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Volleyball Coaching Wizards

Apart from giving me an outlet to write about things in volleyball that interest and intrigue me, the main themes of this blog (and Facebook page and Twitter feed) are to share ideas from backgrounds to which not all coaches necessarily have access, and to maintain volleyball history.  Volleyball as a sport has a very poor sense of its own history and what little literature there is fractured into smaller language groups.  For example, English speakers have no real access to the collected wisdom of incredible coaching talents like Platonov or Velasco whose main work has been carried out in other languages.

In another attempt to address this issue John Forman (blogger at ‘Coaching Volleyball’) and I have begun a new project entitled ‘Volleyball Coaching Wizards’.  The goal of the project is to identify and interview as many of the great volleyball coaches in the world (wizards, if you will) and disseminate their accumulated wisdom in as many forms as we can.  In our minds, coaching wizards do not only coach professionals, and are not necessarily famous.  They can just as equally coach high school teams or national teams but their knowledge and experience will be helpful to all.  Initially, the interviews will be available as downloadable audio files and ultimately we would like to put them into a book form.

Until now we have had about 200 coaches nominated (you can nominate a wizard here), 30 confirmations and seven completed interviews.  This will be a long term project.  Details of subscriptions are currently being finalised and will be released soon.  In the meantime, sign up for our mailing list here, and receive a link to one of the first interviews.  And support us on Facebook and Twitter and You Tube.  On those platforms you can also link to clips from some of the completed interviews to give you a taste of what we have in mind right now, but the finished project will be moulded by the input of many.

One of the first interviews was with well known Canadian coach Stelio DeRocco.  Completely unprompted (I promise!) he explained how he saw the value of the ‘Volleyball Coaching Wizards’.

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The Secrets of Platonov

Book Scans Cover Front Cover v2

Vyacheslav Platonov features prominently in any conversation about the great volleyball coaches in history.  His Soviet teams won every competition they entered between 1977 and 1983, including two World Championships, two World Cups, four European Championships and an Olympic Gold Medal.  This period of sustained success is unrivalled in the men’s game. Neither Matsudaira, nor Beal, nor Velasco, nor even Bernardinho have matched that seven year stretch.

During his lifetime, 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, regardless of the sport.

Ayak Bileği Yaralanmalarını Önleme

My recent post on preventing ankle injuries has been translated into Turkish by Serdar Mengi from the volleyball portal voleybolaktuel.com.  The translation appears here.

Ayak bileği burkulması, her düzeyde voleybolda en sık görülen akut yaralanmalardır. Yayınlanan bu makaleye göre, yaralanma nedeniyle kaybedilen süre, toplam sürenin % 30’unu oluşturuyor. Bu nedenle, teknik direktör mantıksal olarak, ekibindeki ayak bileği burkulmalarının sayısını ve şiddetini azaltması gerektiğinin farkında olmalıdır. Burkulmayı önlemek için, mantıksal olarak oyuncuların ayak bileklerini bantladığını ve / veya birkaç farklı ayak bileği koruyucusu kullandığı görülüyor. Ancak belki de bu tür bir yaralanmayı önlemek için daha fazla şey yapmamız gerekiyor. Sorunu biraz inceleyecek olursak.

Göz önüne alınması gereken ilk şey, ayak bileğindeki burkulmaların yaygın olması. Biz en yaygın voleybol yaralanmalarının bu olduğunu biliyoruz, fakat aslında bu gerçek mi?  2014 Dünya Şampiyona’sında, her 420 maçtan birinde, tek bir voleybalcu için bir ayak bileği burkulma ihtimalinin çok yüksek olduğu hesaplandı. Farklı bir bakış açısıyla baktığımızda, son iki sezonda bir ayak bileği burkulması yaşadım. Her oyuncunun sezon başına 50 net eylemi geçekleştirdiği var sayılırsa (hücum + blok gibi), bu 17.500 potansiyel yaralanmaya denk gelir. Pasörleri  ve liberoları çıkartacak olursanız, takımda on oyuncu kalır ve  iki sezon boyunca 175,000 potansiyel yaralanma, 1 gerçek sakatlık gerçekleşti. Bilinen ayak bileği burkulmaları yaygın bir voleybol yaralanması olduğudur, aslında bu kadar yaygın değildir. Aslında, bu miktar şaşırtıcı derecede nadirdirler.

