Category Archives: Volleyball

It’s All About The Journey

Every player or coach who has been involved with international volleyball has some kind of travel story / nightmare.  There are many, many things that go wrong while attempting to move groups of human beings large distances.  And sometimes several of those things can go wrong at the same time.  Those occasions are the ones that make the best stories.  The best story was probably the one that involved negotiating a bribe to be allowed to leave Uzbekistan.

The second best story involved travelling from Slovakia to Argentina.  Due to the lack of appropriate international competition, it was decided that we had to accept an invitation to participate in a tournament in Argentina right after a tour of Europe.  The only small problem was that the first game in Argentina was less than three days after the last game in Europe.  What happens next is an epic travel story.

Leaving in the middle of the night from the Olympic training centre in somewhere I no longer remember in Slovakia, our first leg was a trip to Vienna where we caught a flight to Heathrow.  From Heathrow, we had the relative comfort of a longish haul flight to New York, JFK (or was it Newark).  There we went through customs and baggage control and climbed into mini buses for the ride to Newark (or was it JFK) for the next leg to Buenos Aires.  Sadly Buenos Aires was not final destination.  But we did get to wander into the city to a sport school for lunch (breakfast? / dinner?) and sit around for a few hours waiting for a domestic flight to a small place with the same name as the training centre in Slovakia. Once we got off that plane and collected our luggage we were nearly there. Just a one hour bus ride to Tucumán left.

So if you are counting at home, that is four flights (three international, one domestic) and three bus trips (not counting airport – Buenos Aires – airport) and a total travelling time of 48 hours.  Luckily we had nearly 24 hours to recover from the travel before playing pre defection Cuba.  Remarkably, we hung with them for a set and even had a set point in the first.  Strangely, we ran out of steam after that and lost in three sets.  You can watch the match below.

We played two other matches in that tournament before travelling on to other, ever more remote, parts of Argentina to play against the hosts.  Before that relatively easy travel we had one more training session booked in the same gym as the tournament.  As you can see the gym looked okay on TV but it was pretty dumpy (eg the toilets in the changerooms didn’t function).  But as bad as it was we weren’t quite prepared for what awaited us in the gym we had played in twelve hours earlier and which the organisers had assured us was prepared for our practice.

We didn’t practice.  Click on the picture to enlarge, and yes, that is a bird next the lone net post.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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The Hockey Error

A lot, or at least a few, sports count assists among their statistics.  That is, the pass that leads to a score.  In volleyball, at least in America, a set that leads to a spike point is an assist. In basketball, a pass that leads to a basket is an assist.  But in hockey, not only the pass that leads to a goal counts as an assist, but also the pass that leads to the pass that leads to a goal counts as an assist.  In some circles (i.e. Bill Simmons), that kind of assist is referred to a ‘hockey assist’.

In volleyball there are a lot of structural / organisational / communication errors where the fault seems to be obvious.

  • A tip falls in front of a defender.  The fault is obviously that the defender to not commit to defending the ball.  The obvious solution is to berate them for lack of effort and possibly some drill to encourage the player to change their habit.
  • A middle blocker has a chance to set a high ball but commits a ball handling error.  The obvious solution is to berate them for their lack of technical skill and possibly some drill to improve that technical ability.

You get the idea.  The wrong player receives the ball.  The wrong player sets the ball.  A player touches the net.  All simple errors with obvious solutions.

But what if things aren’t so simple.  What if there is such a thing as a ‘hockey error’.  I have written before that what looks like a lack of effort is most often actually a lack of readiness. In that example, the lack of effort is the error and the lack of readiness is the hockey error.  In the middle blocker setting example, the hockey error is probably not turning fast enough after landing from the block.  Many errors that are attributed to lack of calling, have as their hockey error a player moving towards the ball and then stopping.  Being in the wrong position is the hockey error in many different situations.

As a coach, focussing on the error can have some improvement on performance.  But focussing on the hockey error can have a profound effect on understanding of the game.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Reid Priddy Speaks…

US Olympic Gold Medallist Reid Priddy recently gave an extended interview of the podcast The Net Live.  In a really interesting conversation he touched on a number of areas, including the things that he has learnt over the years and how is applying those things to the challenge of playing in the 2020 Olympics in beach volleyball.  I encourage you to listen to the whole thing (the link is below).

