There is a common quote applying to music that I first heard in a Phil Jackson book but have heard in varying forms many times since,
“Music is the space between the notes.”
The quote has been attributed among others to Claude Debussy, and it always makes me think about things like the interactions and relationships in the playing of whatever game is being talked about at the time. A few days ago I read something that made me think of this idea directly in relation to coaching.
Most people think of coaching as being what the coach does during the game, the timeouts, the substitutions or if we want to go into real ‘depth’, the starting rotation. Some smarter people understand that what happens in practice is equally important, the drills done, the feedback given, the time taken, the conduct of practice.
The moment I had was when it occurred to me that all of those things are interventions. The notes, if you will. But just as music is not in the notes, the coaching is not in the interventions. The coaching is in the timing of the interventions. It is choosing the moment when the feedback will have the greatest impact. It is not giving any verbal feedback at all but allowing the player or team to learn the lesson by themselves. It is allowing the errors that lead to learning. It is not jumping up and down on the sideline berating players or the referee but trusting the team to carry out the vision of the game you have taught them in practice.
In short, the coaching is not in the interventions. The coaching is in the space between the interventions.
Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.
One of the key inspirations behind the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project is Julio Velasco. By any measure, Julio Velasco is one of the best, most innovative, most important volleyball coaches in history. Every time you watch volleyball, the game that you see is (partly) his product. His influence on the game is profound.
But the reason he is such an inspiration for the project, is that while most volleyball people know his name and know that he is one of the most famous coaches in the world, outside the Italian / Spanish speaking world they have no idea about his actual teachings or philosophies or methodologies; the things that made his influence so profound. The same applies to many other great, unknown volleyball coaches.
The goal of the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project is to make that knowledge more widely known and understood.
As an example, below are two clips from presentations Velasco made that have been subtitled into English. Just as a taste. They are great.
Thanks for all comments and suggestions. They were all thoughtful and helpful.
I did a poor job of explaining the situation so a few people misinterpreted the information and thought I was referring to sideout percentage. The problem is that I never directly refer to serve quality, I only ever relate a serve to reception quality. I understand that is a complicated way of thinking about it.
To rephrase my point, after a positive (+) serve, the team in question was much more likely to win a point if the serve was a jump serve than if it was a float serve. For the record these are the actual figures.
The ‘winning’ suggestion was the observation that the float servers are most often middle blockers who then must defend. That is, the libero is not on court. Breaking down the above situation by whether or not the middle blocker is defending, we get the following figures for the float serve.
Middle in defence
Libero in defence
The sample isn’t really big, but it seems to show that there is a fairly large ‘libero effect’, at least with this team.
Oddly, for the ‘2’ reception, the ‘libero effect’ is much smaller and doesn’t explain the differences so well, but for the moment I am satisfied.
I have an observation that does not make sense to me, for which I can think of no explanation. Perhaps you can help.
I have found over the years that reception from jump serves and reception from jump float serves is not the same. I don’t mean that the quality of reception is different, I mean that given a particular quality of reception, the likelihood of winning a point is different. In some cases vastly different.
For example, studying a team recently, I discovered that if the jump servers can force a negative reception, (i.e. only one possible attacker, basically a high ball attack) that team wins the point roughly 50% of the time. However, if the jump float servers can the same negative reception, the team wins the point only 45% of the time. The difference is even more stark with good reception without first tempo (i.e. both the outside can still attack a fast ball, a classic ‘2’ pass). In that case the jump servers won 43% of the time, but the float servers only 26%.
In each case the definitions are the same, the scoutman/recorder is the same, the team is the same, the figures are based on a whole season’s worth of data. The best I can come up with is that there is a difference somehow in blocking the two situations, but that is the best I can come up with.
This week my club president invited the team and staff for a casual get together / get to know you / team building activity at a local gun club. If you think about it, it is a logical place to hold a team get together. I mean what brings a group of men more enjoyment than shooting stuff? Oh, you can think of a few things, eh? Well, anyway that is where we went. After struggling for a few minutes with the personal morality of shooting a gun at all (particularly as I don’t want my son to have even a toy gun), I decided to join in. It was an interesting experience.
The first problem I had was that I wasn’t wearing my glasses. This wasn’t an issue about seeing the target, or not, but an issue of not being able to see what I hit. I took careful aim at the target, carefully squeezed the trigger and off in the distance there was a cloud of dust. I had no clue whether I had hit anything in between those events. I was shooting blind. I realised that without being able to see the target I had no feedback on what I was doing. Between series I was able to see the target and eventually piece together some information.
In the picture on the right you can see the 8 and 6 below the bullseye were in my 3rd series. The 10, 9 and 8 were in my 4th series. With feedback, I could quickly improve.
Oddly, considering how many millions of times I have seen it, I am much better able to ‘see’ where a ball lands after having spent a season working with the video challenge system in the Polish League. For the first time in my over 30 year involvement with volleyball I have had actual feedback on where a ball has landed. It turns out that is important too. Who would have thought.
The lesson is, as always, there is no learning without feedback.
If we have spent any time at all around volleyball gyms we feel pretty confident that we can pick out the great competitors among any group. The great competitors are often the centre of attention. They play aggressively on every play. They are always pushing their teammates. They question every call, even in a non important drill on a Tuesday afternoon, because winning is an every day thing. They are great competitors.
I see a lot of things differently than most people see them. Or maybe more accurately, I link things differently together than others. For example, where many coaches see lack of effort, I see lack of readiness. And so it was when I was involved with coaching one of those great competitors. Others saw an obvious and enormous will to win. But I noticed that our ‘competitor’ only pushed his teammates to track down his errant plays (and berated them if they didn’t succeed). He only questioned (and argued) the calls that would have prevented his mistakes. Sure he was always aggressive, but most of what he did that stood out from the crowd had the effect (intended or otherwise) of deflecting our attention away from his mistakes. He was not a competitor. He was a deflector.