Tag Archives: Vladimir Alekno

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/




2016 Olympic Preview

Going back over previous posts to prepare for writing this one, I learnt something very interesting.  I actually predicted before the tournament that Russia would win.  I didn’t remember being so prescient.  Perhaps I actually know more than I think.  Or got as lucky as the proverbial blind squirrel.  Let’s see how I go this time…

When I look at the pools for this tournament, I am stunned by how uneven they are.  Normally they are uneven because the host is automatically seeded first and that pool is worse.  This time it is the opposite.  Brazil’s pool is ridiculously difficult.  Canada will more than likely not make the quarter finals from that Pool A but would have been quietly confident of finishing third in Pool B.  Such is life, so they say.


There are a few questions that are immediately raised.  Will France be able to maintain their form of the last two years on the biggest stage?  Will USA be able to regain the form they showed at World Cup?  Will Brazil be able to withstand the biggest pressure a host nation has ever had to face?  Will Italy be able to play half as well as they think they should? Will Canada be able to snag a victory and sneak into the quarter finals? Mexico?

For the record, my answers are yes, maybe, yes, no, maybe, ?.  Finishing positions Brazil, France, USA, Canada, Italy, Mexico.  I’m going for a bit of a surprise.  Canada could win one match against the top teams, and Italy is the most likely.The


There are a few questions that are immediately raised. Will Poland be able to regain their world championship form? Will Russia be able to put the recent scandals behind them and regain their Olympic form? Will Argentina be able to reach their countries ultimate goal?  Will Iran make the most of a never to be repeated opportunity to make the quarter finals?  Will Egypt get an Olympic victory?  Will Cuba be able to field a team?

For the record, my answers are no, no, no (win in Brazil), yes, yes, I guess so.  Finishing positions Poland, Russia, Argentina, Iran, Egypt, Cuba.  No surprises here.  Although Argentina v Iran will be interesting.


This is where things will start to get really, really interesting.  Any best of one tournaments are thrilling.  This teams this time around are really well matched. If either Brazil, France, or Poland won the gold medal I wouldn’t be surprised.  And Russia, Italy, and the USA wouldn’t surprise anyone by winning a medal.  I am really excited about a lot of things in this tournament; France, Schmitt, Kubiak, Wallace, De Cecco, Zaytsev’s Olympic tat, Cuba’s youth team, Alekno, Bernardinho, press conferences ignoring the qualification process and Brazilian crowds when Brazil is playing.  I am mostly excited about watching a France v Brazil gold medal match, Brazilian fans crying for joy and the Polish team joining them on the podium.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

Cover v2

World League Winners And Losers

Today I heard an interesting tidbit.  Since the inception of World League in 1990, The winners of the competition in an Olympic year have gone on the win the Olympic Gold Medal 50% of the time.  When the sun sets on Rio at the end of the this year’s Games, that figure will be lower.  Inexplicably, World League was won this year by a team that had not qualified for the the Olympic Games.  If your memory goes back to 2012, you might not be so surprised.  All three 2012 medallists treated World League that year as an impediment to their preparation.  Indeed they were so blatant that for this year’s event FIVB introduced a special rule to ensure that teams would send close to their best group to each match.  In response, teams tried to manage their situations, and players, as best they could.  And Serbia won.  But winning and losing are not always on the scoreboard.  Who were the real winners and losers?


Serbia were the obvious winners on the scoreboard.  With only this event to focus on for the year and the disappointment of Berlin to drive them, they had a great tournament, including beating (Olympic Gold Medallist?) Brazil twice.  They have a young team, and coach, and this year will have made them stronger.

Brazil won all their matches against Olympic participants, highlighted by beating a strong USA team playing with the second six.  Although Murilo is now out for Rio, they showed that they are definitely the favourites for gold


France rested players at key moments, including Kevin Tillie for the whole finals.  They will be disappointed to have lost again to Poland after leading 2-0, but will be delighted to have beaten Italy handily while playing below full strength.  They showed only glimpses of their very best, but showed that their standard performance is now very high.


