Tag Archives: The Net Live

Team Culture One Percenters

Everyone* knows that the key to victory in any sporting event is taking care of the 1%ers.  It is one of those pieces of conventional wisdom that we take for granted these days.  When those people* talk about 1%ers they are most often referring to very small technical or tactical areas or even the 1% extra effort required to be successful.  Some coaches have gone as far as to identify what those 1%ers are and measure them.

For those keeping track at home, I think a lot about how the team functions, about ‘The Secret’, about the interactions within the team.  While everyone* knows that the functioning of the team is really, really important, many (most?) coaches do not actually spend time on those elements.  And they would certainly never give up actual training time to work on them.  Indeed coaches are notoriously loathe to voluntarily cut practice time for any reason at all.  And when building a team, they will always take the player who is the slightly better player over the player who is nearly as good but is a better fit in the team.

For those reasons it was interesting and refreshing to hear a recent interview with Anna Collier on The Net Live.  Anna is coach of the USC women’s beach volleyball team which has won the last two NCAA championships.  In the interview she talks of the evolution of her coaching from being a coach interested only in technical development to one being primarily interested in establishing an effective team culture.

“I learned that to me if we have a problem on the team… (fixing that problem) is more valuable than hitting that high line a hundred more times.”

If I can interpret her philosophy, she considers the team culture to be a 1%er and subsequently devotes part of her time with the team to developing them.

Maybe coaching isn’t just about techniques and tactics.

You can listen to the whole interview here from about the 37 minute mark.


*When you read ‘everyone’ or ‘people say’ do you ever ask ‘which people?’ or do you just accept the statement as given?

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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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/



Video Challenge or Hawkeye?

I recently heard a volleyball podcaster extol the virtues of the the Hawkeye System being used now in (some) FIVB events for the video challenge.  The system uses 16 cameras that track the ball at every moment along its path and creates an animation which then shows exactly the place the ball landed.  He went on to say that this version was much better than a match official watching a video to determine whether the ball landed in or out.

The argument makes some intuitive sense.  The picture is very clear and of course, computers are computers.  It is also unquestionably better and easier for spectators and TV viewers to understand what has happened.   There is however one fairly important point.  Why is it better to use a computer generated representation of where the ball should have landed than an actual video of where the ball actually landed.   Is it because we don’t trust a match official to be honest with what he is seen on the video?  Is our trust level really that low?

The video below shows pretty clearly that a computer generated representation is not necessarily reality.  And the comments in the World Of Volley article (here) show that people will still believe Hawk Eye even when there is contrary evidence.

Personally, I vote for reality.  No matter how pretty the pictures are.


The Best View?

“There’s no better angle, for sure, than the one from behind.”

Chris ‘Geeter’ McGee, The Net Live podcast.

The angle ‘Geeter’ is referring to here is the best angle for watching a volleyball match.  As all volleyball ‘experts’ know, the best position from which to view a volleyball match is from behind the court.  When I go to a match, I will always head to the back of the court.  During training, I will always wander in that direction.  That is the view I, and ‘Geeter’, feel gives us the best view of what is really happening and therefore provides us with the greatest understanding.

However, this view is not complete.  It provides the whole width of the court, but does not show the subtleties of depth, especially watching on video.  It is essentially a two dimensional view of a three dimensional game.  It is the best of all possible two dimensional views, but still not complete.  From time to time it is very valuable for a coach to check out a different view to improve his understanding of the game. Despite these weaknesses, we all agree that it is the best view.

But is it really the best?  The market says no.  When actually buying tickets for the biggest events, the tickets at floor level, behind the court are the cheapest and slowest selling.  The most expensive, fastest selling tickets are those along the sidelines, closest to the middle, in the first level.  So while volleyball ‘experts’ agree that the best place to understand the game is in one place, volleyball ‘fans’ understand that the best place to enjoy volleyball is a completely different place.  The view from the side definitely gives a much better impression of the dynamism and athleticism of the game.

So when hear that the TV coverage of volleyball is bad because of the camera angles, specifically the lack of a camera behind the court, I am not so sure.  I personally miss the level of understanding that I might normally have, but maybe I am in the minority, and maybe TV producers shouldn’t cater to my needs anyway.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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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.

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Hidden Motivation – The Sequel

In practice my teams play a lot of small sided games in which they are limited to two touches.  I like the two touches games for a few of reasons.  The first reason is that with two touches, especially in a small court, the time between contacts for each player is less and therefore the amount work is more.  The second reason is that with less opportunity to set up rally ending plays the rallies last longer and therefore the amount of work is more.  The last reason is that the players are forced to think in a different way in order to win points, and to be more aware to prevent them.  So two touch games are more work and more thinking and more awareness; a definite win-win-win for coaches.

One of my pet peeves in volleyball, is how much the best teams, at least on the men’s side, is how much the teams play ‘with’ each other.  There are a frequent moments in the game where both teams carry out set moves at the same time, when the team with the ball could theoretically do many other things, not least being take any kind of risk.  You can see it when the first contact is played six metres from the net.  One player jogs to set the ball.  One spiker clears out to get ready for a high ball. The other four players stand up, out of the immediate play and prepare to cover.  The opponent starts to job over to set a triple block where the predetermined spiker is getting ready.  The spiker tips.  The scene plays out over and over again.

Of course, if I see those moments jump out at me in indoor volleyball, then you can imagine what I think when I watch beach volleyball.  It is as though the teams make an agreement to always use three contacts when there are dozens of situations in a game where a team could win points easily, or at least gain a significant advantage, by at least maintaining the threat of playing over with the second contact.  On this week’s The Net Live, recent Manhattan Beach Open winner Matt Fuerbringer had an interesting discussion about the momentum effects of winning or losing a rally that you play over on the second contact.  Listening to that it occurred to me that it is less of an agreement to use three contacts but more in line with the hidden motivations that I have written about before.

If the goal was to win a point at any cost indoor volleyballers would attack with speed and variation even in difficult situations.  If the goal was to win a point any cost beach volleyballers would play a lot of first and second contacts over the net to the huge areas of free space.  But just as the goalkeeper never stands in the middle of the goal even though a third of all shots go there. if the first goal of the volleyballers is also not to look foolish then the whole thing makes more sense.

Player Empowerment

Giving players power over elements of their daily team life is by no means a new concept.  Australian Football League coach David Parkin had enormous success following the practice as far back as 1995, and in Australian sport it is now more or less compulsory.  In many other sports and countries this would be a complete disaster, but I digress…

I recently came across a couple of good insights into the principle.  In the December 10th 2012 episode of The Net Live, there were interviews with all of the coaches of the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four tournament.  The last of them with Oregon Ducks coach Jim Moore. During the interview he was asked about his player driven offensive system.

“I believe firmly that the game is won by the players…   I don’t put any balls on the floor so I’ve always given that centre of power to the players. They know themselves better than I know them and so what they feel comfortable running, they call and (the setter) makes that split second decision on where to go.  I’ve always felt that if you empower them, they make great decisions and generally they have done that and they’ve proven that they can do it.”

There must be something in it as Oregon made it all the way to the final, beating favourites Penn State in the semis before losing to Texas.

Pep Guardiola is also a believer in a form of player empowerment having pushed for it during his time as a player and implemented elements of it while of coach of Barcelona.  But his take on it  is a little different.

“I can imagine the most amazing solution to a problem and then sometimes players come out with something better during the game that I hadn’t thought of.  Then that for me is like a little defeat, it means I should have found that solution earlier.”**

Coaching isn’t easy.

**(from ‘Another Way Of Winning, p12)