Featured post

Platonov Book On Sale Now

Book Scans Cover Front Cover v2

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.

Spot The Mistake

Volleyball is, on balance, a fairly easy sport to officiate.  The teams are separated, the actions are fairly predictable and the view of the referees is relatively unimpeded.  Still, every so often something happens in a game that is unexpected that a referee misses.  And if the ‘offending’ team is smart (obviously depending on your point of view on sportsmanship and gamesmanship) about it, you can get away with stuff.

Here is a clip from the 2014 Men’s World Championship.

See if you can spot the error.

And why the referee (and everyone else) missed it.

Learning From Stars

”Do not be afraid to learn from players.  Especially new techniques.  “Stars” become “stars” because they do many things non standard, not by the text book.”

Readers of this blog will instantly recognise the above quote from Vyacheslav Platonov, which I have used before.  I was reminded of it recently reading one of the many articles produced to mark the retirement of Steve Nash from the NBA.  The article talks among other things, about how Nash’s style of play affected the way basketball was taught.  For example:

Before he started winning MVPs, old axioms like having two hands on the ball while passing still ruled the basketball landscape. Nash not only made one-handed passing cool, but necessary. Trainers and coaches watching him play noticed that he passed with one hand not for flair or attention, but because it offered more efficient, less restrictive angles for getting the ball to his teammates.

In other words, the star player became a star by doing non standard things.  And eventually (because I am guessing it really did take until he won MVPs for it to happen) coaches recognised that using another technique actually created advantages and actually began to teach it.

So when we see players like Earvin N’Gapeth (as in this post with video) we should always keep an open mind.

Champions League Review… Of Sorts

photo CEV.lu

I am on the record as saying that the European Champions League Final Four is the best event on the volleyball calendar.  I am also on record as saying that my career goal is to participant in the Champions League Final Four.  Having achieved my goal, I can confirm to you that my belief is correct.  And having achieved my goal, and confirmed my belief, there is no conceivable way that I can write about the event with any kind of objectivity.  Plus I hardly saw any of it.  However, I do have two observations that might be worth sharing.

The best organised and structured team I have ever seen was the Trentino Volley team from about 2010 to 2012 with Raphael, Kaziyski and Juantorena.  They were so perfectly structured that you could predict what they would do at any time and their block / defence structure seemed suffocate their opponents.  I once made that comment to a colleague who worked in Italy and saw them play a lot.  He replied, “You’re observations are correct, but if you watch them a lot you will be surprised to find that as good as they are, they actually win a lot of their matches because Juantorena gets a service series at a key moment.”  In other words, as good as they were as a team, their team play was not enough. And Juantorena was so good that even in a champion team he stood out and was decisive.  Which brings me to Wilfredo Leon.  The Zenit Kazan team has arguably the world’s best setter, the world’s best opposite and one of the world’s best outside hitters, plus the starting outside hitters from the last European Champion team sitting on the bench**.  But Leon is another level completely.  At the biggest event in Europe, among probably ten of the best twenty players in the world he was the dominant player and difference maker.  Choosing him as MVP was probably the most obvious award in volleyball history.

The second observation is about volleyball itself.  In a setting like the one in the photo, volleyball is the most spectacular sport in the world.  And frankly, it is not even close.


** Respectively… Marouf, Mikhaylov, Anderson, Sivozhelez, Spiridonov. I said arguably.

“A Window To The National Team”

Sidrônio sent me a link to an article on the website of the Argentinian Volleyball Federation outlining the selection criteria Julio Velasco is using for the Argentinian National Team.  According to Google Translate it is very interesting.  I thought it was worth sharing even if it is not 100% accurate.  Please feel free to provide corrections in the comments.

A WINDOW TO THE NATIONAL TEAM + SELECTION CRITERIA FOR PLAYERS

BY JULIO VELASCO

Every coach uses a strategy to teach and train his team.  There are big differences between doing this for a national team and for a club team. There is no single or best strategy: there are many and team sport history proves it.  What is very important is that this strategy is clear and especially that it is consistent, and targets the team result while maintaining standards of justice that players can recognise.  It is not that all agree with the coach’s decisions, but that those decisions are understood and, therefore, are respected.

As coach of the national volleyball team, I would like to explain some of the criteria of the strategy used by myself and my staff.

1. Players are chosen on their technical level, the ability to understand the game, for their health and physical characteristics, personal characteristics for the game, by age and with respect to the roles in the team.

2. All of these capabilities are assessed by all the staff, although the last word, as is logical lies with the head coach.

3. These assessments have to respect some assumptions: the main factor to consider is how they play, taking into account matches with the national team and also with the club team. It is for this reason that players who do not play at the club level, are not invited to the national team.

4. As coach of the national I cannot interfere with decisions made by players, but I cannot favour the decision (of a player) to prioritise the economic factor above technical growth.  A player can choose a team that pays more but where he will be a reserve over another where he will earn less but will play.  In each case the National Team can also make a choice.

I also believe that if a player is unable to be a starter for his club team, he will not prevail against the best players in the world.  It is also a respect for the activity of clubs and the coaches who work in them.

Like any rule there may be some individual cases that are not specifically covered (for example a player did not know what awaited him at the club), but this does not change the fact that it is not possible to evaluate the player, because he has not played.

Obviously, these criteria on decisions on the players is debatable.  The important thing for me is that, at least, the reasons for certain decisions are known. Other factors, non sporting, for example, cannot be made public.  This is also the logic of things.

Quotes – Part 4

Everyone loves a good quote.  A good quote from a perceived expert can confirm a previously held prejudice… er, idea, or provide an important new insight.  Sadly, though, quotes taken out of their original context can intentionally or otherwise mislead the reader.

