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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 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.

World Championships 2014 – Part Three

Some more thoughts about the recently completed World Championships.  Part One is here.  Part Two is here.

The Individuals – The thing that I will most remember about this World Championships is the individual performances.  I don’t recall any previous tournament (which is not the same as it never happened before) in which individual players so completed dominated individual games.  Four performances stick in my mind (from the games I saw). Continue reading

World Championships 2014 – Part Two

Some more thoughts about the recently completed World Championships.  Part One is here.

The Presentation – Among the traditional activities of the Awards Presentation (for example random people who nobody has ever heard of presenting medals) there was one quite odd occurrence.  While everyone was watching the Polish team celebrate on the court and the tournament staff prepare for the presentation, out of nowhere the Polish captain appeared in the stands and received the rather beautiful, almost certainly not stolen, trophy from the FIVB President.  I wasn’t expecting it at all and only saw it at the last second on the video screen.  He then gave the trophy to someone, and ran back onto the court to be with his teammates.  The trophy then made its own way to the court where it waited on a table like normal and was presented to the team at the end of the ceremony.  I had completely forgotten about the weird first presentation until two days later when it suddenly occurred to me they must have been trying to emulate the football presentation ceremony.  I laughed out loud.  I am quietly confident that not one single spectator remembers the event today.  It was completely out of place.

The Best Team – I don’t think this will be a tournament remembered for an outstanding team.  The star of the tournament will always be the tournament itself.  Poland proved itself to be at least the toughest team, losing only once (to the USA), winning four five set matches in a row in the second and third rounds and beating Brazil twice and Russia once.  Writing that sentence Continue reading

World Championships 2014

The World Championships that concluded on Sunday was the first of the social media / internet age. By that I mean news and results and updates and in many cases video were available in real time. In contrast the first World Championships that I was interested in (1986) essentially happened in private. The results arrived by sea post and the couple of videos that I received arrived literally by container. I try to remember this fact every time I’m about to angry that my live stream gets choppy. And it is the reason I can never get too upset that volleyball isn’t on TV.
This was also the first World Championships, at least for the last 40 years, without a clear favourite or favourites coming into the tournament. Before the event I commented that there were eight teams that would think they had real chances to win. It turned out that I underestimated that number.
Some thoughts… Continue reading