Tag Archives: Reid Priddy

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 http://reidpriddy.com/




World League Notes

My thoughts on World League are, at the best of times, mixed.  On the one hand it is high level volleyball in the period in which I am free to watch more or less as much volleyball as I want just for the fun of it.  On the other hand, the halcyon days of World League have passed volleyball [1] and it isn’t the highest level.  For the most part teams approach the event as high level friendly matches.  Friendly matches that they want to win? Absolutely.  Friendly matches that they need to win? Not if it costs them the chance to be at their peak for the bigger tournaments (World / Euro Champs, Olympics[2] ) later in the summer.  Of course, that can make the matches more interesting, as coaches experiment with lineups and systems, sometimes providing a glimpse into the future.

I have watched quite a few matches from the first two weekends. Some live streamed, some after the event.  A few things have piqued my interest.

– As I wrote a year or so ago, some teams are making some tentative steps away from complete specialisation.  Germany sometimes use their opposite to receive in place of one of their outside hitters.   USA have been playing with an outside hitter (Anderson) as opposite to allow a young outside hitter to play (Sander).   This worked really well against Bulgaria.  Sander received in some rotations and Anderson in others, with Priddy and Shoji taking the main load.  They looked really good doing it as Anderson and Sander are both dynamic attackers.  It will be interesting to see how the injury to Priddy affects how they approach that situation.

– Speaking of Priddy, that was nasty.

– My prediction before the season was the Argentina would be the surprise package.  With Julio Velasco as the new coach, I thought they would have a strong form upsurge, at least in the short term.  They have indeed been surprising, winning only one of their first four matches, all at home.  The last of which was to a German team in full experimental mode.  But even more surprising was Velasco’s statement that they needed to change their offensive concept.  Honestly with two world class setters, De Cecco and Uriarte, both coming off great club seasons, I would have thought that would be the least of their problems.  But they have really struggled and even played Conte as opposite in the last two matches.

– Poland under new coach Antiga/Blain took their young guys to Brazil … and won the second match 3-0, deservedly so.  Poland has played the last three seasons with basically the same 7 or 8 players.  Maybe there will be some changes in the near future.  I have a feeling it won’t hurt them as much as they fear it might.

– Brazil also played their first four matches at home, which should be a pretty good advantage against European teams who have more or less not had a break after their club seasons.  From those four, they have won only one.  They are going through biggest generational change since Bernardinho took over the team in 2001.  It doesn’t seem to be going too well.

– Italy have played astoundingly well.  I’m sure that it helps their four key guys (Zaytsev, Parodi, Kovar, Travica) have played a lot together and have all won championships this season.  With Russia playing their 2nd (3rd?, 4th?, 5th? team) in the first matches, Italy must be favourites to win for the first time in many, many years.

The next few weeks will be intriguing.


[1] In the early days of World League, regulations required that countries fielded their strongest team at all times.  Velasco once proudly told me this was the ‘Velasco Rule’ because the Italians at the time tried to rest some of their players during that period.

[2] In 2012, all three medallists rested key players (and even coaches) for part or all of World League.  The two top teams from World League, i.e. the teams that tried to win it, arrived at the Olympics worn out and were knocked out in the quarter finals.

Praise For Tetyukhin

photo from cev.lu

photo from cev.lu

On the 24th March episode of the volleyball podcast The Net Live sometime host Reid Priddy contributed a review of the Champions League Final Four (which I wrote about here and here).  He focused review on tournament MVP Sergey Tetyukhin. It occurred to me that if volleyball were a proper media sport, and a comparable event had occurred (ie an aging star dominating a tournament), Tetyukhin would have been widely feted with Priddy’s comments being just a few of many.  Given that volleyball is not a proper media sport, and a podcast is somehow a transient media form, I decided to report those comments for posterity.

At the age of 39, his record is unparalleled.  He has won ten domestic championships (for comparison co-Player of the 20th Century, Lorenzo Bernardi won nine), four Champions League titles (Bernardi won three), four Olympic medals (from five participations) and among many other individual awards, was chosen in 2012 as the Russian Sportsman of the Year.  That is, in an Olympic year, he was chosen as the best from all sports.

But in a sense, those things are incidental.  Priddy went on to describe him in quite some wonderment as “…one of those players who, win or lose, it doesn’t change his life.  That’s what fascinates me about him.  As an athlete he doesn’t have his identity or pride or ego wrapped up in the results.”  He went on that in addition to being ‘fun to watch’, “… he’s a team player.  That’s what I loved most about playing with him.  He’s going to go hard and he’s going to try his best and he’s ubercompetitive, crazy athletic but a loss doesn’t change his life.  He doesn’t sulk.  He doesn’t feel less about himself.  I think that’s what separates him.”

