Tag Archives: Practice Philosophy

How Long Should You Practice?

“If player focus is high, you don’t need to practice for a long time. If player focus is low, it doesn’t matter how long you practice.”

I sometimes half jokingly tell journalists that playing a lot of matches in a short time is great for players and bad for coaches, because more games means less practice.  There are lots of kinds of coaches in the world, with many different philosophies and methods.  But whatever the philosophies and methods, these coaches have one thing in common: they all want to train more.  Training more is the solution to all performance problems.

Many coaches see the amount of training they do as a badge of honour.  More training means they are doing more work.  More training means they are doing everything they can to make the team better.  But those coaches are missing the biggest point.  Anders Ericsson’s research is (nearly) always reported as being about the amount of work you have to put in to achieve expertise.  What is (nearly) always ignored is that he describes in fairly minute detail how you have to practice.  Practice is not enough, deliberate practice is required.

The length of practice is (more or less) irrelevant.  What is important is the focus and attention of the players on the practice task.  If focus and attention is high, then the players have a chance to get better.  If focus and attention is low, then (at best) it is just specific conditioning training.  At worst, the coach is creating the perfect conditions for injuries to occur.  Unfocused athletes running around after a single ball in a confined space is when most acute injuries in volleyball occur.

So the solution is clear. If you want to get better, don’t practice more, practice less (better).  That is the key.


Check out the Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Coaching Tip Of The Week #13

 “Players don’t like being shouted at”

Nobody likes being shouted at.  Indeed, the normal reaction of people is to avoid actions that will lead to being shouted at.  Players are no different from anyone else in this regard.  Players don’t want to be shouted at by their coach, so will actively avoid actions that will lead the coach to shout at them.

This is important information for the coach.  If a player or team is continually doing what the coach does not want, leading to angry words, this is important feedback for the coach.  It means that the players do not understand the instructions sufficiently, or are not able to perform as required.  Therefore the correct response of the coach is not to raise their voice but to review their instructions and their practice.

If you are shouting a lot at practice, review your practice plans and your feedback.  The problem probably lies there.


The collection of Coaching Tips can be found here.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Coaching Tip Of The Week #11 – Bonus Tip

“Shining a light on something creates, not prevents, problems” – Part Two

Coaches are naturally fixated on the weaknesses of their team.  Obviously you improve a team by fixing its weaknesses.  At least that is the normal way of thinking.  I’m not so sure.

Coaches must definitely know the weaknesses of their team and they must definitely consider those weaknesses while preparing their training plans.  But continuously shining a light on those weaknesses, by constantly talking about and training has two effects.  Firstly, it takes time from practicing your strengths.  Improving your weaknesses can help prevent losing matches, but it is your strengths that actually win those matches.  And perhaps more importantly, there can be a big effect on players’ confidence.  For example, if players or the team continuously hear that reception is their weakness, they expect their reception to be poor.  After the first poor reception they can start to think ‘here it goes again’ and the downward spiral begins.

Attending to weaknesses is important, but never forget your strengths and always work to keep confidence high.


The collection of Coaching Tips can be found here.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Training With The Starters

One of the key concepts of volleyball, or of any team sport, is that the more any combination of players play together, the better they play together.  It is a pretty obviously, logical statement and it stands up as true time and time again.  Knowing that, many (most) coaches in team sports will try to make as few changes as possible in their starting line up, firstly to create and secondly, to take advantage of this group understanding.  A smaller group of coaches take this concept to the extreme by focussing all, or most, or their training time on working with the starters.  It is logical that training the starters is the best way to develop a group of starters.  But is this really the best way to develop a team?

My answer would be emphatic, no!  The first point is that maximising the training opportunities for half of the team, will minimise the training opportunities of the other half of the team.  This has several negatives for the development of the team.

Firstly, there are many things that can happen over the course of a season, especially injuries.  If players from the second six never get the chance to play with the normal starters they cannot be expected to play at a high level if you ever need them.

