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/

 

//percolate.blogtalkradio.com/offsiteplayer?hostId=51367&episodeId=9836787

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Doug Beal, The Man Who Reinvented Volleyball

The following interview was conducted by Sidronio Henrique, a Brazilian journalist who covers volleyball in Brazilian and Canadian publications. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the recent World Championships and he was gracious enough to allow me to reproduce this interview with Doug Beal. The original article appeared on the Brazilian website www.falandodevolei.com.br

Doug Beal is a reference when it comes to volleyball. His interventions in the American team in the second half of the Olympic cycle towards Los Angeles 1984 resulted in a new passing system, something that also brought changes for attacking and blocking. Team USA grabbed the gold at those Olympic Games and also won every major for the next four years. Since those days, volleyball has never been the same.

He is currently the president of the American Volleyball Federation (USAV) and tries to popularize the sport in a market that loves baseball, American football and basketball. He has not advanced that much, but still believes it is possible to get a generous slice of the attention of the American public. “We need a very strong sponsor”, says Beal.

The man who created the modern volleyball is 67 years-old. He complains that volleyball is very physical now, that every team plays almost the same, and says the sport needs some changes. He talked about the 1984 squad, the development of the sport and about his plans to make it big in the USA.

 

Reporter – How could a team that had been placed 13th at the 1982 World Championship become Olympic champion in 1984? What happened in a span of just two years?

Doug Beal – Sometimes the outcome of a tournament does not reflect reality. The worlds in 1982 had 24 teams divided into six groups of four, only two moved on to play for the first to the 12th place, while others vied for the consolation tournament, from the 13th to the 24th place. Our team had played together for the first time in the previous year, we were just beginning to make some adjustments and our pool at that tournament in Argentina was very strong. (Editor’s note: In pool play Team USA finished third in a pool where they beat Chile 3-0, losing 2-3 to a strong Bulgaria, with 14-16 in the fifth set, and 0-3 for then the best team in the world, Soviet Union, but with very tight scores in every set)

However, our squad was already a good team, we had practically the same players that would eventually participate at the Los Angeles Olympics, so the 13th place in the 1982 worlds definitely did not reflect our status back then. The USSR was certainly the best team that year. Who was the runner up at that World Championship? Continue reading “Doug Beal, The Man Who Reinvented Volleyball”

Spike! Interactive Guide

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There is a famous American sports journalist named Bill Simmons.  He wrote a huge book about basketball named The Book of Basketball‘ (actually about the NBA) that became a best seller.  Because 90% of the book is about events and players that most readers have only ever heard of, an enterprising fan put up a webpage with youtube links to many of those events and players, an interactive guide, if you will.

There is a famous American volleyball coach (and administrator) named Doug Beal.  He wrote a book about volleyball named ‘Spike! (actually about the 1984 Olympic gold medal winning volleyball team) that hardly anyone bought and is now out of print.  Because I believe in preserving volleyball history and because more and more clips are starting to pop up on youtube (and because it took about 10 minutes to do) I have created an interactive guide for ‘Spike!’. 

Needless to say if you have any relevant clips that add to the narrative, I will be happy to add them. Continue reading “Spike! Interactive Guide”

The Secrets of Platonov

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Vyacheslav Platonov features prominently in any conversation about the great volleyball coaches in history.  His Soviet teams won every competition they entered between 1977 and 1983, including two World Championships, two World Cups, four European Championships and an Olympic Gold Medal.  This period of sustained success is unrivalled in the men’s game. Neither Matsudaira, nor Beal, nor Velasco, nor even Bernardinho have matched that seven year stretch.

During his lifetime, Platonov wrote several books, mostly of the autobiographical / memoir type.  His last book, however, was intended to be a handbook for aspiring coaches and as such it contains much of the collected, practical coaching wisdom he accumulated during his many years at the highest level of international volleyball.  He specifically discusses developing your own style, building a team, the qualities of a successful coach, training and preparation, and coaching the game.

For the first time ever, this book is now available in English.  It is available in ePub format here, and as a hardcover book here.  There is also a facebook page. I believe this book is unique in volleyball and a vital addition to the professional library of every serious coach, regardless of the sport.

