Spike!

Spike!‘ is a book by former USA men’s volleyball coach Doug Beal which chronicles the story the team which won the 1984 Olympic gold medal.  It should NEVER, under any circumstances be confused with the the movie ‘Spiker’, which tells essentially the same story but in a fictionalised form.  ‘Spike!’ is a good book.  ‘Spiker’ is a truly awful movie*.

I recently went back to read ‘Spike!’ for the however manieth time.  Like all books, each time I read it gives me something new.  This time the thing the struck me was the honestly with which Beal talks about the situations that occurred, particularly with regards to the players (Karch, Sinjin, Hovland, Timmons et al), and his feelings about them.  It might be the most honest coaching book I’ve read.  That alone makes it an rare insight.  But further than that, he goes through some of the history of volleyball and more specifically how the US team developed it’s, at the time, revolutionary tactics.  The history is interesting and the lessons are timeless.  The tactics were developed specifically to take advantage of the strengths of the individuals in that group; a point that has been forgotten thousands of times in the ensuing 26 years by coaches who mindlessly copied the 2-receiver system despite having neither Karch nor Berzins in their team.  The deepest lesson, for me,is the simple one that to achieve great things you can’t be limited by what happened before.  You need to develop new ways of thinking and new ways of working.  It’s simple really.

I can recommend the book ‘Spike!’ as one of the two or three best volleyball books I’ve ever read.  I can recommend the movie ‘Spiker’** as one of the very, very worst movies ever.

The follow up to this post is Spike! Interactive Guide, which links videos to specific stories and passages of the text.

** The most interesting part of the history of the movie ‘Spiker’ is that in 1986 Australia was so deprived of international volleyball, or any kind of volleyball for that matter, that the then General Manager VSA organised a public screening of the video that he managed to track down.  And people came!

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9 thoughts on “Spike!

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  4. Alessandro

    Thanks for this post! A truly great book. What amazes me is that Beal’s story (among other things, the issues with Smith and Hovland, some parents such as Laszlo Kiraly attempting to replace him with Scates, etc.) was published one year after the Olympics. Normally, you would expect certain inside stories to be told much later.
    Furthermore, it is really incredible to read how different things were at the beginning of Beal’s program. No professionalism, no training center, nothing.
    The book is now pretty rare, but everybody should try to get a copy.

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    1. markleb Post author

      btw I’m involved in translating one of Platonov’s books. I can tell you, as a coaching book it is many times better than Spike! Spike! is a nice story.
      And seriously, read Karch’s reply… sorry, book.

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