Priddy is not alone, his gold medal winning teammate Lloy Ball has also publicly referred to Tetyukhin as one of two greatest players he ever played with and a real clutch performer.  Lloy puts it in his own words at the beginning of this clip.

On the occasion of his Russian Sportsman of the Year award, Russian television produced a documentary.  I am sure it is a must for all Russian speakers 🙂


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

Cover v2

Volleyball Video Challenge System And Unintended Consequences

The recently concluded CEV Men’s Champions League Final Four used for the first time in international competition a video review system.  Despite being trumpeted in a press release and endlessly mentioned on the www.laola1.tv coverage, it was never actually explained. Questions such as ‘Who could challenge?’,  ‘When could they challenge?’,  ‘What could they challenge?’ were never addressed.  The commentators were particularly clueless.  They didn’t even seem to be aware of when a challenge was taking place and, for example after the match, made a point of saying they didn’t know how it was being used.  Luckily a participant, Reid Priddy from Kazan, was able to explain it all on this weeks episode of The Net Live.  Apparently the system allowed for the captain to challenge as many line calls (foot and ball) or net touches as he wanted to.  The two catches were that each team was allowed only onefailed challenges per set (meaning after two failed challenges they were not allowed to challenge again in that set), and they were not allowed any block touches (despite the technology existing and being used in the TV coverage).

This led to two unintended, although entirely predictable, consequences, as Priddy explained.  The positive was that because of the limit to the number of challenges allowed, teams were not able to appeal as much.  Part of the theatre of volleyball is that each team appeals each rally in an attempt to sway the officials.  Under this challenge system it is no longer possible.  Players are forced to be ‘honest’ because there is no point being otherwise.  The negative unintended consequence, and the least surprising thing that happened in the volleyball world this week, is that when this happened on match point all 14,000 home spectators knew almost instantly and with certainty that they had been robbed of the last point.  But touched calls couldn’t be challenged and so the decision stood, and so did all 14,000 spectators as they booed and whistled through the presentations.

And so a great idea that has the potential to bring so many positives to the sport and the spectacle ultimately destroys that very spectacle because the administrators lack the courage to fully implement it.  That’s a shame.

World League Thoughts

World League 2011 is four weeks old and given that I’ve seen quite a few of the games, it seems like as good a time as any to make some observations.

Volleyball is Volleyball – During a segment on The Net Live, USA captain Reid Priddy was asked by an interviewer what was  the difference between the first game against Brazil (which they lost 1-3) and the second game against Brazil (which they won 3-1).  Priddy revealed that between the two games, the players had committed themselves to ‘better the ball’ under all circumstances.  Sometimes the most easiest answer is the best answer.

Coaching 101 – After losing to Japan (losing to Japan is always a bad thing), German coach Raul Lozano was quoted as saying “It would be great if one or other of the players could improve”.  The lesson, as always, is that it is the players’ fault.

There is no defence without the block – I watched a little bit of Japan and Korea playing and the much vaunted defensive skills of the Asian teams was not even close to a match for the power of Russia and Cuba.  I can’t be sure, but it even seemed to me that the Koreans in particular didn’t really want to step in front of some balls.  It brought a new meaning to the term perimeter defence; much less chance to of getting hit if you’re close to the line.  In men’s volleyball you have to stop the attack at the net.  You just have to.

Rally is the word – There have been a many, many exciting rallies.  As a spectacle, I don’t remember volleyball ever having been better.  Outside hitters are having to work harder and harder to get the ball on the floor, which you can see reflected in the statistics on the FIVB website (for other matches go to ‘Match Info’).  I’d love to see what the high ball hitting percentages are.  They can’t be good.  By far the most successful area of the court to attack from is the centre third.  First tempo and pipe is successful.  Everything else is a struggle.

Italy… – The better results of Italy this season have given judges of the calibre of Andrea Zorzi reason to be positive.  Someone more cynical might note that a group containing Korea, a decimated Cuba, and a ‘scandalised’ France was ripe for the picking.  From the match I saw new coach Berruto has produced a typically organised and risk averse team, but there does seem to be a better spirit in the team and most of all some sorely needed youthful exuberance.  For me the most intriguing player in the whole tournament is Ivan Zaytsev.  He’s the youngest player in the team, he was a setter until two years ag0 (he’s playing as a receiver now) and his father was an Olympic gold medallist for the Soviet Union.  And it seems like he’s a really good player.  Time will tell.

