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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 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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The Greatest Pressure (Part Two) – Superbowl Edition

I wrote a while ago about the greatest pressure that coaches face.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, the greatest pressure that coaches face is NOT to win, it is to follow conventional wisdom.  Coaches are expected to do the things they are expected to do.  If they don’t, the consequences can be extremely negative. Continue reading

The Secret Of Success – Readiness And Recognition

“The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” Benjamin Disraeli

In every set, in every match, there is at least one moment in which either side can win.  The team that seizes that moment is the team that wins.  Often neither team seizes the moment and the game meanders along until the next moment arrives.  Often one team has only one moment, and once it is gone, it is gone.  In that case, it is often the team either not recognising the moment or not being prepared to take advantage of it.

The secret of success is simple… prepare, prepare, prepare and recognise the moment when it arrives.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Everything Is Timing

The title is one of life’s little no-brainers, but I have a specific timing question in mind.

When we get to the highest level, most spikers have range.  That is they can spike in all directions.  Whether they actually do spike in all directions is one of those questions that we answer with scouting.  In practice we can predict with some reasonable degree of accuracy where a spiker most likes to spike.

But there always outliers.  For example, the cross court spiker who sometimes spikers line.  Why does he spike line at exactly that moment?  The most obvious answer is because it is open.  So the question presents itself, when does he decide to spike line?

And to be a little more specific, I don’t mean when he decides to spike 20cm left or right, but when he decides to spike line or cross.

The follow up to this post is here.