Why I Don’t Teach ‘Calling’ – Part 2

The original post and comments (as well as the German version) brought up a lot of interesting points and, not for the first time in human history, I think a couple of minor misunderstandings.

As far as the misunderstandings go, I don’t believe there is no place for calling and it’s not that I don’t like calling per se.  What I wrote is that I don’t teach calling and while I think it is mostly not necessary, I did write ‘mostly’.  There are occasions where the only solution to a problem is calling.  But there are many, many situations where structure should be clear and calling is unnecessary.  I believe that many coaches teach calling to solve problems that they themselves create by either not having a clear structure in mind or not having an effective method of teaching structure and organisation or both.  Teaching calling is therefore a short term solution to a long term problem and the players therefore never learn about the interaction of phases in the game or how to play together effectively.

One point that came up a couple of times was that juniors and seniors are different and therefore juniors need to call more.  I completely disagree with that.  Juniors need more instruction in how to play and how the parts of volleyball fit together so that they can understand.  Calling doesn’t help understanding.  Calling helps keep the ball off the floor for one extra contact.  Juniors need to learn how to play (most seniors do too, but that’s another story) and sometimes the ball needs to fall on the floor so that lessons can have significance.

For me, the interesting thing in volleyball and the thing that I love most about it, is the interaction of players and skills and phases of the game.  It is often said of volleyball that it is the ultimate team game because no single player can dominate the ball.  This is certainly true, but it only becomes such a team game if all the players act in unison doing their, and only their, job, at exactly the right moment and letting their teammates do the same.  If a player takes a ball he shouldn’t (even though he called), he negatively affects every subsequent contact.  In the short term he takes himself out of the optimal position for the next contact (attack, block, cover etc).  Even the wrong player putting a free ball over the net can cause unnecessary problems.  In the longer term the required trust between players doesn’t develop.

Last week we beat Friedrichshafen in front of a big crowd.  It was a great event for everyone and a really important victory in the context of the season.  But the highlight for me was the play on match point where a player didn’t play a ball he could have played because it wasn’t his.  The player who played the ball was in a much better position, so we were able to attack instead of just scrambling the ball over, and earned a free ball which we then killed for the match.  They didn’t solve a problem, they demonstrated understanding.  There is a huge difference.

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5 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Teach ‘Calling’ – Part 2

  1. Keith Suckling

    I think one of the biggest things in here is that there must be a system to decide who should optimally get the ball (right side passing anyone?). It isn’t that calling is bad per se, it is just that it must be used correctly within a system that is well understood & implemented by the players.
    Yelling “mine” and taking a ball that you shouldn’t or “yours” for a ball that you should get is not good calling, it is bad playing.

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    1. markleb Post author

      It is not the theory of calling that is bad, it is the practice.
      Like everything, it has to fit into a complete concept of the game. The concept is the coach’s responsibility.

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