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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.

“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

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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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.

The Wisdom Of Julio Velasco – Part One

As I posted by last post, on the opposite side of the world, David Cordes was posting notes he took during a recent presentation by Julio Velasco on the Volleyball Coaches and Trainers facebook page.  I thought the notes were worthy of a wider/different audience.  I include them exactly as they appeared in the original, which David assures me is exactly as he noted them in real time.  I think they are useful as they stand without commentary.  Below the post is a short video of Velasco’s Panini Modena team that started the revolution in Italian volleyball.

– Don’t teach volleyball but teach how to play volleyball.

– Talk about how the game is – not how it should be.

– Coaches must know and visualize the level of play of their team. Don’t try to teach 14 year olds to play like the National Team.

– The video in your head has to be what your team can do, or is doing now, not how you think they should play in several years.

– Communication – i.e. serve receive, “Mine” means ‘I got it’. Saying nothing means ‘you got it’.

– When a player makes a mistake do you talk about technique or the decision making that led to the mistake?

– Is the problem technical or playing decisions?

– When you train – train, don’t talk so much!

– Skills Techniques and ‘how to play’ are equally important.

– Coaches need to coach themselves to see a match and understand what is happening.

– Train yourself to see a lot of things at the same time.

– Use the right solution for the problem.

– One thing is to play volleyball – not to play with a volleyball.

– Being rigid and inflexible squashes creativity and imagination.

– Difference between ‘skills’ and ‘game skills’. ‘Game skills’ are the skills used in games.

– Improve the skills they use, not the ideal stuff.

– Teach the basic skills to beginners, but start using and copying game skills as soon as possible.

– Go to where the ball goes.

Julio Velasco – The Thinker Of The Game

Volleyball does a terrible job of promoting itself and its history.  Most other sports have legendary heroes and characters about whom we can read and hear.  Volleyball does not.  There is no volleyball literature. and virtually no written histories or biographies.  Incredibly important figures such as Matsudaira and Platonov and Beal are virtually unknown in the wider volleyball community and even those who know of them, do not know their influence, their philosophies, their visions, their successes.

Another of those figures is Julio Velasco.  An Argentinian, he moved to Italy where he had enormous success at club level, with Panini Modena, and the Italian national team.  In terms of training methodology and development and success he is one of the most influential coaches of the last thirty years.  And through his successes he helped drive the volleyball boom in Italy that I think we can call the Golden Age Of Volleyball (roughly 1990 to 2005).  But there exists virtually nothing of his philosophies, theories or work in English.  I find this quite appalling and an enormous loss for the volleyball world.

This is my first attempt at addressing that failing.  The interview below appeared almost a year ago now, in the Argentinian journal LA NACION on the occasion of his returning to Argentina after thirty years as national coach.  It was translated into English by fellow Argentinian coach Ruben Wolochin.  I hope it adds something to the conversation. 

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Everything Is Timing – Mythbusters Edition

There are (at least) three myths in volleyball.

‘It’s all about repetitions’

‘Good setters see the block’

‘Good spikers can spike in every direction’

I have written a lot about the first myth.

I have never written about the second, but I can assure that it is not true.

The third myth was part of the background to my recent ‘Everything Is Timing‘ post.  In that post, I asked the question ‘At what moment does the spiker decide whether to spike cross court or down the line?’  That is the big decision that spikers must make.

The poll results were interesting.  Over 50% of respondents answered that the spiker makes this major decision when he sees the blockers hands, i.e. at the very last moment.  I am reasonably certain that this is the only incorrect answer.  For that statement to be true, it would require a spiker to be able to control his armswing in to spike in a full 90° range after the motor program has been initiated.  I suggest that is improbable.  You will find that spikers who seem to spike in every direction, don’t do so with full power.  One of the directions is most often a shot or some kind.

The reality, I believe, is that the spiker chooses his main direction (line or cross) early in the process.  In some cases the set dictates the spike direction (‘the set leads the spiker’).  In other cases, the spiker sees the starting position of the blockers, or some characteristic of their movement.  In still other cases, a spiker just has a favourite shot.  Once the main decision has been taken, the spiker can then make small adjustments of height, angle and timing much later depending on the final movements of the blockers.  This explains the phenomenon of a spiker who is effective even though he always hits the same shot.  And the phenomenon of the ‘cross’ spiker who suddenly hits line.

Sometimes things aren’t the way you think they are.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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