Poland apart from the qualification in Japan, the summer has been a difficult one for Poland.  Key players missed big chunks of the season for rest and injury rehab.  They never got a chance to play their full team together and lost at home in the finals.  Of course, nothing is lost.  They showed great fight in many matches despite their difficulties and I am personally hoping they will play France in a big match in Rio.  That game will be huge.

USA and Italy were the two teams that played their full teams in the finals.  USA lost to the Brazilian second six to miss out on the semi finals and they seem to lack something of the cohesion that was qualified them so convincingly at World Cup less then 12 months ago.  Italy lost France playing without their starting setter for the bronze medal.  While playing better than the last months of the Berrutto era, they seemed to lack the consistency and perhaps also some of the quality of some of their predecessors.  Both teams have some serious work to do, not least on their confidence in the next couple of weeks.


Serbia Can anyone say ‘Mexico’*.

Russia missed out on the finals after a series of lacklustre performances.  It seems strange to count out the reigning Olympic Gold Medallists before the tournament even begins but nothing they have done since the 2014 World Championships has given any indication that they are playing for medals.  Even master coach Alekno doesn’t seem to be making much of an impact beyond the qualification in January.  It is tough to see how they will suddenly make a jump to being a contender in Rio.

FIVB Can anyone say ‘Mexico’

*This is meant as no slight to Mexico who fulfilled the requirements asked of them.  It is also not to suggest that Serbia is the only ‘loser’ here.  Germany were actually closer to qualification.


Perspective – Part Three

Welcome to the third part of what is apparently an ongoing series.  Parts 1 and 2 are linked.

I’ve talked in those posts about the point from which one views the game and how different points provide different views and hence different information.  Perspective is important.

During our Champions League campaign last season, I was able, very briefly, to watch Vladimir Alekno during a training session.  What he did that was very interesting was that in a serve and reception drill, he did not position himself to allow an overview of the whole drill, but in a position that he could only watch the receivers. His entire attention was focused not on the conduct of the drill or the servers, but very specifically on the receivers from inside the court on the opposite side of the net.  That got me a thinking a little bit.

In a post on Eye Work For Coaches, I thought, and asked, about where the coach should focus his attention**.  What about if the coach doesn’t control his attention solely by his focus but by his position around, but more specifically on, the court? What if he stands on the court and in a position that his attention can’t waver from his goal?  What if he stands right next to the player? How much more information does he get?  Is that information better information? Can he link the movements of the player and ball better?
I’d be interested in some thoughts.

** The final poll results showed that 95% of readers of this blog, however representative of anything that is, think that the coach should focus his attention on the players or the players’ feet.

The End Of Specialisation? : Part 1 – Macerata

Last week’s Champions League Playoff 6 was notable for a couple of reasons.  Polish club Kedzierzyn Kozle beat last season’s Final Four performers Izmir to reach the last stage for the first time in nearly ten years.  Zenit Kazan celebrated the knocking out of perennial finallists Trento by crushing fellow Russians Dynamo Moscow.  And Italian powers Macerata and Cuneo faced off against each other.  The Italian match up was the closest, with Cuneo reaching their first ever Final Four in the golden set, but it was also interesting as neither team played with a ‘traditional’ lineup.

Since Doug Beal and the USA men’s team pioneered the two receiver system in the early 1980’s volleyball (particularly men’s volleyball) has become more and more specialised.  So specialised in fact that virtually every men’s team in the world plays exactly the same way; one setter, one opposite, two receivers (one better at receiving, one better at spiking), two middle blockers and one libero (who always comes into the game for the middle blockers.  But ever so slowly there have been some small variations creeping into the this homogenised game.  Angelo Lorenzetti used three receivers and no opposites while winning the Italian championship with Piacenza in 2009.  Vladimir Alekno played players out of ‘position’ to win the 2012 Olympics.  And now Macerata and Cuneo faced off in a big match playing two completely different types of lineups.

Macerata are using a variation of the the lineup Piacenza used in 2009, in that they are playing with three receivers.  The one difference is while Piacenza were forced by circumstances into their version, Macerata intended to play with this system from the beginning of the season, albeit with slightly different personnel.  The lineup as they played against Cuneo is shown here.