My Profession : The Game

Cover v2Vyacheslav Platonov is by any measure one the greatest coaches of all time.  In addition to his achievements on the court he also found the time to write several books.  These were mostly classical autobiographical works.  However, his final book was intended to be a coaching handbook. This book, entitled ‘My Profession: The Game’ has now been translated into English.  It is available at lulu.com in ebook format and also as a hardcover and on iTunes as an ebook.  These are my thoughts on the book…   

They say that children are frontrunners. So it was only natural that as soon as I started to take interest in volleyball I would be attracted to the best, and at that time the very best team was indisputably the national team of the Soviet Union. Given that my father is Russian, and had personal contact with the coach, it was hardly surprising that when my classmates were writing the names of their favourite footballers or rock bands on their schoolbags, I had written on my Asics (not coincidently the same brand as that worn by the team) sports bag the names of Savin and Zaitsev, with their playing numbers in the script that was used on their shirts. None of my school friends had any clue what those names meant and truth be known, neither did I. After all, I was merely a frontrunner.

For whatever reasons, the achievements of that group, under the leadership of their coach Platonov, no longer seem to resonate as strongly as the victories of their predecessors and successors. The fact is that between 1977 and 1985, the Soviet Union national team won every major international event in which they participated. In that period they won one Olympic gold medal, two World Championships, two World Cups and five European Championships. No other team or coach, in any era, has approached that level of success. Not the Japanese under Matsudaira, the Americans under Beal / Dunphy, the Italians under Velasco / Bebeto, nor the Brazilians under Bernardinho. All were indisputably great, but none sustained the highest level of excellence for as long as Platonov’s Soviets. Continue reading “My Profession : The Game”

Lloy Ball

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There is no question that Lloy Ball is one of the greatest volleyball players ever, and specifically one of the best setters.  Apart from the Olympic gold medal, he won league championships in Italy, Greece and Russia and the European Champions League.

But in a sport that has in the past paid little attention to its history, his greatest contribution to volleyball may now be that he has both written an autobiography but had a documentary produced about his career.

As a supporter of volleyball, I feel obligated to buy all (non technical) volleyball books and am the proud owner of The Biggest Mistake I Never Made’.  I will say it is one of the top ten  best volleyball biographies I have read.

As far as I can figure out, the documentary was produced by the 101 Lakes Network from Indiana for their YouTube channel. I haven’t watched it through, but I already feel confident in saying that it is the best volleyball documentary I have seen.

Karpol – Lunatics And Talent Development

Reading this interview with famous Russian women’s coach (and dual Olympic gold medallist) Nikolai Karpol inspired me to head for the bookshelf and pick up my copy of his book to give it a quick reread.  Every volleyball coach and player should have a copy of this book.  Not because it’s a great book, but because it is one of only a handful of volleyball books / biographies written in English.  Probably because he was interviewed in Russian, the book was written in Croatian and it was translated into English it isn’t a really easy read.  But it is a decent insight into one the great coaches and it does have quite a few really interesting points.  For example…

“Young girl players, and the same is true for men, need to get involved in training with older players as soon as possible, for they will then be able to put together the little stones of the understanding of the game into a mosaic.  It reminds of the many little pictures that make up a film.  Even by just watching the best players, those they admire, young players can learn a great deal.  Not to mention training with them.

At the age of thirteen a talented child, by training with adults can learn in two weeks what she would need a year to learn by working with her peers.  This is no exaggeration.  it is therefore necessary periodically to organise combined training sessions for seniors and juniors.  In this way the players, apart from technique, learn stability.”

Every (ex-)player I have ever spoken to on the topic agrees wholeheartedly with this experience supported, entirely logical* and scientifically supported**, notion.  And yet much talent development continues to ignore this basic principle.  Of the countless reasons why holding (Australian) National Junior Championships for all age groups simultaneously is a bad idea, one of the biggest is the negative impact on individual player development.  Previously players were able to play with, or at least try out for, older age groups thus accelerating their development.  Under the current system I have even experienced talented players being forbidden from playing with players older.

In Germany it better, but only a bit.  Talented juniors are concentrated into development groups of the same age group.  They remain in these age groups until they graduate from junior ranks having never, or hardly ever, trained with anyone older than them.  To compound the situation, while they participate in adult competitions their results don’t count; they can’t play playoffs, they can’t be relegated.  So when they reach the ‘professional’ level they have played only a few actual competitive matches and have rarely even had to compete for a position.

Karpol would be shaking his head.

