Stuff We Used To Do…

…for reasons that today seem inexplicable.

Yesterday I saw a blocker warming up but jumping landing on one leg, stepping in the opposite direction, jumping landing on the opposite leg, etc etc.  It reminded me of my days as a young player when we were being taught blocking footwork.  This was before specialisation so we were all doing all the footwork from each position.  The most basic drill was to start from the middle, jump and then move outside.  The idea behind it was to practice moving after having (incorrectly) jumped with the first tempo.  Until very recently I would see this drill being done by professional players.  In the most extreme version, we would practice (incorrectly) jumping with the first tempo and then landing on the opposite foot to the direction we wanted to move to reduce the time we needed to get to the outside (more or less as I saw yesterday).  The idea behind it was that landing on one foot saved time in initiating the movement.

Inexplicably, I don’t remember a single instance of a coach teaching us a method to not incorrectly jump with the first tempo.  Or even mentioning it as a possibility.


Karpol And The Old School

A coaching friend of mine who was a player in the 80s once commented to me that with current training methodologies we do one tenth the work we used to do… with double the effect.  In many things I have a great memory (often better than would be beneficial for me), but in some things, not so much.  For example, I can’t really remember what we did at training when we used to train eight hours in a day.  How did we fill that time?  We certainly weren’t playing volleyball.  This 1980 documentary on Russian coaching legend Nikolai Karpol jogs some memories.  In short, we used to do a lot of pointless individual work to exhaustion while the rest of the group stood around watching and collecting balls, and we used to do a lot of physical work that at the time we thought benefited volleyball, but in enlightened times understand doesn’t (ie ANY running, plyometrics).  And we did some of it outside, in the rain.

The documentary is a very nice time capsule of that period. It doesn’t have narration, except where Karpol’s voice is included, so it is eminently watchable even for non Russian speakers.  It shows Karpol being hard with his players, but without turning red in the face and screaming.  That apparently came later in his career.  It has some wonderfully poignant shots of the loneliness of being a player.  And whether deliberately or not, a player’s voice is never heard, perhaps implying that the players had no voice. Perhaps not.  Either way if you are interested in volleyball training or volleyball history then this is a good way to spend twenty minutes.

And if you like the documentary, you will love this book in English by Karpol’s contemporary, Vyacheslav Platonov.

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

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Volleyball Coaching Wizards

Apart from giving me an outlet to write about things in volleyball that interest and intrigue me, the main themes of this blog (and Facebook page and Twitter feed) are to share ideas from backgrounds to which not all coaches necessarily have access, and to maintain volleyball history.  Volleyball as a sport has a very poor sense of its own history and what little literature there is fractured into smaller language groups.  For example, English speakers have no real access to the collected wisdom of incredible coaching talents like Platonov or Velasco whose main work has been carried out in other languages.

In another attempt to address this issue John Forman (blogger at ‘Coaching Volleyball’) and I have begun a new project entitled ‘Volleyball Coaching Wizards’.  The goal of the project is to identify and interview as many of the great volleyball coaches in the world (wizards, if you will) and disseminate their accumulated wisdom in as many forms as we can.  In our minds, coaching wizards do not only coach professionals, and are not necessarily famous.  They can just as equally coach high school teams or national teams but their knowledge and experience will be helpful to all.  Initially, the interviews will be available as downloadable audio files and ultimately we would like to put them into a book form.

Until now we have had about 200 coaches nominated (you can nominate a wizard here), 30 confirmations and seven completed interviews.  This will be a long term project.  Details of subscriptions are currently being finalised and will be released soon.  In the meantime, sign up for our mailing list here, and receive a link to one of the first interviews.  And support us on Facebook and Twitter and You Tube.  On those platforms you can also link to clips from some of the completed interviews to give you a taste of what we have in mind right now, but the finished project will be moulded by the input of many.

One of the first interviews was with well known Canadian coach Stelio DeRocco.  Completely unprompted (I promise!) he explained how he saw the value of the ‘Volleyball Coaching Wizards’.