Şimdi bir ayak bileği burkulmasının gerçekleşmesini düşünelim. En basit haliyle, iki (veya daha fazla) kişi aynı zemini kullanmaya çalıştığında bir ayak bileği burkulması oluşur. Ayak bileği burkulmalarını önlemenin en belirgin yolu, iki oyuncunun aynı zemini kullanmaya çalışmamasını sağlamaktır. Bunların daha az bir kısmı ise, koçun uygun sistem ve yapıları yerine getirmediğinden kaynaklanmaktadır. Her durumda sistem ve yapılar net olmalıdır.  Bu aynı zamanda taktiksel olarak mantıklıdır, çünkü aynı bölgede yer alan iki oyuncu karışıklığa neden olur ve diğer alanları açık bırakır. Oyuncu yerleşiminde ve aynı yerde yer almalarının önemli bir nedeni de olan vesilelerin çoğunluğu konsantrasyon eksikliğinden kaynaklanmaktadır. Son on yılda, konsantrasyon eksikliğinden kaynaklanmayan, içinde bulunduğum herhangi bir uygulamada tek bir ayak bileği burkulması hatırlamıyorum. Bu, genel olarak odaklanma eksikliği veya yorulmadan kaynaklanabilir. Tecrübelerime dayanarak söyleyebilirim ki, oyuncuların sıklıkla yorgun düştükleri ve en az odaklandıkları sezonun son ayında ayak bileği burkulmalarının% 80’i ortaya çıkıyor.

Özetlemek gerekirse, ayak bileği burkulması inanılmaz derecede nadirdir. Ve bu nadir sakatlığı önlemenin en iyi yolları ; iyi bir yerleşim sistemi, Eğitim ve antremanları iyi yönetmek, tamamen odaklanmaya yönelik bir ortam oluşturmaktır.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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The Length Of A Volleyball Match

About a year ago there was an report somewhere that FIVB was considering introducing time limit matches in order to finally, after decades of trying, get the holy grail that is a major TV contract. At the time I mentioned to a couple of friends that I was afraid that this was a diversionary tactic, and that the actual planned rule would be quietly introduced later while everyone shrugged and said, ‘At least it’s not time limit.’

Last week there was an announcement that FIVB will trial best of 7 matches, with sets to 15, at the upcoming World U23 Championships.  ‘At least it’s not time limit.’

We hear that volleyball matches are too long, and worse, of unpredictably long. We hear that TV stations want games that can fit into a two hour time slot. But who says these things? They just sort of float around on the wind every time new rules are proposed.  It may well be that they are true, but does anyone know where they come from?

Here is what I would like to see:

  1. The market research that fans of volleyball want shorter matches.
  2. First hand information from TV companies or executives that they WILL (not might) show more volleyball if it fits into that two hour slot.

If I can see those two things then I will happily concede that we must try to make volleyball matches shorter. In that scenario, my suggestions are:

  1. Shorten the length of time between rallies.
  2. Shorten the length of time between sets.
  3. Remove the unnecessary protocols around the game that add time (10 minutes? More?) to the game.
  4. Tighten the video review system so that it is faster and more efficient (e.g. review without challenge, time limits on the review process).

If there is actual proof that we need to shorten matches, AND no other way of doing THEN, and only THEN, then we can talk about the rules.


Footnotes

Re spectators – My personal suspicion is that spectators want to be part of an event, not just a volleyball match. See Berlin Recycling Volleys.

Re TV – the Polish league, ie the only league with a league that actually receives money for rights, just added a ten minute break between sets 2 and 3 in order to keep spectators in the gyms for longer and get TV viewers to watch more ads.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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National Team Preparation

This week we started with the Australian National Team, Volleyroos if you will, in Jastrzebie Zdroj. We chose Jastrzebie Zdroj, the home of my club team Jastrzebski Wegiel, rather than AIS mostly for logistical reasons.  The players are mostly based in Europe and our first World League round is in Slovakia, a two hour drive from here.  In Jastrzebie we are able to optimise the acclimatisation process and my club has been able to host us in their wonderful facility.

For the first week I invited well known ex-players and current coaches Andrea Anastasi and Stefen Hubner to work with particular position groups. The three mornings Andrea spent with the receivers and Stefan with the middle blockers imparting their hard earned knowledge will stand us in good stead for the upcoming season.  In addition to those two, many coaches from around the region (and the world) dropped by the sessions to see us work out.

