Tag Archives: Defensive Technique

He Who Defends Everything

What is better?

A) Nearly make 50 plays, actually make 0

B) Completely miss 49 plays, actually make 1

Yesterday, I asked this question.  As is my wont, the question was deliberately vague while my intent was extremely specific.  As such the only correct answer was ‘it depends’ or ‘more information, please’.  Any other answer required the answerer to make some assumptions, specific to that person.  So in the end, every answer was correct.

When posing my conundrum, I was specifically speaking about blocking and defence, and the scenario when a defender (blocker) nearly defends a lot of balls but actually defends none versus a defender who actually defends balls but touches few.  What I find is that a lot of coaches (and players) think that if they are close to the ball, they are close to defending the ball.  This is a tantalising, yet false assumption.  Tantalising because it is easy to convince yourself that but for a small lack of skill (that you can acquire) or a little bit of luck (that you will have next time) you would have defended a lot of balls.  False, because there is no evidence that this is actually true.

If you analyse the plays what you are most likely to find is that by attempting to defend every ball the players is moving a lot.  As we all know, being on the move makes it far less likely that you are able to control the ball.  A player on the move, while increasing the number of touched balls, actually decreases the likelihood that they are able to make a dig.

Team defence is the coordination of players to achieve a team outcome.  The team outcome is scoring points.  A good defensive system must put players in the position that they are able to make quality defensive plays that the team is able to score from.  Therefore a good defensive system will put players in positions where they do not have to move very much, maximising the quality of the defence, and from which they can subsequently mount an effective offensive.  This means that some balls will land where there is no defence.  This is actually okay.  As famed Chinese coach Sun Tzu once said, “He who defends everything, defends nothing.”


For more great coaching tips, check out the Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Foot Defence Is Alright

I am sure that there are some people who have read this blog, or heard me talk, or been in my gym who think that I hate all defensive actions with the feet. Those people are misguided.  I have no issues at all with players using their feet to play the ball. I do however have issues with players not being ready to play the ball and using their feet to mask their laziness.  I have an issue with coaches who don’t recognise those actions for what they are and let their players get away with it.  And I have issues with people who highlight that laziness as something all players should aspire to.

Sometimes, just sometimes, using the feet to play the ball is the required action. And sometimes those players are rewarded.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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How To Cover Your Spikers

Hopefully anyone who has spent more than three minutes talking to me about volleyball or reading my various outlets knows that the thing that bothers me most about volleyball in general is lack of readiness and specifically using the feet to play defence.  As you know, using the feet in defence is an emergency technique necessarily only when the player is not ready.

One game situation in which I see this a lot is the with the setter covering, or rather not covering, his spikers.  I could name three or four world class setters who rarely cover their spikers.  Perhaps their confidence in themselves (or their spikers) is so high that they don’t see the need to cover and are always surprised to see their spikers blocked.  Perhaps their is another reason.

Whatever the reason, the lack of covering by setters is so common that when I see a setter who always covers it stands out very strongly.  That setter is the Benjamin Toniutti.  He might be the best setter in the world right now. He is certainly the setter of the best national team and his club team is top of the Polish League.  After every single set he is facing his spikers with his weight forward ready for the next action.  Maybe his team’s success isn’t a coincidence.

But don’t take my word for it.  See if you can see a set here after which he is not ready.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Good Volleyball?

So, the question is, is the defensive action by #12 from the white team in this video an example of good volleyball, or bad volleyball?

The first time I saw him do this, I thought, it was at best just bad volleyball, and at worst blatant showing off. But when I saw him do it more often more often I realised that while it is definitely a risky play, and quite possibly poor defence, it is actually good volleyball. In the normal way of things by playing this tipped ball the ‘traditional’ way there is no way he would then be in a position to attack. As it is, his footwork to get to the ball and his posture as he plays it puts him in a great position to then attack. You can see in this clip how fast he begins his approach and was available to spike a fast ball although the setter didn’t use him.
The lesson, as always, is …look twice at unusual things. They aren’t ‘wrong’ just because they are unusual.

‘Coaching Ideas’ – Drills As A Form Of Communication

I wrote a post referring to a John Kessel blog post that referred to a seminar where a point was made that throwing the ball from a low position to defenders is an ineffective way to train/defence.  Alexis was moved enough to write a comment about it, which has moved me enough to want to write a whole post.  Talk about chinese whispers…

An important conceptual component of my defensive system/philosophy is aggression.  One meaning of aggression is pursuit.  That is an easy concept to get across.  Another component of aggression is to attack the ball directly from the ready position, ie to dive even without an approach/run up.  I’m talking about the balls where you don’t have time to take a step.  For most coaches, taking a step and making a token dive, or making a token sprawl is enough, but neither case actually keeps the ball alive.  This is a really difficult concept to get across through words, at least for me.  I spent several months trying to get the point across without success.  At my level, every player can perform this skill but aren’t ready to do it, or used to being required to do it.  To practice it is incredibly difficult.  In 6 v 6, the situation happens about once or twice a set and reminding someone of it is more or less pointless when the next chance they will get is next set or tomorrow or in two days time.  To simulate in a drill is equally difficult.  Even if you get a spiker on the box who is accurate enough, when the defender knows the ball is coming, they nearly always have time to step to the ball, thus making the drill completely pointless.  After scratching my head (or tearing my hair out depending on the day) for a while I eventually decided the only way to get my point across was the crassest way possible.  I stood on the ground and threw the ball fast enough and far enough away that they had to dive without taking a step.  I did the drill twice.  Once for 15 minutes, once for 5 minutes.  Since then we have made a major leap in the defence that I want to play.

From a skill learning point of view the drill I used was ‘wrong’ in every possible sense.  It frankly couldn’t have been more ‘wrong’.  Except that my objective was not technical.  Whether it’s appropriate I don’t really know, but the phrase that I use is coaching ideas.  I wanted to teach the idea of diving at the ball, the idea of when to use the technique they already have.

Sometimes a drill has neither a technical or tactical goal, but is a form of communication between the coach and the team, to create a common language or reference point.  Sometimes it is about coaching ideas.