For example, as reported here, the purported Velasco quote “I am a coach, not a psychologist”, is actually:

“Some things do not work because we do not train them. For instance, we hit, the ball is overdug, it comes directly to us, it falls. Many coaches would say: my players are not focused, they have psychological problem. I coach perfectly, but I am not a psychologist, so I cannot do anything, it is not my fault. Psychology is the great excuse nowadays.”

The lesson is – Beware the pithy quote.

That having been said, I also love a good quote and have collected a few of them here.  Most have already appeared on either the facebook page and or Twitter page too (as well as probably dozens of other internet sources).  This is the fourth collection.  Part 1 is here.  Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

“I need to go where I know it’s going, not where I hope it’s going.” Karch Kiraly on service reception

“The longest metre in volleyball is a high ball set 2m from the net or 1m. The difference is your advantage or theirs. The difference is to be aggressive or passive.” Mark Lebedew

“It’s not the will to win that matters – everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” Bear Bryant

“The more you lose, the more positive you have to become.  When you’re winning, you can ride players harder because their self esteem is high.  If you are losing and you try to be tough, you’re asking for dissension.”  Rick Pitino

“It is not enough to do things well. Things must be done better than the others.” Julio Velasco

“‘It was a difficult decision to fire the coach’, actually means ‘The easiest thing to be seen to be doing something is to fire the coach.'”  Mark Lebedew

“The older I get the more I think sport is random… You have to put yourself in a good position, then you need a lot of luck.” Bill Simmons

“Excellence is like a bubble. You can look for it as much as you like but it only appears from time to time.” Pep Guardiola

“By striving for order and predictability in practice, coaches create a practice that appears to be good to observers and leads to immediate practice improvements, but fails to prepare players for the unpredictability of the game.” Brian McCormick

“We all have emotion and reason. We should not let either of them take care of everything.” Bernardinho

“Everybody likes the guy who works hard. Nobody likes the guy who tells you how hard he works.” Lloy Ball

“Sometimes being quiet and letting the player play is much more important than trying to be Mr. Coach and teach him this or teach him that.” Gregg Popovich

“You see it when you understand it.” Johan Cruyff

“Don’t dream it. Be it.” Frank N’ Furter

“When we lost, we did not say anything. We prepared from that day on in order to win again”. Julio Velasco

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” -Sun Tzu

“You have to be willing to fail, to improve.” Al Scates

“Excellence has neither any beginning nor any end. It is not a destination; rather it is a continuous passage….a perpetual voyage……towards infinity.” From ‘Friday Reflections’

“The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who wish to learn.” Cicero 75BC

“If you train badly, you play badly. If you work like a beast in training, you play the same way.” Pep Guardiola

“In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm… In the real world all rests on perseverance.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

On good teams coaches hold players accountable, on great teams players hold players accountable. Joe Dumars

 _________________________________________________________________________________________________

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

Cover v2

More Julio Velasco

Sadly when I was a younger coach, I heard a couple of quotes from Julio Velasco that were misrepresented to me or either deliberately or ‘accidently’ presented to me out of context.  From this lack of information I was not able to develop a true understanding of the breadth of his vision or his real impact on the game.  I regret that.

For example, I was presented with the quote ‘I am a coach, not a psychologist’.  I recently heard the full context from Alessandro Lodi, who has a native’s access to the original Italian.  The full quote is a lot more like…

“Some things do not work because we do not train them. For instance, we hit, the ball is overdug, it comes directly to us, it falls. Many coaches would say: my players are not focused, they have psychological problem. I coach perfectly, but I am not a psychologist, so I cannot do anything, it is not my fault. Psychology is the great excuse nowadays.” Continue reading

The Wisdom Of Julio Velasco – Part Two

As I wrote in Part One, Julio Velasco recently made a presentation at the USA Volleyball High Performance Coaches Clinic.  Blog reader David Cordes attended the presentation and kindly made his notes available.  Here are the notes for the second part of Velasco’s presentation.  Again they are presented as taken, without commentary.

– Coaching is an art , not a science – Doug Beal

– You can have your own art, your own style, but you can’t build a building that will fall down.

– Coaching is an Art like Architecture.

– Coaches build relationships with players and with other coaches the way architects build buildings.

– The way we coach can become an ideology. We like people who think like we do. So we tend to only communicate with and listen to others like ourselves.

– To be a good coach we must know how to convince players – how to play, how to practice, how to do skills.

– It is not important what the coach wants or likes, he has to convince his players.

– I use what is useful for my team. I know what is useful because I study volleyball from different cultures and ways.

– In Italy – you can build a perfect building but can’t build a perfect block?

– Hypothesis – maybe we lose because we play bad! We can change that. We don’t have to change our culture, or history. We just have to change how we play.

– We have to find solutions to our problems. Solutions that work for us. Situation: the set is low and tight to the net – do you like it? So how do we deal with that?

– For coaches we must find solutions to any situation just like we ask our players to do.

David also made the following general notes from the presentation…

– The coaches job to identify problems your team is having and find solutions for that problem and then convince your players to adopt that solution. You can’t just preach your ideology. You have to find out what works for your team and convince them to follow that teaching.

– The hard part for coaches is properly identifying the problem and then finding the right solution for it.

– The artful part of coaching is using your knowledge of volleyball to build relationships with your players and other coaches.

In addition, John Forman from the Coaching Volleyball blog was also in attendance and wrote a great post on part of the presentation that you can read here.

Today’s videos are from the first great Italian victory of the Velasco Era, the 1989 European Championships.