Right now the guys are enjoying a sunny, spring weekend in Poland, except for the guys here in the gym doing extra reps on their day off. 🙂 🙂 Next week we travel to Czech Republic for some scrimmages.  Further friendly matches are coming up against Iran, Poland and Canada.

Scroll down for a full team and staff list.

Hubner one of the best Middle Blocker work over BLOCK with @ausvolley #pallavolo #volleyball #siatkówka #AA

A post shared by AA 🇮🇹 (@anastasi60) on

 

PLAYERS

Setters

Harry Peacock

Arash Dosanjh

Carsten Moeller

Opposites

Paul Carroll

Lincoln Williams

Mitch Tulley

Outside Hitters

Nathan Roberts

Paul Sanderson

Sam Walker

Tom Douglas-Powell

Luke Smith

Jordan Richards

Max Staples

Middle Blockers

Travis Passier

Beau Graham

Trent O’Dea

Simon Hone

Nehemiah Mote

Liberos

Luke Perry

Gerrard Lipscombe

 

STAFF

National Team

Mark Lebedew

Luke Reynolds

Lauren Bertolacci

Liam Sketcher

Leszek Dejewski

Bogdan Szczebak

Darren Austin

Pawel Baryla

Giorgio Poetto

John Boultbee

Paulina Pawliczek

Guests

Andrea Anastasi

Stefan Hubner

Visiting

Wojciech Serafin

John Forman

Dimar Skoryy

 

Preventing Ankle Injuries

Ankle sprains are the most common acute injuries in volleyball at all levels.  According to this article on volleycountry.com they account for 30% of all time lost due to injury.  Logically therefore the coach must be aware of how to decrease the number and severity of ankle sprains in his team.  And so we will see players taping their ankles and / or wearing one of a number of different types of ankle braces.  Logical indeed.  But maybe we need to do more to prevent this kind of injury.  Let’s study the problem a little bit.

The first thing to consider is just how common are ankle sprains.  We know that they are the most common volleyball injuries, but are they actually common?  For the 2014 World Championships, I did a (very) rough calculation that an ankle sprain was likely to occur to an individual volleyballer about once every 420 matches.  Looking at it a different way, in the last two seasons I have had one ankle sprain.  (Very) roughly, that is 350 trainings and matches.  If every player has 50 net actions (spikes + blocks, ie potential injuries) per session, that comes to 17,500 potential injuries.  If you take out setters and liberos, leaving ten players in the team, that is 175,000 potential injuries over the two seasons, resulting in exactly one (1) actual injury.  It is obvious that while ankle sprains are a common volleyball injury, they are not actually common. In fact, they are astonishingly rare.

Let us now consider the mechanism of an ankle sprain.  In the simplest form, an ankle sprain occurs when two (or more) people try to use the exact same piece of floor*.  The most obvious way to prevent ankle sprains is to ensure that two players don’t try to use the piece of floor.  A small number of these are due to the the coach not having appropriate systems and structures in place.  The systems and structures must be clear in every situation.  This is also tactically logical, as two players occupying the same area both creates confusion and leaves other areas open.  The rest, and therefore vast majority, of occasions where two players are in the same space are simply due to lack of concentration.  In the last ten years, I don’t recall a single ankle sprain in any practice I have been involved in that was not the direct result of lack of concentration.  That can be caused by general lack of focus, or distraction, or by fatigue.  I can take that one step further, in my experience, 80% of ankle sprains occur in the last month of the season when players are often at their most fatigued and least focussed.

To summarise, ankle sprains are incredibly rare.  And the best way to prevent these incredibly rare events is have good systems in place, manage the training / competition load, ie fatigue, appropriately and maintain a focussed training environment.

Actually, that is just good coaching.


*Yes, sometimes players just fall over and sprain their ankles, but I think under the circumstances we can remove that situation from our consideration.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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How Much To Share?

“I give them (anyone who asks) my training methods and programmes but I don’t give them my brain.” Jose Mourinho, Up Close and Personal p110

Every coach will some longevity is asked for advice by other coaches.  Many coaches are asked to present at clinics and workshops.  The response from coaches varies.  Many coaches will happily share their time and experience… up to a point.  After all they don’t want to share their secrets with possible competitors who could some day beat them.  Some coaches don’t share anything at all.  I heard one notable coach say that he had spent a lot of money and time collecting his knowledge, why should he share it with others for free. Some of those simply think they have the secret.  One coach I worked with actually banned me from watching parts of his practices.  Although I suspect the real reason was because he realised I knew his ‘secret’ was just a con.

