Tag Archives: Practice

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 #16

“Listen to pepper”

Most teams start practice with pepper*.  It normally takes the form of some kind of throwing and spiking in pairs to prepare the shoulder for spiking.  It then progresses to some easy underarm and overarm passing before the players begin to spike at each other in earnest.  The intensity has a natural progression over the six to ten minutes the drill lasts for, and importantly, you should be able to hear that progression.  As the players go through each stage, the time between ball contacts becomes shorter so noise increases in the gym.  As the players start to spike and ‘defend’ they talk more as they push their teammates to chase down errant balls or joke with them for missing easy plays.  And bodies hitting the floor adds to the overall cacophony.

At all points along the way the coach should be listening for the expected sounds.  A crisp, strong contact of hand on ball when spiking, can indicate a high level of concentration and readiness for practice, just as poor contact can indicate disinterest and fatigue.  Similarly, players who aren’t talking may also be showing their lack of engagement in the practice.

As with Tip #15, this is not a hard and fast rule.  It is a little sign that experienced coaches can pick up on and if addressed early, either by additional verbal encouragement or tweaking the practice plan on the fly, can ensure that the quality of practice always reaches the appropriate level.


*We can have a discussion about the value of pepper and whether it is game like and whether it teaches anything.   But for now, we won’t.


The collection of Coaching Tips can be found here.


For more great coaching tips, check out the 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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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.