I once had a player. He was a libero. He was young, he came from a lower division, and if I was a journalist writing his story, I would describe him when he came to my team as ‘unheralded’. And then we worked. We worked on technique, using a version of the US ‘platform is everything’/’active arm movement’ model. We worked on tactics, using a three receiver system where all receivers had equal responsibility and the seams between receivers were reduced. We worked on scouting, charting all servers and preparing videos. In fact one of the highlights of my season was asking the player how he was finding the first league and him replying, “It’s easy. I always know where they’re going to serve’.
As happens in volleyball, another team saw him playing well and signed him up. I was nervous for him when I heard that. I knew that most people didn’t know the background of how we worked but as this team had an Asian coach and a president who is, er… actively involved in every aspect of the team, I suspected they would be less open and understanding than others. And so it turned out. Halfway through the preseason they decided he wasn’t what they were looking for and signed another libero. And recently I met the club president who literally four seconds after he said hello added, ‘We have one of your players who we didn’t properly check out’. To which I replied ‘He was always good for me’. ‘Yes, that’s why we signed him, but his technique…’, followed by some kind of action with his feet.
And that’s the thing. It’s not about how you point your feet, it’s about where the ball goes. Techinique is vital. Aesthetics are irrelevant. A good coach has to know the difference.