France… – Their World Championships was a disaster that ended with the best player being suspended (first from the tournament and later from the National Team).  Their World League is no better.  Losing to Italy is kind of okay.  Losing to Cuba is undesirable.  Losing to Korea is unacceptable.  Although they have won one match in Italy, the very next night, they looked almost like they were  trying to get off the court as fast as possible.  It’s uncomfortable to watch.

Clay Stanley – Speaking of uncomfortable to watch, it’s really tough to see a great player struggling.  The unstoppable bomber of 2008 has, for whatever reason, taken to playing shots around the block.  He’s still serving great, so hopefully it is a short term thing.

Bartosz Kurek – Just fun to watch.  Of all the players on show in World League, I’m sure he is the one who is having the most fun.  And he is good.

So far the tournament has been pretty good, with the standard sometimes reaching the highest level.  You can watch the games on www.laola.tv (as long as you hide your IP), www.fromsportcom.com and www.lshunter.tv.  I would recommend it.


World Championships – Some More Thoughts

A friend of mine wrote on his facebook page on Sunday night “Brazil celebrates and so ends a really poor World Championships”.  Reid Priddy, on The Net Live, said that this tournament didn’t have the special feeling that others have had.  While scanning my RSS feed every morning I was (for once) secretly pleased that volleyball wasn’t important enough to be reported on by the mainstream sports media, so embarrassing were some of the events.

It was certainly a weird tournament.  While looking at the last three or four days, I would agree with my friend that the standard was not high.  In my view having Italy in the semi finals detracted significantly from the event as they were by no one’s reckoning among the best four (or six or maybe even eight) teams at the tournament.  The Cuba – Serbia semi final was close but not really entertaining and Brazil were just miles better in the final even though they didn’t play anywhere near their best.  I feel like the highest quality, and definitely the most entertaining, matches were in the first round. That having been said, if we take off our ‘it was better before’ glasses, in the 2006 World Championships, Brazil was so much better Ricardo spent a whole set in the final trying trick sets, and in 1998, Italy crushed Yugoslavia in much the same manner.  So we shouldn’t let the final matches completely determine our analysis of the whole tournament.

Even as an internet spectator, I feel like there is a lot of merit to Priddy’s comment.  A lot has been talked about the throwing of matches and the rights and wrongs of it.  Whichever side you fall on, or even if you straddle that fence, it definitely affected the feel of the tournament and I think also of the quality.  In a normal event teams build momentum over the two or three weeks.  For obvious reasons this was not possible this time around.  I am sure that this played a part in Cuba’s result.  They (along with Italy and USA) were the only ones of the big names who played every match at their maximum.  Brazil, Serbia, Russia and Bulgaria all had ‘hiccups’ along the way and to me it is yet another credit to Bernardo and the culture he has built how they were able to cope with that situation, as well as injuries and illnesses (even if the circumstances of the ‘hiccup’ are less of a credit).  The other three all lost matches they might have been expected to win in normal/different circumstances.  In a study I did while at university, I was able to ask famous Russian coach Vyacheslav Platonov directly if he would ever deliberately throw a match.  While not answering the question directly yes or no, he was clear that there was a great risk involved in something like that as losing always affects the mindset of the players.

Hopefully, the next one will have a different format and a different discussion at the end of it.


World Championships – Karma Police

As I watched USA thump Italy in the first set of last night’s match, I thought two thoughts – maybe having to play hard in every match just to get through could have led to better form at the end of the tournament and that maybe the karma police were having their say on Italy.  At the end of the match, I discovered I had learnt two things.  The USA and Italy had to play hard in every match just to get through because they aren’t very good.  And there is no karma police.  The second statement would be backed up by US captain Reid Priddy who had some thinly veiled criticisms about the conduct of the Italian players during the match.  Even from my highly pixelated ‘TV’ footage it seemed apparent that Italian captain Vermiglio was in ‘fine’ sledging mode both against the US team and the referees.  Priddy was obviously affected during the fourth set and at one stage was called to referee (for retaliating?) as Vermiglio pointed to the scoreboard.  At the end in a match in which none of the spikers could get into any kind of rhythm the match ended the only way it could have; Stanley for the 30th time in the match having to check his approach, jump backwards to hit the ball and got blocked.  On this performance, Italy will struggle against Brazil’s second ‘setter’.

The winner of the day is Serbian coach Ivan Kolakovic who after beating Russia and getting the first semi final spot declared he was ‘the happiest man alive‘.  At least part of his happiness is derived from the fact that having started the fiasco by throwing the first round game against Poland, subsequent events have led his actions to be forgotten and to this headline from the German volleyball press ‘Serbia Punishes Russian Cheating‘.  The karma police definitely had the day off.