Then there are others, like Jose Mourinho*, who happily share everything.  Their logic is simple.  They can share all of the mechanics of what they do, but the mechanics, while interesting are not the keys.  If another coach took all of Mourinho’s coaching methods and programmes and carried them out exactly as written, the results would not, could not, be the same. Those coaches understand that the most important things are the connections between things, the spaces between the notes so to speak.  Those coaches also have nothing to fear, because as Mourinho goes on to say, the great coaches are always fiddling and adapting with their programmes to continue to improve.

How much do you share?

*I would like to think I fall into this category, but suspect I am more often the coach who holds something back.  Feel free to challenge me on it.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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It’s All About The Journey

Every player or coach who has been involved with international volleyball has some kind of travel story / nightmare.  There are many, many things that go wrong while attempting to move groups of human beings large distances.  And sometimes several of those things can go wrong at the same time.  Those occasions are the ones that make the best stories.  The best story was probably the one that involved negotiating a bribe to be allowed to leave Uzbekistan.

The second best story involved travelling from Slovakia to Argentina.  Due to the lack of appropriate international competition, it was decided that we had to accept an invitation to participate in a tournament in Argentina right after a tour of Europe.  The only small problem was that the first game in Argentina was less than three days after the last game in Europe.  What happens next is an epic travel story.

Leaving in the middle of the night from the Olympic training centre in somewhere I no longer remember in Slovakia, our first leg was a trip to Vienna where we caught a flight to Heathrow.  From Heathrow, we had the relative comfort of a longish haul flight to New York, JFK (or was it Newark).  There we went through customs and baggage control and climbed into mini buses for the ride to Newark (or was it JFK) for the next leg to Buenos Aires.  Sadly Buenos Aires was not final destination.  But we did get to wander into the city to a sport school for lunch (breakfast? / dinner?) and sit around for a few hours waiting for a domestic flight to a small place with the same name as the training centre in Slovakia. Once we got off that plane and collected our luggage we were nearly there. Just a one hour bus ride to Tucumán left.

So if you are counting at home, that is four flights (three international, one domestic) and three bus trips (not counting airport – Buenos Aires – airport) and a total travelling time of 48 hours.  Luckily we had nearly 24 hours to recover from the travel before playing pre defection Cuba.  Remarkably, we hung with them for a set and even had a set point in the first.  Strangely, we ran out of steam after that and lost in three sets.  You can watch the match below.

We played two other matches in that tournament before travelling on to other, ever more remote, parts of Argentina to play against the hosts.  Before that relatively easy travel we had one more training session booked in the same gym as the tournament.  As you can see the gym looked okay on TV but it was pretty dumpy (eg the toilets in the changerooms didn’t function).  But as bad as it was we weren’t quite prepared for what awaited us in the gym we had played in twelve hours earlier and which the organisers had assured us was prepared for our practice.

We didn’t practice.  Click on the picture to enlarge, and yes, that is a bird next the lone net post.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Dave Grohl’s Advice For Coaches

I have written before of my appreciation for the eternal wisdom of Dave Grohl. Indeed my life motto is ‘Everyone should love something as much as Dave Grohl loves music’. What I did not know was that Dave actually prepared a list of the 10 most important pieces of advice for coaching*.  I can’t put it any better than him.

1. You Have to Be Great
“If you’re good at what you do, people will recognize that. I really believe it.

2. Figure It Out
“If you’re focused and passionate and driven, you can achieve anything you want in life. I honestly believe that. Because you’ll fuckin’ figure it out.”

3. Chase Your Dreams

4. Don’t Lose Your Personality

5. Experiment

6. Do Your Own Thing
“The most important thing is that whatever you’re doing, it’s a representation of your voice. Whatever it is, the most important thing is that it’s your voice, that it’s coming from you.”

7. Find Balance

8. Just Do It
“There should be no right or wrong. You should be cool with what you do…”

9. Cherish Your Voice
“It’s your voice. Cherish it. Respect it. Nurture it. Challenge it. Stretch it and scream until it’s fucking gone. Because everyone is blessed with at least that, and who knows how long it will last.”

10. Love What You Do
“People can talk about the good ol’ days. Well, fuck that, man. This is fuckin’ great! I don’t know how to do anything else. This is it.”


  • He didn’t really. Someone else pieced together a list of 10 important things for success from different interviews he has done and I have (slightly) edited it for coaching.  The article is here and the original video is below.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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