ‘in the old days, we could only underarm pass like volleyball was supposed to be’ or ‘the 9m x 9m court is the way beach volleyball was intended to be played’.  I don’t really like those arguments for two reasons.  Firstly, they are completely wrong.  Okay, only one reason.

On February 9, 1895, in Holyoke, Massachusetts (USA), William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director, created a new game called Mintonette as a pastime to be played (preferably) indoors and by any number of players. … Mintonette was designed to be an indoor sport, less rough than basketball, for older members of the YMCA, while still requiring a bit of athletic effort. from Wikipedia

Basketball, a sport that was beginning to develop, seemed to suit young people, but it was necessary to find a less violent and less intense alternative for the older members. from fivb.org

So there you have it.  Volleyball was ‘intended’ to be a low level physical activity for middle aged businessmen.  I will make the assumption that volleyball actually ceased to be ‘as it was intended’ about a month after it was invented or, at the latest, the first time two teams decided to keep the score.  Anyone who makes a statement about how volleyball in ‘intended’ to be is just taking an arbitrary moment in history and choosing to apply a value judgement to that moment.  Any historical moment chosen (including 2014 but not including 1895) is equally (in)valid.

My message for everyone who wants to see volleyball as it was intended … wait until you are about 45 and can’t get up and down a basketball court anymore.  Then call any number of your friends (see above) and head on down to the Y.  You’ll have fun the net is only 1.98m.