I read a lot about basketball. More specifically I read a lot about the NBA, and basketball in general. I don’t watch much NBA, or basketball in general, but reading about it has always interested me. The main reason is that at some moment I made the assumption because the size of the teams were similar, there could be a lot to learn about the interactions of players and how teams functioned. Smaller but not insignificant reasons were that I love the way Americans write about sport, and there is a large literature about American sport that is easily available. One of the statements that basketball people always make is that basketball is the ultimate team sport because no single player can dominate in the same way as in other sports. Of course volleyball people say the same thing, but I never really thought much about it.
Once, a long, long time ago, a volleyball coach and pedagogic expert told me that the single biggest impediment to volleyball becoming a huge sport is that you can’t practice it by yourself. In all other sports, there are parts of the game that you can practice alone in your driveway or backyard. But in volleyball, there is nothing you can practice without at least one other person. Okay, you can practice serving by yourself. But effectively I don’t think that negates the premise.
I was reminded of both of those stories by a post on The Talent Code blog. The post is about the little games that kids invent and play by themselves to learn the sports they play. Examples described included games like Sidney Crosby (the ice hockey player) shooting pucks into his family’s clothes dryer, and Don Bradman hitting golf balls against his rain water tank with a cricket stump. The point of the post is about the importance of play, and these kinds of games in particular, in the learning process. Being the contrarian that I am, I went off in another direction. What goofy little games could a kid who loves volleyball play in his basement or backyard? If the old coach / pedagogue is correct and there are none, wouldn’t that definitively make volleyball the Ultimate Team Sport?