Some highlights…

On communication… “If we can communicate without talking, that will be an advantage.”

On probabilities… He wants to know the probability success of certain actions as both a reference point for learning and as a guide to action.

On coaches… He briefly compared Alekno, McCutcheon and Speraw, all of whom he had worked with particularly relating to errors.  He said that Alekno and McCutcheon were philosophically very similar in the way they wanted to manage risk.  They had set rules in place for when a player was allowed to risk and when they were had to minimise errors.  The main difference was that when it came to a fifth set Alekno took away all restrictions. The fifth set was about being aggressive.  On the other hand, Speraw never talked about mistakes. He never wanted his players to think about them.

On his book… for more information go to his website http://reidpriddy.com/

 

//percolate.blogtalkradio.com/offsiteplayer?hostId=51367&episodeId=9836787

Fun At The Volleyball

team-lineup

photo – jastrzebskiwegiel.pl

Volleyball is a game of protocols. Everywhere you look there are protocols.  How and where the players, coaches and officials must stand. What they can wear and when. How to make substitutions, take timeouts, talk to your team. Protocols, protocols, protocols.

And where there are protocols there are anarchists who will do anything to subvert them.  For example, volleyball rules state that players must play with their shirts tucked in. And referees, as the high priests of protocol, must control all players before the start of the match. Many players do not like to play with their shirts tucked in and most others are just anarchists.

The ‘Checking The Players’ Shirts’ protocol fits into the ‘Teams Lining Up’ protocol before the start of the match. The players line up on the sideline of their respective sides.  The referees check that the captain and liberos are standing where they must (captain first, first libero second, second libero last; another protocol) and that the players’ shirts are tucked in.

Many / most players, even those who have played hundreds of professional matches know that the referee will check their shirt, yet they will not tuck it in until after the referee asks them too. And to confirm their anarchist credentials they will all untuck their shirts again the moment they move to the middle of the court.  If you are bored before a match you can watch this predictable, yet highly entertaining dance.

And if you are especially lucky, you might catch the player whose superstition it is to be the last in the line.  Watch the lengths he will go to to circumvent the protocols.  It is hilarious.

How Should I Measure Errors?

It is conventional wisdom in volleyball, and indeed in most sports, that the team that makes the fewest errors should win. Many maintain that attack efficiency, and therefore implicitly attack errors, are the key determinant to success. Conversely many say that a minimum number of service errors is required in order to develop enough pressure to win.

However to the best of my knowledge noone has ever looked at other kinds of errors or how the total number of errors might influence the outcome.  It sounds like something we should know about. 

The first problem is how to measure errors. Total errors might be one way to go if we are looking at indivdual sets. But in general totals, or even per set averages, are not very good because they don’t take into account number of opportunities. Therefore the obvious measurement is a percentage of total contacts. But that ends up being a very small number. And how do you include block attempts. 

The number I have started working is errors per 100 rallies. This ends up being a quite nice number. In my league the average is between 12 and 16. Conversely the number of points ‘won’ is between 30 and 36. I haven’t done any serious analysis but eyeballing it, it looks like there might be something there.

My question is: Is this a reasonable way to measure errors? Can you think of a better way?

All comments welcome.

“It’s About Me”

Bobby Knight is one of the most famous basketball coaches of all time.

By many / most / all accounts he was also one of the best basketball coaches of all time.

He was a renowned for being an ill tempered bully and was fired from his most famous job for mistreatment of athletes.

He always maintained that he genuinely cared about his players and that all of them graduated.

I have never quite understood how saying that you care about someone excuses bad behaviour after the fact.

Below is a surreptiously taped clip of one of his half time speeches.  Count the number of times he says ‘we’ and ‘I’.

I Am Right About Timeouts

Over the last year or so I have studied and written quite a bit on the topic of timeouts.  You can read all of the posts I have written (in English and in Polish) by following this link.

The upshot of all of the research I have done with Ben Raymond is that timeouts do not seem to work in the way that we (coaches, fans, administrators) like to think that they do, that is they have no impact on the game.

An American researcher, studying USA college matches and looking at over 5,000 timeouts found eerily similar results.  They are summarised in the infogram below.

ho-phi-huynh-summary