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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.

The Danger Of Volleyball

Apparently during World Championships action today two players suffered ankle injuries in a single set.  With the foot injury suffered by the Bulgarian Yosifov earlier in the tournament (see video below), the ‘spate’ of injuries prompted a reader on the facebook page to comment that the FIVB needs to change the centre line rules.  I didn’t see either of the current actions so I don’t know if they were the result of legal or illegal actions so I’ll assume for the moment that they were both legal actions.

The first thing I will say is that Ruben Acosta tried to address this issue about ten years ago but despite his not inconsiderable power, he couldn’t even persuade people to have a discussion about it.  So the groundswell of support to change the rule is essentially zero.

Another thing that is essentially zero is the chance of incurring an ankle injury.  So the second thing I will say is that there is no reason to change the rule.  This week three players suffered very visible injuries.  Therefore we have the danger of net actions at the forefront of our mind.  But how dangerous are these actions in reality?  We know that in a men’s volleyball match each team has about 100 spikes per match.  Each of these theoretically creates an injury risk by having spikers and blockers jumping very close to each other.  So in a match we have 200 spikes.  In this tournament there are 103 matches.  In total there will be about 20,000 ‘injury risk moments’ of which three have led to injury.  That means there is an injury roughly every 6,500 actions.  The probability of injury is a number very, very close to zero.  If you look at it another way, the teams will play 206 matches this tournament.  That total of three injuries means a team could expect to have a foot injury about once every 70 matches, or an individual could have one about once every 420 matches.  In my team I have had one ankle injury during a match in the last five seasons, about 170 matches.

I think when an ankle injury occurs we should not think about how many of them there are, because there are actually hardly any.  We should be thinking of how few there are and how insanely improbable it is to happen at all.

The phenomenon of incorrectly judging probability is very common.  The most visible example being that of shark attacks.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Previous Post – Bad Coaching 101

Bad Coaching 101

A week or so ago, I asked on the facebook page how much the rules of the game drive or guide the development of technique.  As always it led to an interesting discussion.  Thanks to everyone who contributed their two cents worth.  However, by framing discussion as I did I masked my true intent.

The question was ‘inspired’ by several experiences I have had in the last couple of months working with and observing coaches in action.  In my observations many coaches, far too many coaches, are conducting their trainings without respecting the most basic rules of volleyball.

The most basic rules of volleyball, in some order, are:

- The ball cannot be caught

- The ball cannot touch the ground

- The ball must go over the net and into the court

- The lines must be respected Continue reading

Talent and ‘It’

A recent article appearing on grantland.com discussed in great detail the ‘It Factor’ as it related to the NFL.  In short, the ‘It Factor’ could be described as the intangibles that define the quality of a player beyond his physical, technical and tactical abilities and by extension contribute to his success (or otherwise).  To cut a long story short, and like everything on Grantland it is a long story, you can’t define the ‘It Factor’, predict its development, or in many cases identify it before the fact.  And yet there are clearly people who possess those qualities.  I find a lot of parallels here to various discussions about talent.  The last paragraph of the story is perfect as it is. Continue reading

Quotes – Part 3

Over the last couple of years on the facebook page I have posted quotes that jumped out at me from various sources.  Here is the third collection of some of them. In no particular order.  Part 1 is here.  Part 2 is here.

“Every player should take 5 minutes to themselves before practice and mentally lock into what needs to be done. Jeff Boals

“Training doesn’t have to be certain length of time to be effective.” Mark Lebedew

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. Ken Robinson

“The interesting thing about coaching is troubling the comfortable and comforting the troubled.” Ric Charlesworth

“Practice is the battle you must win.” Hugh McCutcheon

“The bagger is the technique of lazy.” Daniele Bagnoli

“After the game is before the game.” Sepp Herberger

“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas. Susan Cain

“Victories come when their time comes. Often later than you wish. Patience is an essential quality of a coach’s profession.” Vyacheslav Platonov

“It’s not all rainbows and ponies.” Hugh McCutcheon

“You cannot buy experience. You have to fight for it.” Marc Wilmots

“The idea that I [should] trust my eyes more than the stats, I don’t buy that because I’ve seen magicians pull rabbits out of hats and I know that the rabbit’s not in there.” Billy Beane

“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.” Pat Riley

“Volleyball is not like a formula so we must give players some freedom.” Karch Kiraly

“Great organisations choose principles over people. When you give up on the principles, sooner or later you will break down.” Ettore Messina

“What you see is more important than what you know.” Giovanni Guidetti on scouting Continue reading

Quotes – Part 2

Over the last couple of years on the facebook page I have posted quotes that jumped out at me from various sources.  Here is the second collection of some of them. In no particular order.  Part 1 is here.

“Young players learn more from old players than they do from you” Wayne Bennett

“In my opinion the teaching of volleyball technique, …, must always be correlated with tactical tasks.”
Vyacheslav Platonov.

“You don’t have to do some thing, or even any thing.
You have to do the right thing.” Mark Lebedew

“You win by effort, by commitment, by ambition, by quality, by expressing yourself individually but in the team context.” Jose Mourinho

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes, which can be made, in a very narrow field.” Nils Bohr

“Sometimes you win because you have the better team. Sometimes you win because you have the better concept. Sometimes you win because you have more heart.
And sometimes you win because you score the last point.” Mark Lebedew

“For the players to put their minds and vigour into the game is not enough for victory. They must also put in their souls. The team that gives up to the game all its strengths and puts into it its mind and soul cannot leave the court defeated.” Vyacheslav Platonov

How long should you practice? “It really doesn’t matter how long. If you practice with your (body), no amount is enough. If you practice with your head, two hours is plenty.” Anders Ericsson Continue reading

Quotes – Part 1

Over the last couple of years on the facebook page I have posted quotes that jumped out at me from various sources.  Here is a collection of some of them. In no particular order.

“From failure you learn ten times more. Victory gives you ten minutes of peace, but then it makes you stupid.” Pep Guardiola

“Being a coach is fascinating. That is why it is so difficult for some to give up. It’s sweet, a constant feeling of excitement, your head is going at 100mph all the time.” Pep Guardiola

“In a club’s normal practice sessions, the idea is for the coaches to push the players so that they work just one notch harder than they want to work.” Phil Jackson

“The key is not the “will to win” – everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” Bobby Knight

“Football is not art. But there is an art to playing good football. … It is also very difficult to play simple football. It is the same with artists. The best work is not difficult, it is simple.” Ruud Krol

“I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.” Michaelangelo

“Football, as anything else, is always a series of problems. Your success will depend on how well you are prepared and how well you handle those problems as they come along.” Bill Walsh

“Success is about having. Excellence is about being.” Mike Ditka

“There’s a different between knowing the path and walking the path.” Morpheus

“If you make every game a life and death proposition you’re going to have problems. For one thing, you’ll be dead a lot.” Dean Smith

“Real competitiveness is what you do when the opponent is yourself.” Mark Lebedew
Continue reading

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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