Secondly, the motivation of players who never play with the starters in practice is always less.  It doesn’t matter how much the coach pushes, or how professional or intrinsically motivated the players are, at some point they will not bring the same the level of intensity to practice as the starters, which will negatively impact the level of practice.

Thirdly, if the coach deliberately creates two groups in practice, he cannot reasonably expect to see a unified team off the court or during matches.  If the coach preaches a team mentality but doesn’t act on it during practice he will never be able to create a team.

Everything a coach does is a tradeoff.  If I split my team into starters and non starters, then I can expect my starters to play better together, but I sacrifice a smooth transition in case of injury, and hinder the building of the team.   If I continually mix my team in practice, my ‘starters’ will take longer to develop an optimal group understanding and performance.  But others will be ready to peform at their best if needed, and the team unity and training level will stay high.

I have always been a coach that likes to build a team.

Teaching Resilience

Resilience is one of those mythical qualities that is highly sought after for high performance athletes in all sports.  You can often hear coaches talk about the resilience, or lack therefore, of their teams, and about steps they are taking to develop in their teams.

I certainly agree that resilience is highly desirable. There are innumerable situations during the course of a practice / week / match / season which create disappointments both small and large for individual players and teams.  How resilient those players and teams are to those disappointments is an important factor in quality of the team.

So how to develop that resilience?  It was suggested to me recently that coach’s anger (yelling, screaming etc) during practice specifically creates the conditions that allow resilience to develop.

So this is the question… are coaches who resist displays of anger during their work actually doing their players a disservice?

I’m interested in your thoughts.

Ayak Bileği Yaralanmalarını Önleme

My recent post on preventing ankle injuries has been translated into Turkish by Serdar Mengi from the volleyball portal voleybolaktuel.com.  The translation appears here.

Ayak bileği burkulması, her düzeyde voleybolda en sık görülen akut yaralanmalardır. Yayınlanan bu makaleye göre, yaralanma nedeniyle kaybedilen süre, toplam sürenin % 30’unu oluşturuyor. Bu nedenle, teknik direktör mantıksal olarak, ekibindeki ayak bileği burkulmalarının sayısını ve şiddetini azaltması gerektiğinin farkında olmalıdır. Burkulmayı önlemek için, mantıksal olarak oyuncuların ayak bileklerini bantladığını ve / veya birkaç farklı ayak bileği koruyucusu kullandığı görülüyor. Ancak belki de bu tür bir yaralanmayı önlemek için daha fazla şey yapmamız gerekiyor. Sorunu biraz inceleyecek olursak.

Göz önüne alınması gereken ilk şey, ayak bileğindeki burkulmaların yaygın olması. Biz en yaygın voleybol yaralanmalarının bu olduğunu biliyoruz, fakat aslında bu gerçek mi?  2014 Dünya Şampiyona’sında, her 420 maçtan birinde, tek bir voleybalcu için bir ayak bileği burkulma ihtimalinin çok yüksek olduğu hesaplandı. Farklı bir bakış açısıyla baktığımızda, son iki sezonda bir ayak bileği burkulması yaşadım. Her oyuncunun sezon başına 50 net eylemi geçekleştirdiği var sayılırsa (hücum + blok gibi), bu 17.500 potansiyel yaralanmaya denk gelir. Pasörleri  ve liberoları çıkartacak olursanız, takımda on oyuncu kalır ve  iki sezon boyunca 175,000 potansiyel yaralanma, 1 gerçek sakatlık gerçekleşti. Bilinen ayak bileği burkulmaları yaygın bir voleybol yaralanması olduğudur, aslında bu kadar yaygın değildir. Aslında, bu miktar şaşırtıcı derecede nadirdirler.

