It is nothing new to reveal here as I have mentioned it before, often, but what you look at in a game of volleyball and when is very, very important. For at least twenty years in Australia, and obviously longer in the USA and other volleyball playing countries, the standard ‘eye work’ for blocking has been BALL – SETTER – BALL – SPIKER. That is, after the reception the middle blocker should briefly watch the reception to recognise the flight path of the ball and determine the setting position of the setter. The focus should then quickly switch to the setter, and particularly the setter’s hands. After contact, the middle blocker should briefly follow the flight path of the set to determine roughly the position of the attack and then quickly turn his total focus on the spiker. The logic of this is clear. The ball never lies, and it also never changes its path between contacts. Once the ball is played and you know its flightpath, it provides no further information. Further information can only be provided by the actors directly involved, the setter and the spiker. Clearly, the major focus of the (middle) blocker/s should be on the actors that provide the most (important) information.
I write that in detail because it has recently come to my attention that this decision making sequence is not universally known / accepted / understood. There are apparently coaches who believe that information about the attack can be obtained from things other the actors involved. I had always thought that was the most basic technical advice for blocking. I don’t see it how it is possible that information about the attack can come from anywhere other than the setter and the spiker. They are the only actors capable of making decisions and determining / changing the path of the ball. If you watch any video of the best middle blockers in the world, you can see very clearly as their heads turn, distinctly and precisely, to watch, in sequence, the setter and the spiker.
The following video isn’t an official technical or academic video. It was obviously done as a little bit of fun to promote the Italian national team before the 2012 Olympics, and it is not an official match or practice, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything from it. They have put a forehead camera on one of the middle blockers. You can see clearly how he turns his head in the specific moments. And what really jumps out is how quickly he turns his head to watch the spiker. He seems almost not to watch the ball at any point of its path. You can see this at 1:23 and 1:50 marks of the video.
Only the setter and the spiker can influence the attack and to look anywhere else is a waste of energy and a recipe for bad blocking.