Tag Archives: Volleyball Coaching Philosophy

Coaching Tip of the Week #17

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“Don’t be precious”

Every (good) coach has a unique philosophy, an individual methodology, a particular style of play.  This is only right and normal.  After studying and observing and practicing and learning, every coach will sooner or later come to their own unique way.  When they are working it is only right and normal that the coach will want to impart this unique way on his charges and will understandably be frustrated at failure to achieve that goal.

However, the coach must never forget that the goal of the club which appointed / employed them IS NOT the implementation of that methodology.  The goal of the club is some performance outcome and while the methodology was presumably an important factor in the selection process it is not the goal itself.  Coaches must certainly have faith and trust in their hard won beliefs and be ready to fight for them, but on the other hand the coach can’t be precious about them.  The world is full of unemployed coaches who put their own philosophy ahead of the performance of the team.

The same principle applies to tactics.  Sometimes tactics are great on paper and don’t work in practice.  Sometimes tactics work well with one team, but not another.  Sometimes the same tactics work well in one season, but not in the next.  The coach can’t be precious about tactics either.

There are lots of ways to get to an outcome.  Sometimes the ‘right’ way doesn’t work.  Don’t be precious.  Go and find a way that does.

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 #8

“First, get the team to play as well as they can.”

The coach’s primary responsibility is get the team to play as well as they can.  This means choosing system that best highlights the players’ strengths, ensuring they are in good physical condition, preparing the appropriate tactics for each match, making sure the every player’s confidence level is good, and keeping the overall motivation level high.

It is always tempting for the coach to think of way to make their team better and to focus all their attention on that.  The coach must continually search for ways and means of improvement but this should not be the primary focus.  As you can see above, the job of getting the team to play as well as it can is difficult and complicated enough without focus being distracted by other things.  And if the players are playing well, confident and motivated, it turns out they are more open to making the changes necessary to improve.

More Coaching Tips of the Week can be found here.

For more great coaching tips, check out the Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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He Who Defends Everything

What is better?

A) Nearly make 50 plays, actually make 0

B) Completely miss 49 plays, actually make 1

Yesterday, I asked this question.  As is my wont, the question was deliberately vague while my intent was extremely specific.  As such the only correct answer was ‘it depends’ or ‘more information, please’.  Any other answer required the answerer to make some assumptions, specific to that person.  So in the end, every answer was correct.

When posing my conundrum, I was specifically speaking about blocking and defence, and the scenario when a defender (blocker) nearly defends a lot of balls but actually defends none versus a defender who actually defends balls but touches few.  What I find is that a lot of coaches (and players) think that if they are close to the ball, they are close to defending the ball.  This is a tantalising, yet false assumption.  Tantalising because it is easy to convince yourself that but for a small lack of skill (that you can acquire) or a little bit of luck (that you will have next time) you would have defended a lot of balls.  False, because there is no evidence that this is actually true.

If you analyse the plays what you are most likely to find is that by attempting to defend every ball the players is moving a lot.  As we all know, being on the move makes it far less likely that you are able to control the ball.  A player on the move, while increasing the number of touched balls, actually decreases the likelihood that they are able to make a dig.

Team defence is the coordination of players to achieve a team outcome.  The team outcome is scoring points.  A good defensive system must put players in the position that they are able to make quality defensive plays that the team is able to score from.  Therefore a good defensive system will put players in positions where they do not have to move very much, maximising the quality of the defence, and from which they can subsequently mount an effective offensive.  This means that some balls will land where there is no defence.  This is actually okay.  As famed Chinese coach Sun Tzu once said, “He who defends everything, defends nothing.”

For more great coaching tips, check out the Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Coaching Tip Of The Week #6

“The first job of the coach is to make the players want to come to practice.”

There are many reasons that players go to practice.

They go because their parents want them to.

They go because their friends are going.

They go because they are contractually obligated.

They go because they feel a personal commitment to the team.

They go because they want to.

This last one is the key.  If players want to go to practice they will be more engaged, they will learn more, they will perform better.  It doesn’t matter the level.  If the coach wants to get the most out of his players, then he has to create an environment that makes the players want to come to practice.

This covers many areas.  The environment should be fun, but serious.  There should be discipline but not rules for the sake of rules.  There should be clear structure, but some freedom to experiment.  The team should be the focus, but not at the expense of the individual.  Everything should have a sense of purpose that the players can feel.

Make the players want to come to practice and your job is 98% done.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Training With The Starters

One of the key concepts of volleyball, or of any team sport, is that the more any combination of players play together, the better they play together.  It is a pretty obviously, logical statement and it stands up as true time and time again.  Knowing that, many (most) coaches in team sports will try to make as few changes as possible in their starting line up, firstly to create and secondly, to take advantage of this group understanding.  A smaller group of coaches take this concept to the extreme by focussing all, or most, or their training time on working with the starters.  It is logical that training the starters is the best way to develop a group of starters.  But is this really the best way to develop a team?

My answer would be emphatic, no!  The first point is that maximising the training opportunities for half of the team, will minimise the training opportunities of the other half of the team.  This has several negatives for the development of the team.

Firstly, there are many things that can happen over the course of a season, especially injuries.  If players from the second six never get the chance to play with the normal starters they cannot be expected to play at a high level if you ever need them.

Secondly, the motivation of players who never play with the starters in practice is always less.  It doesn’t matter how much the coach pushes, or how professional or intrinsically motivated the players are, at some point they will not bring the same the level of intensity to practice as the starters, which will negatively impact the level of practice.

Thirdly, if the coach deliberately creates two groups in practice, he cannot reasonably expect to see a unified team off the court or during matches.  If the coach preaches a team mentality but doesn’t act on it during practice he will never be able to create a team.

Everything a coach does is a tradeoff.  If I split my team into starters and non starters, then I can expect my starters to play better together, but I sacrifice a smooth transition in case of injury, and hinder the building of the team.   If I continually mix my team in practice, my ‘starters’ will take longer to develop an optimal group understanding and performance.  But others will be ready to peform at their best if needed, and the team unity and training level will stay high.

I have always been a coach that likes to build a team.

Coaching Tip Of The Week #3 (Bonus)

“Take time to smell the roses”

Hugh McCutcheon says “As head coaches, we are perpetually dissatisfied.”  This is absolutely correct.  Coaches must always be searching for improvements and you cannot do that if you are satisfied with what you have.

But on the other hand, the game gives us so many disappointments that we need to enjoy the big wins, the great performances, the excellent practices, the fantastic rallies, for their own sake.  When our team does something great, revel in it, enjoy it.  And make sure your players do too.  Volleyball is a game to be played.  Always remember the joy of playing.  The next disappointment will come fast enough to keep us dissatisfied.

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Teaching Resilience

Resilience is one of those mythical qualities that is highly sought after for high performance athletes in all sports.  You can often hear coaches talk about the resilience, or lack therefore, of their teams, and about steps they are taking to develop in their teams.

I certainly agree that resilience is highly desirable. There are innumerable situations during the course of a practice / week / match / season which create disappointments both small and large for individual players and teams.  How resilient those players and teams are to those disappointments is an important factor in quality of the team.

So how to develop that resilience?  It was suggested to me recently that coach’s anger (yelling, screaming etc) during practice specifically creates the conditions that allow resilience to develop.

So this is the question… are coaches who resist displays of anger during their work actually doing their players a disservice?

I’m interested in your thoughts.