Tag Archives: Practice

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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Training Goals

There is a lot of research that shows the best kind of practice the coach should do with his team.  The best kind of practice that a coach should do with his team is distributed practice.  Distributed practice provides the best conditions for learning and importantly the retention of the learning.  That is clear.  Everyone knows that*.  So it logically follows that distributed practice is always the best way to practice.  Or does it?

What if the goal of a particular practice session is NOT learning? What if the goal is team building? Or active recovery? Or providing feedback? Or developing a common language?  Or improving communication? If the goal of practice is not learning then is it necessary to use only distributed practice formats?

The practice below was originally recorded by Volleywood for a Facebook Live Event.  The goal of the practice activation.  The team had had two free days prior to this practice.  Contrary to popular belief, professional athletes are not better when they have had free time and tend to be fairly sluggish.  Sometimes practice can look like the players have never met each other, or a ball, before.  In such cases, to prevent practice being an essential dead loss, we can have a morning practice that activates the nervous system and muscles, in preparation for the days that follow.  In that case we want to have simple activities and movements that allow a player to get back in communication with his body and with the ball.

The video quality is not perfect, and it wasn’t recorded with the view of being a training aid, but you can get the idea.


*Sadly, not everyone knows that.  But they should.

Shooting Blind – A Life Without Feedback

This week my club president invited the team and staff for a casual get together / get to know you / team building activity at a local gun club.  If you think about it, it is a logical place to hold a team get together.  I mean what brings a group of men more enjoyment than shooting stuff?  Oh, you can think of a few things, eh? Well, anyway that is where we went.  After struggling for a few minutes with the personal morality of shooting a gun at all (particularly as I don’t want my son to have even a toy gun), I decided to join in.  It was an interesting experience.

The first problem I had was that I wasn’t wearing my glasses.  This wasn’t an issue about seeing the target, or not, but an issue of not being able to see what I hit.  I took careful aim at the target, carefully squeezed the trigger and off in the distance there was a cloud of dust.  I had no clue whether I had hit anything in between those events.  I was shooting blind.  I realised that without being able to see the target I had no feedback on what I was doing.  Between series I was able to see the target and eventually piece together some information.

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In the picture on the right you can see the 8 and 6 below the bullseye were in my 3rd series.  The 10, 9 and 8 were in my 4th series.  With feedback, I could quickly improve.

Oddly, considering how many millions of times I have seen it, I am much better able to ‘see’ where a ball lands after having spent a season working with the video challenge system in the Polish League.  For the first time in my over 30 year involvement with volleyball I have had actual feedback on where a ball has landed.  It turns out that is important too.  Who would have thought.

The lesson is, as always, there is no learning without feedback.

What Actually Drives Performance Improvement?

Statement 1 – In the last thirty years the understanding of techniques and tactics and training methods has improved enormously, leading to the increased performance we see today.

Statement 2 – In the last thirty years equipment and technology have improved enormously, leading to the increased performance we see today.

If asked I am reasonably certain that everybody involved in sport would agree with both of those statements with the proportion attributed to each variable due to the particular sport that person is most involved in.

A Canadian science show recently did a piece investigating and trying to isolate the effect of technology on performance in a few individual events.  The show can be seen here.  The basic premise of the show was to give current performers the conditions of their predecessors and see how they perform.  The most interesting one was the world championship 100m sprint bronze medallist who was given similar conditions as Jesse Owens.  Running on a cinder track, with leather shoes and no starting blocks, he ran 0.7 seconds slower than Owens.  There are of course other contributing factors (including habituation to the conditions and absence of competition) but it is a stunning point.  The athletes in other disciplines showed similar, if less stark results.  These results suggest a ‘what if?’.  With all of the increases in training knowledge, technical knowledge and pharmaceutical assistance, what if the majority of improvement in performance can be attributed to improved equipment?