Macerata Lineup

Macerata Lineup

Travica is the setter. Stankovic and Podrascanin are middles.  Parodi and Kooy are nominally the receivers.  Zaytsev is nominally the opposite.  Basically where this lineup differs from the ‘standard’ is that Zaytsev, while playing opposite the setter, both spikes from the backrow and takes on a major passing role, while Kooy, while playing in a receivers ‘slot’ plays almost solely as a spiker.  We can see how it works, rotation by rotation.


P1 is fairly obvious.  Zaytsev drops back to receive, either in the standard three receiver formation without Kooy, or with Kooy in the four receiver version.

P1 - 3 Receivers

P1 – 3 Receivers

P1 - 4 Receivers

P1 – 4 Receivers


Not much to be done here.  Standard formation.



Zaytsev lines up as though he will not receive but moves back into the receiving position as the server makes his toss.  Kooy could also step out completely to make it a three receiver formation.

P5 - Before Serve

P5 – Before Serve

P5 - During Serve

P5 – During Serve


Zaytsev lines up as though he will not receive but moves into the receiving position as the server makes his toss.  Kooy could also step out completely to make it a three receiver formation.  Zaytsev can and will easily recieve and spike from the backrow.

P4 - Before Serve

P4 – Before Serve

P4 - During Serve

P4 – During Serve


Zaytsev recieves in position 1 and spikes from position 1.  Kooy stands completely our of the reception and prepares to spike the pipe.




Zaytsev is forced by the rotational order to receiver in position and therefore cannot spike in position 1.  Kooy stays out of the reception and plays the ‘opposite’ role in this rotation.



So there it is.  A new paradigm? Or maybe the Cuneo version is the new paradigm. Or maybe the new paradigm is that there is no paradigm.

Cuneo in Part 2

Coaches I Thought About In 2012

Just for the hell of it, I thought I’d write about some of the things I thought about in 2012.  Lots of stuff actually happened in the volleyball world in 2012 but I know nothing about nearly all of it because it happened in beach volleyball or women’s volleyball.  That’s not to say I never thought about beach volleyball or women’s volleyball, I just didn’t follow them.  So everything that follows will be male and indoor centric.  I think I’ll split them up into two or three posts.  I’ve already written about TEAMS and PLAYERS.  This one is about COACHES

I don’t the discussion about the best coach in 2012 should be a very long one.  In 2011, Vladimir Alekno won the Russian League with his club Dynamo Kazan and World League and World Cup with Russia.  In 2012, he won the Russian League again while adding the European Champions League title and topped it all of by winning the Olympics.  I doubt if any coach in men’s volleyball has had such an impressive 24 month period and I am not the least bit surprised that he retired from the National Team at the end of it.  Lots has been written and discussed about the Olympic final in particular but I think I’ll share one anecdote to perhaps put it into perspective.  A very experienced player went to play in Alekno’s club team.  He had won everything there was to win in volleyball and didn’t think he had anything left to learn in volleyball.  While the practice part of Alekno’s work was not revolutionary, the player commented to friends that his work in games was amazing and he ended up learning an enormous amount.

Also on the list in Jose Guimares, the coach of the Brazilian women’s team.  I have to say I know almost nothing about him, except that he is pretty good at winning things.  His three Olympic Gold Medals (two with the women and one with the men) is a feat matched by exactly zero other coaches, as is the feat of having won both the men’s and women’s competitions.

After those two, I think the honorable mentions go to the silver medal winning coaches.  Bernardinho and Hugh McCutcheon are not unknown in these parts and I’ve written plenty about them before.  Bernardinho left London with his fifth medal (two bronze with the women and a gold and two silver with the men).  I honestly don’t even know how to process that and I don’t think any more really needs to be said.  I was fortunate to catch McCutcheon’s US women’s team in training before the games so they ended up being a team I followed closely throughout the tournament.  I think they played the best volleyball of any team, men or women, over those two weeks and their record over the last two years is phenomenal.  Unfortunately for them the gold medal is not awarded for excellence over a period of time, but for winning a single game.

So those were the teams, players and coaches I thought mostly about in 2012.  Obviously I thought of plenty of other things.  I also thought about practice and how to improve it.  I also thought about statistics and how to use them better.  And I thought a lot about how to utilise the lessons from other sports and teams and coaches into my own work.  I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to think about those things and to write about them here.