Julio Velasco – The Thinker Of The Game

Volleyball does a terrible job of promoting itself and its history.  Most other sports have legendary heroes and characters about whom we can read and hear.  Volleyball does not.  There is no volleyball literature. and virtually no written histories or biographies.  Incredibly important figures such as Matsudaira and Platonov and Beal are virtually unknown in the wider volleyball community and even those who know of them, do not know their influence, their philosophies, their visions, their successes.

Another of those figures is Julio Velasco.  An Argentinian, he moved to Italy where he had enormous success at club level, with Panini Modena, and the Italian national team.  In terms of training methodology and development and success he is one of the most influential coaches of the last thirty years.  And through his successes he helped drive the volleyball boom in Italy that I think we can call the Golden Age Of Volleyball (roughly 1990 to 2005).  But there exists virtually nothing of his philosophies, theories or work in English.  I find this quite appalling and an enormous loss for the volleyball world.

This is my first attempt at addressing that failing.  The interview below appeared almost a year ago now, in the Argentinian journal LA NACION on the occasion of his returning to Argentina after thirty years as national coach.  It was translated into English by fellow Argentinian coach Ruben Wolochin.  I hope it adds something to the conversation. 

_________________________ Continue reading “Julio Velasco – The Thinker Of The Game”

“How Volleyball Was Intended”

As one wanders through life as, one often comes across those among us who find that what one does now is not authentic.  Things used to be better.  They are no longer done as they were ‘intended’.

I am reasonably comfortable in the belief that upon reading those last two sentences you will immediately be able to come up with some volleyball specific examples.  But if not, I am talking about those who complain about the net touch rules, or the ball handling rules, or the scoring system, or the size of the court (in beach volleyball).

The argument goes something like, ‘in the old days, we could only underarm pass like volleyball was supposed to be’ or ‘the 9m x 9m court is the way beach volleyball was intended to be played’.  I don’t really like those arguments for two reasons.  Firstly, they are completely wrong.  Okay, only one reason.

On February 9, 1895, in Holyoke, Massachusetts (USA), William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director, created a new game called Mintonette as a pastime to be played (preferably) indoors and by any number of players. … Mintonette was designed to be an indoor sport, less rough than basketball, for older members of the YMCA, while still requiring a bit of athletic effort. from Wikipedia

Basketball, a sport that was beginning to develop, seemed to suit young people, but it was necessary to find a less violent and less intense alternative for the older members. from

So there you have it.  Volleyball was ‘intended’ to be a low level physical activity for middle aged businessmen.  I will make the assumption that volleyball actually ceased to be ‘as it was intended’ about a month after it was invented or, at the latest, the first time two teams decided to keep the score.  Anyone who makes a statement about how volleyball in ‘intended’ to be is just taking an arbitrary moment in history and choosing to apply a value judgement to that moment.  Any historical moment chosen (including 2014 but not including 1895) is equally (in)valid.

My message for everyone who wants to see volleyball as it was intended … wait until you are about 45 and can’t get up and down a basketball court anymore.  Then call any number of your friends (see above) and head on down to the Y.  You’ll have fun the net is only 1.98m.

If you want to see all of the original volleyball rules, and how they changed over time (at least the USA versions of them) click here.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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First Asian Volleyball Championships

 I have long held the belief that volleyball is a sport that does a very bad job of curating its history.  I could cite dozens of examples, but I won’t. 

I have also long held the belief that one should not complain if one is not prepared to do something about it.

By posting this I hope to give myself the right to complain for a little while.

I will let it speak for itself.


First Asian Volleyball Championships, Melbourne, August, 1975

by Walter Lebedew, OAM


Not so long ago, the 17th Asian Volleyball Championships were played in Dubai, UAE. Much to the disappointment of Australian volleyball fans Australia came fifth, not a very honourable place, considering that our men were Asian Champions only six years ago. Some reasons for the drop are glaringly obvious, others, no doubt, will be investigated and perhaps steps taken to improve the situation. None of this detracts from the fact that in the history of Asian Championships, Australia occupies a very special place. Thirty-eight years ago in 1975, the Australian Volleyball Federation, only twelve years after its foundation, organised the First Asian Volleyball Championships. It is and will forever remain a unique place of honour for the, then fledgling Australian volleyball among the greats of that era, Japan, Korea and China. Continue reading “First Asian Volleyball Championships”

Peter Blange Scouting Video

While digging up my old VHS tapes to convert to digital I came across an old scouting tape I made of Dutch master (witty, eh!) setter Peter Blange.  At the time I was looking at how setter’s decisions were influenced by their position on the court.  I don’t know if Data Video existed at that time, but if it did I didn’t use it.  I had a friend (thanks, Clarky, wherever you are) who had an Apple editing suite and did all the edits by hand.  It took forever!! If I had my time again, I would have a longer lead in time to each set to watch his movement better.