Şimdi bir ayak bileği burkulmasının gerçekleşmesini düşünelim. En basit haliyle, iki (veya daha fazla) kişi aynı zemini kullanmaya çalıştığında bir ayak bileği burkulması oluşur. Ayak bileği burkulmalarını önlemenin en belirgin yolu, iki oyuncunun aynı zemini kullanmaya çalışmamasını sağlamaktır. Bunların daha az bir kısmı ise, koçun uygun sistem ve yapıları yerine getirmediğinden kaynaklanmaktadır. Her durumda sistem ve yapılar net olmalıdır.  Bu aynı zamanda taktiksel olarak mantıklıdır, çünkü aynı bölgede yer alan iki oyuncu karışıklığa neden olur ve diğer alanları açık bırakır. Oyuncu yerleşiminde ve aynı yerde yer almalarının önemli bir nedeni de olan vesilelerin çoğunluğu konsantrasyon eksikliğinden kaynaklanmaktadır. Son on yılda, konsantrasyon eksikliğinden kaynaklanmayan, içinde bulunduğum herhangi bir uygulamada tek bir ayak bileği burkulması hatırlamıyorum. Bu, genel olarak odaklanma eksikliği veya yorulmadan kaynaklanabilir. Tecrübelerime dayanarak söyleyebilirim ki, oyuncuların sıklıkla yorgun düştükleri ve en az odaklandıkları sezonun son ayında ayak bileği burkulmalarının% 80’i ortaya çıkıyor.

Özetlemek gerekirse, ayak bileği burkulması inanılmaz derecede nadirdir. Ve bu nadir sakatlığı önlemenin en iyi yolları ; iyi bir yerleşim sistemi, Eğitim ve antremanları iyi yönetmek, tamamen odaklanmaya yönelik bir ortam oluşturmaktır.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Preventing Ankle Injuries

Ankle sprains are the most common acute injuries in volleyball at all levels.  According to this article on volleycountry.com they account for 30% of all time lost due to injury.  Logically therefore the coach must be aware of how to decrease the number and severity of ankle sprains in his team.  And so we will see players taping their ankles and / or wearing one of a number of different types of ankle braces.  Logical indeed.  But maybe we need to do more to prevent this kind of injury.  Let’s study the problem a little bit.

The first thing to consider is just how common are ankle sprains.  We know that they are the most common volleyball injuries, but are they actually common?  For the 2014 World Championships, I did a (very) rough calculation that an ankle sprain was likely to occur to an individual volleyballer about once every 420 matches.  Looking at it a different way, in the last two seasons I have had one ankle sprain.  (Very) roughly, that is 350 trainings and matches.  If every player has 50 net actions (spikes + blocks, ie potential injuries) per session, that comes to 17,500 potential injuries.  If you take out setters and liberos, leaving ten players in the team, that is 175,000 potential injuries over the two seasons, resulting in exactly one (1) actual injury.  It is obvious that while ankle sprains are a common volleyball injury, they are not actually common. In fact, they are astonishingly rare.

Let us now consider the mechanism of an ankle sprain.  In the simplest form, an ankle sprain occurs when two (or more) people try to use the exact same piece of floor*.  The most obvious way to prevent ankle sprains is to ensure that two players don’t try to use the piece of floor.  A small number of these are due to the the coach not having appropriate systems and structures in place.  The systems and structures must be clear in every situation.  This is also tactically logical, as two players occupying the same area both creates confusion and leaves other areas open.  The rest, and therefore vast majority, of occasions where two players are in the same space are simply due to lack of concentration.  In the last ten years, I don’t recall a single ankle sprain in any practice I have been involved in that was not the direct result of lack of concentration.  That can be caused by general lack of focus, or distraction, or by fatigue.  I can take that one step further, in my experience, 80% of ankle sprains occur in the last month of the season when players are often at their most fatigued and least focussed.

To summarise, ankle sprains are incredibly rare.  And the best way to prevent these incredibly rare events is have good systems in place, manage the training / competition load, ie fatigue, appropriately and maintain a focussed training environment.

Actually, that is just good coaching.


*Yes, sometimes players just fall over and sprain their ankles, but I think under the circumstances we can remove that situation from our consideration.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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