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




Talking Is Communication…

…and if you know me at all, you know that the following line is…

But Communication Is Not Talking

You can find some of my thoughts on the topic here and here.

On that theme, this article is a great one from the NBA about the next level of communication after talking where the players on a team communicate with each other through looks and movements.

As my players say, ‘that is what I’m talking about!’

Priming And Coaching


Most people (rightly) contend that communication is one of the key skills in coaching and for coaches.  However, the biggest focus in those discussions is on verbal communication.  Yet there are studies that show only 7% of actual communication is through words, and those studies focus only on the face.  Body language is another important method of communication for a coach, but only one of many.

One method of communication that I pay great attention to is the content of practice and the drills.  The game areas you choose to work on, the drills you choose to work on them, the feedback you give, and the rules of the games you play all convey information to the team about their current level and possible areas of improvement.  If you work on a particular skill  every day, the team very quickly understands that it is important.  And vice versa.

There are other more subtle communication effects also at work.  One, I am sure, is related to to psychological concept of priming.  This is basically the idea that giving some stimulus to someone, makes a particular response more likely.  The first time I heard of this concept, I instantly thought of the scouting information that we always used to receive about a setter who always tipped straight after the opponent tipped*.  This seems to be a fairly classic case of priming.  Although I could be wrong.

I have had many experiences that I am sure are related to priming.  In one team, I spent a large amount of time practicing playing first tempo from poor reception.  When we got to the competition, we never played first tempo from poor reception.  But we did play it often, and effectively, from good reception.  I am sure that we played it a lot more than if I had just told the setter to set it.  This year I have had two interesting experiences with it.

Watching international matches during the summer, I noticed the frequency and effectiveness of one handed defensive actions.  I wondered how I could practice that.  I rather half heartedly did a couple of pairs drills using one handed defence, but I only did it twice for about three minutes each time and forgot about it.  Strangely, in the sessions that followed our defence and especially our one handed defence was noticeably better.  Later in the season, we played a warmup game in which I completely arbitrarily decided that only two handed contacts were allowed.  The next few days in training I noticed players diving for balls with two hands where they had previously been pancaking.  Mmm… priming?

Now whether or not this is actually priming (or confirmation bias from my perspective**) doesn’t really matter.  The point is that the content of your practice is at least as important as anything you say.  Everything you do communicates something to your team, your fans, your management.

The lesson is, as always, coaching is hard.

* I actually think this is possibly a very fertile area for scouting.  How does a setter / spiker / blocker respond to what the other team just did?

** If it is just confirmation bias, then the coach is getting feedback that his practice is effective and feels better about himself.  Which is important too.

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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