Yesterday, I posted about the psychology of improved performance.  Athletes perform relative to their expectations of performance.  Perhaps they model their performance somehow on previous performance, their own and others.  As an experienced coach, this makes some intuitive sense.  I could also name specific examples from my own personal experience and from history when the performance of a team has improved simply because a new coach brought with him higher expectations.

Putting those two threads together if you consider training, equipment and psychology, could it possibly be that training, training methodology, technique, tactics, scouting, (drugs) are actually the least important component of our programs?  At the very least, the above evidence seems to suggest that we may be overvaluing their importance.

There Is No One Answer!!

I have written several times over the years about the 10,000 Hour Rule.  While I understand that this is not in fact a ‘rule’, it has always been an intriguing idea for one reason.  Explicit in the ‘rule’ is the importance of practice.  And not just any practice, deliberate practice which has the specific goal of improving performance.  This is the most powerful, and more or less only, takeaway.

Since it was first popularised by Malcolm Gladwell, the ‘rule’ has been often used to prove that talent does not exist. For example by Daniel Coyle and Matthew Syed.  The suggestion that talent does not exist is an intoxicating one, particularly for coaches who can tell their athletes that hard work is the sole determinant of success and everyone has an equal chance, and thereby increasing their own importance in the process.  They continue to maintain this stance despite the fact that it is patently ridiculous.

With that background, I read a blog post that quoted studies digging deeper into the importance and effectiveness of training.  The researchers quoted a figure of 18%.  That is practice accounted for 18% of variance in sports performance.  For the non maths experts, 18% is less 100%.

“Our conclusion is that, of course, deliberate practice is an important factor, but it’s not the only factor or even the largest factor,”

Shockingly, the author of the study on which all of this is based, K. Anders Ericsson, disagrees with that conclusion*, pointing out all sorts of flaws in interpretation and method.

To rub salt into the wounds,

“…it’s time to get beyond the idea that talent is either “born” (genetic) or “made” (all about practice). Instead they propose what they call a “multifactorial” model. It features arrows going all over the place in an effort to capture how factors like basic ability, personality, and deliberate practice affect each other and the overall development of talent.”

It is incredibly attractive to think that for every situation there is only one answer.  It allows us to simplify the world into patterns we can more easily understand.  Coaches love to think that there is a best technique or method and applying it will inevitably lead to success.  Attractive as it is, this kind of thinking is that it doesn’t take into account reality.  There are so many factors involved that trying to identify a single answer can only ever lead to superficial thinking.

There is NEVER only one answer.


*Presumably Gladwell, Coyle and Syed also disagree.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Blocked Practice Is Priming

None of the following is based strictly speaking on any actual research.  On that basis, it is purely speculation on my behalf.  I will defend myself however by writing that I am taking research results from different areas and putting them together, so I am not just making stuff up.  But it is just a collection of thoughts that might not in reality fit together.

Blocked practice has been shown, as reported here for example, to produce some positive short term learning effect but overall less retention of the learned activity than random / distributed practice.  For learning it is therefore clear that random practice is essential.  But at different moments during the course of the season, the goal of the coach may not necessarily be learning.  Sometimes the goal of the coach is a short term improvement in some particular area for a specific match.  In this situation blocked practice might be a perfect solution.

As I wrote previously the content of practice is in itself a form of communication with the team.  By choosing to practice a particular area in any way at all, even in a way that does not directly lead to long term learning, informs the team of its importance and draws their attention to it.  In this case blocked practice can lead to on court success by priming the team for certain skills and situations.

If I take the train of thought further and add a few more speculations on top…

Although blocked practice does not lead to long term learning, coaches persist with using it.  Obviously no coach wants his team to be worse, so one can only conclude that the coach ‘sees’ improvement in his team after blocked practice, particularly intra session improvement.  In seems likely / possible that what he is actually seeing is just the priming effect of the drill and not actual learning.  Hence the confusion.

It’s just a thought.