At some point in the past, it occurred to me that for a coach to describe his charges as ‘athletes’ was actually a very 2 dimensional description of them. The ‘athletic’ component of volleyball seemed, and seems, to me to be only one of qualities of a successful volleyballer and to use the term ‘athlete’ devalues those other components. By emphasing the ‘athlete’, the ‘player’ is undervalued. And so I have always used the ‘player’ description.
Gold Medal Squared posted some time back on that very topic (kind of). They quote an article that shows that in the NFL (a multibillion dollar business) as many as a third of players on team rosters are NOT drafted. That is, with all their resources and using every kind of measurements they are remarkably inept at deciding who will be be a good player. They make the point that, like football, volleyball is a ‘visual motor game’. and that “what players read and interpret is almost more important than how they move.” They recommend keeping development groups large to provide as many people as possible the opportunity to develop those visual and motor skills.
I think there is something in that.