The most recent edition of The Net Live podcast was mostly dedicated to the demise of the AVP. But not only. In the first of a regular series about women’s college volleyball they talked to University of Washington coach Jim McLaughlin. McLaughlin is one of the most well known and respected coaches in the US, having won national championships with both men and women (info here, here, here and an interview here). One of the questions they asked was what is the difference between coaching men and women. In his answer he described the two most important aspects of volleyball as mechanics and eye work.
Mechanics is technique. This was a major theme of a clinic I attended with US coaching guru Carl McGown. There is one way of performing each skill that is simply better than all the other ways, based on mechanics. And the quality of the coach is in how he/she teaches the mechanics. Mechanics is the major limitation in performing skills, whether man or woman.
‘Eye work’ is what you look at. ‘Eye work’ is what separates good teams from bad teams, whether men or women. He also mentioned that ‘eye work’ determines timing and that is no different between men and women.
The interesting point to me is firstly the catchphrase ‘eye work’ and equally in the idea of ‘eye work’ being central to volleyball. I have long thought that a major factor in decision making ability lies in the visual information a player receives, and very specfically what he/she is looking at during the play. After all logically, information collection proceeds processing in the decision making pathway. With the exception of blocking, where eye sequences have long been described, my feeling is that this is a point that is under emphasised by coaches and one that I have been working on in other skill areas.
The catchphrase and the description let me think about it a new way.