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* Practicing with older players provides a more challenging environment (i.e. one required for deliberate practice) and older players are able to share invaluable experience, particularly in the area of game understanding.

** Bruce Abernethy of The University of Queensland has researched this very topic, here, among other places.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Indoor Man or ‘Sand Man’?

For some reason, it had escaped my attention until recently that Karch Kiraly has actually written an autobiography, ‘The Sand Man: An Autobiography’.  Finding out if the greatest volleyball of the twentieth century had anything to interesting to say is one of the best reasons I have come across to buy a volleyball book, although checking through the number of atrocious (and foreign language) volleyball books in my library, I obviously don’t need much of a reason.  Through the magic of amazon, and the charging of a large number of euros to my credit card, it soon arrived at my door.  For once, a volleyball book did not disappoint.  If nothing else it is an interesting companion book to Doug Beal’s ‘Spike’.  ‘Spike’ tells the story of the building of the 1984 Olympic gold medal winning team, from the point of view of the coach.  A big chunk of ‘Sand Man’, tells the same story from the perspective of a player in the team.  And it is certainly interesting how different that perspective is.  Karch (along with others from that team who I have heard on the subject) gives, with a great deal of difficulty, the most grudging of respect for the role Beal played in development of the team.  If Karch is to be believed at face value, all Beal did was stop them from doing what they wanted (ie play beach volleyball on the weekends) and made them play in a team with people from outside California (ie who couldn’t actually play).  It is difficult to discern exactly which he considers to be the greater sin.  Of course, I don’t believe for a moment that ‘Spike’ is the definitive history but it is interesting to read the strength of Karch’s feelings on the matter.

Given the title of the book it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that despite making his name indoors, he really considers himself a beach player who played a bit of indoors.  He makes it pretty clear that his commitment to indoor volleyball was firstly for the Olympics and secondly (when he went to Italy) for the money.  Otherwise he would much rather have been hanging out with his mates at the beach, playing all day and having a few beers afterwards.  I found that surprising on a couple of levels.  For one, I didn’t expect he would be so (or at all) dismissive of indoor volleyball and and for two, there are definitely more legends of the ‘prickly, insanely competitive, difficult to get along with, net pulling down (it is somewhere on youtube, but I can’t find it), going to the beach with his briefcase’ Karch, than the ‘chillin’ at the beach, chugging a few coldies’ Karch.  Of course that is not to say that both can’t/don’t coexist.

All in all, ‘Sand Man’ is one of the two best volleyball books I have read.  ‘Spike’ is the other one.  Now we need someone to write the story from an independent point of view.

Spike!

Spike!‘ is a book by former USA men’s volleyball coach Doug Beal which chronicles the story the team which won the 1984 Olympic gold medal.  It should NEVER, under any circumstances be confused with the the movie ‘Spiker’, which tells essentially the same story but in a fictionalised form.  ‘Spike!’ is a good book.  ‘Spiker’ is a truly awful movie*.

I recently went back to read ‘Spike!’ for the however manieth time.  Like all books, each time I read it gives me something new.  This time the thing the struck me was the honestly with which Beal talks about the situations that occurred, particularly with regards to the players (Karch, Sinjin, Hovland, Timmons et al), and his feelings about them.  It might be the most honest coaching book I’ve read.  That alone makes it an rare insight.  But further than that, he goes through some of the history of volleyball and more specifically how the US team developed it’s, at the time, revolutionary tactics.  The history is interesting and the lessons are timeless.  The tactics were developed specifically to take advantage of the strengths of the individuals in that group; a point that has been forgotten thousands of times in the ensuing 26 years by coaches who mindlessly copied the 2-receiver system despite having neither Karch nor Berzins in their team.  The deepest lesson, for me,is the simple one that to achieve great things you can’t be limited by what happened before.  You need to develop new ways of thinking and new ways of working.  It’s simple really.

I can recommend the book ‘Spike!’ as one of the two or three best volleyball books I’ve ever read.  I can recommend the movie ‘Spiker’** as one of the very, very worst movies ever.

The follow up to this post is Spike! Interactive Guide, which links videos to specific stories and passages of the text.

** The most interesting part of the history of the movie ‘Spiker’ is that in 1986 Australia was so deprived of international volleyball, or any kind of volleyball for that matter, that the then General Manager VSA organised a public screening of the video that he managed to track down.  And people came!

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