Teams I Thought About In 2012

Just for the hell of it, I thought I’d write about some of the things I thought about in 2012.  Lots of stuff actually happened in the volleyball world in 2012 but I know nothing about nearly all of it because it happened in beach volleyball or women’s volleyball.  That’s not to say I never thought about beach volleyball or women’s volleyball, I just didn’t follow them.  So everything that follows will be male and indoor centric.  I think I’ll split them up into two or three posts.  This one is about TEAMS

Number in any discussion of the teams of 2012 must be Russia.  Everyone knows that after years and years (20, actually) of tears and disappointments, Russia finally won another major tournament final and managed to do it in the most dramatic way possible.  For a long time Russia has been recognised as having the most talented team, but one that never gets the job done.  That changed in those couple of hours in London in August.  With players like Muserskiy, Mikhaylov and Volkov not even having reached their (theoretical) peaks, and Alekno having proved himself a master coach (although he just resigned), the question now is how long can they dominate world volleyball.

On a related note Zenit Kazan showed their quality by winning the Russian league and Champions League in 2012.  At this point the Russian league might be the most difficult league to win and Champions League is the best club competition in the world.  In the Final Four in Lodz, they beat holders Trento and then hosts Belchatow, after being down match point in a performance so good that Olympic gold medallist Reid Priddy spent most of the time watching it from the bench.  With Mikhaylov, Volkov, Berezhko and Apalikov and Priddy already there, Italian setter Valerio Vermiglio was always going to be icing on the cake.  And it turns out the icing was delicious and decisive.  They also have an interesting youtube channel.

Speaking of Trento, since Radostin Stoychev became coach in 2007, Trento have been the best club team in the world.  In those five seasons they have won two leagues (and been runners up three times, once in five matches, twice in one off V-Day), two cups, three Champions Leagues and four World Club Championships.  During that time have changed virtually all of the team at least once, except for Matey Kaziyski, and yet their level of excellence over that time has been incredible.  They can be beaten, although not often, in a single match (see two V-Day losses and Champions League semi final) but only by another great team having their best day.  On every other day, they win.  To watch Trento play is to watch clockwork.  I don’t recall ever having seen a team so well drilled and well prepared.  As I write this, they are top of the league and getting ready to play (win) in another Cup final.

Although I just wrote that I know nothing about beach or women’s volleyball, I know enough to know what three Olympic Gold Medals in a row is an incredible achievement and therefore Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh deserve every recognition they get.  For the first two golds they were clearly the most dominant team in the world, at one stage winning over 100 matches in a row.  The third though, they had to do the hard way.  After a variety of injuries, (half hearted-)retirements and childbirth they were not favourites in London.  They even lost a set (their first in Olympic competition) during the tournament, but at the end dominated the final and won that third gold.  I doubt we will see anything like it again.

From 2002 to 2010 Brazil were the dominant men’s team in the world.  Except for a hiccup in Beijing (where they only won silver), they won everything they could possibly win.  Bernardinho created such a strong ‘family’ that he went through two generations of players in those eight years without losing a beat.  But for the last two years, it was clear that the era was coming to a close.  Their performances have been less than convincing.  Where once noone could beat them in a big match, they lost in World League and then World Cup and then in World League again.  And not just lost, fought amongst themselves while doing it. And yet they brought it all back together for one last hurrah and were one point away from winning an Olympic Gold Medal and becoming indisputably the greatest team of all time.  As it is they lost that point and are just probably the greatest team of all time.  Those are the margins, but you can’t deny what they have achieved over time.

Two other teams jump into my mind, for losing.  Skra Belchatow and VfB Friedrichshafen lost their respective championships in Poland and Germany after having won of (seven!!!) championships in a row.  Sadly it is probably the case that only by losing do people really reflect on that amazing achievement.  To win one or a couple of titles can be due to a bit of luck or a few key components coming together at the right time.  But to win seven titles in a row requires a commitment to excellence throughout a whole club that is extremely rare.  Chapeau!

But my Team Of The Year can only be one… Berlin Recycling Volleys.  And yes, I am contractually obligated to write that 🙂