The matches are semi final and final of the 1997 European Championships played in Eindhoven.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Serving Speed

Andrea Zorzi wrote an (very brief) analysis of modern volleyball that appeared today on FIVB website.  Among other things that I may or may not agree with, he stated that serving speeds are “…about 10km/h faster than they used to be…”.  This is true.  When the FIVB changed to the current ball, the serving speed was around 110 km/h.  It is now in the low 120s.

However… my recollection is that at the Olympic Games in 2000, with the old Mikasa leather ball, the fastest serves were around 127/128 km/h, from Iakovlev.  Also at around the same time in Italy, using the old Molten leather balls, the fastest serves were in the 138 km/h range, from Dineikine and Iakovlev.  When they first changed to synthetic balls in 2001, the speeds dropped and again in 2008.

Does anyone have some documentation or old articles or videos on this topic?

Greatest Volleyball Match Of All Time – Part Two

What does it take to be the ‘greatest match of all time’? I guess simply speaking the match needs to have high quality, great drama and a big stage.  In a previous post I suggested a couple of candidates but those are not the only ones.

When the Olympic Champion USA met World Champion Soviet Union on day two of the 1985 World Cup in Osaka it wasn’t technically a final. The peculiar format of the World Cup (single round robin without playoffs) and shortsightedness of the organisers (seriously, how could they not play this match on the last day?) saw to that.  But it was the decisive match of the tournament and hugely significant in many ways.  The Soviet team was at the tail end of the greatest golden era the sport has seen, had just dominated the European Championships (again) and was almost certainly feeling robbed of an Olympic gold medal due to the LA boycott.  The USA team, at the beginning of their own golden era, was almost certainly feeling that they deserved their gold medal and wanted to justify it by beating their main rivals.  Add in a few tired old Cold War cliches and we know that the resulting match must have been a battle.  The video that is now on You Tube (and below) shows that it was.

Some random thoughts…

  • The level of volleyball seems to have made a huge jump from just three years before (although in fairness the quality of the videos is very different) perhaps due to the structure and specialisation that the USA had introduced to world volleyball.
  • Tactically there are some obvious differences to today’s game.  The lack of service pressure and therefore greater quality of the reception (coupled with the rarity of service errors) meant that the middle players hit (relatively to the other spikers) a lot more balls than would now be common.
  • Tactically both teams were using a lot of overload situations with the reception often close to position 2 and a first and second tempo player in a small area.  That forced the opposition to either expose himself to a two against one situation in that area in order to get a double block against position 4, or to leave position 4 with a single block.  The Soviets had a lot of problem blocking in that small space.
  • The Americans had an obvious defensive plan to try to stop Savin, to make up for the very great difficulty in stopping him at the net.  They dug him a couple of times but the one Timmons got in the face probably wasn’t worth the effort.  We’ll call that a win for the Soviets.
  • History seems to remember Kiraly and Timmons as the prominent players from this USA team, but the most important guy in this match is Pat Powers.  And it isn’t close.  He is the guy who let the Americans compete.
  • The Americans were relentless.  They never stopped or let up or blinked, even when they **spoiler alert**  were down 5-11 in the fifth (in sideout scoring).

Anyway, three sets from this iconic match are on You Tube below.  You can make your own observations.  Present are the first, second and fifth sets.  There is a little break during the second set due to video tape degradation but hang in there, the picture comes back.

A lot of the information quoted here is the from excellent Volleyball Results website, here.

The Data Volley Match Report of the video is here.

More statistical detail of the USA team is here.

More statistical detail of the Soviet team is here.

If anyone has the other two sets, I would love to see them.

If anyone would like the raw Data Volley file for their own purposes, let me know in the comments.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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