Tag Archives: Volleyball Videos

Earvin N’Gapeth – Master Of The Simple

Earvin N’Gapeth has rightly become an internet sensation (or at least as sensational as a volleyballer can become) for his spectacular actions.  The most famous one is when he is the backrow he fakes attacking the second contact and instead sets to an outside spiker.  For example, this action.

This is just one of the many great actions in all phases of the game.  So I was excited to get the chance to watch him (and all his French teammates) at the European Olympic Qualification Tournament in Berlin in January.  I don’t know exactly what my expectations were, but what I saw really surprised me.  On video it looks like he chooses particular solutions to be spectacular or high risk.  Live in the stadium, in looks different.  To see the game in context, i.e. the whole court and all the players simultaneous, the solutions he chose were actually obvious and simple and only minimally risky.  He never spiked a ball for the sake of spiking it or that he wasn’t in position for.  But importantly he never set on the second contact just because the convention dictates it.  Simply, if the ball was on his approach he hit it, or was prepared to hit it.  If not, he did something else.

There is nowhere in volleyball rules that say how the game should be played, or how many contacts you must use.  It only says you may not use more than three.  The convention of always using three contacts is exactly that – a convention.  Admittedly it is a widely accepted convention and every coach and player risks ridicule or worse by not following it.  But ultimately conventions are not rules.  The greatest risk N’Gapeth is taking is not following conventional wisdom.  On the court, he is just doing is the simplest thing possible.

Here are some highlights from said European Olympic Qualification Tournament.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.Cover v2

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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.

Why I Love Volleyball

I could also have titled this ‘Volleyball in the 21st Century’.  This is a great example of the latest evolution of volleyball and why I think it is the most dynamic, spectacular and exciting sport in the world.

And one specific point… I have written often enough about how volleyball has changed in the last two or three years.  This rally contains nine net crosses and not one high ball.  As recently as 2012, at least one of the teams would have tried to slow the game by setting a high, high ball, which in all probability the spiker would have tipped short to position 1.  Now, they are always attacking, always looking for a place they can attack the block and defence.

Anyway, enjoy…

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.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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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.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Praise For Tetyukhin

photo from cev.lu

photo from cev.lu

On the 24th March episode of the volleyball podcast The Net Live sometime host Reid Priddy contributed a review of the Champions League Final Four (which I wrote about here and here).  He focused review on tournament MVP Sergey Tetyukhin. It occurred to me that if volleyball were a proper media sport, and a comparable event had occurred (ie an aging star dominating a tournament), Tetyukhin would have been widely feted with Priddy’s comments being just a few of many.  Given that volleyball is not a proper media sport, and a podcast is somehow a transient media form, I decided to report those comments for posterity.

At the age of 39, his record is unparalleled.  He has won ten domestic championships (for comparison co-Player of the 20th Century, Lorenzo Bernardi won nine), four Champions League titles (Bernardi won three), four Olympic medals (from five participations) and among many other individual awards, was chosen in 2012 as the Russian Sportsman of the Year.  That is, in an Olympic year, he was chosen as the best from all sports.

But in a sense, those things are incidental.  Priddy went on to describe him in quite some wonderment as “…one of those players who, win or lose, it doesn’t change his life.  That’s what fascinates me about him.  As an athlete he doesn’t have his identity or pride or ego wrapped up in the results.”  He went on that in addition to being ‘fun to watch’, “… he’s a team player.  That’s what I loved most about playing with him.  He’s going to go hard and he’s going to try his best and he’s ubercompetitive, crazy athletic but a loss doesn’t change his life.  He doesn’t sulk.  He doesn’t feel less about himself.  I think that’s what separates him.”

Priddy is not alone, his gold medal winning teammate Lloy Ball has also publicly referred to Tetyukhin as one of two greatest players he ever played with and a real clutch performer.  Lloy puts it in his own words at the beginning of this clip.

On the occasion of his Russian Sportsman of the Year award, Russian television produced a documentary.  I am sure it is a must for all Russian speakers 🙂

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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International Volleyball Association

In the 1960’s and 1970’s professional sport in the United States bore little resemblance to what we have become used to.  The famous leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL),while fully professional, were relatively small and had to constantly fighting for their survival.  Individual franchises were even less stable and players were paid so little that they often had to work ‘real’ jobs in the off season.  In that climate the costs to enter professional sport as an owner were quite low, even if the risk was high.  Essentially, any reasonably well off business man with some passion for sport and a few friends could start up a league and / or a franchise, and many did.  Leagues such as the USFL (American Football), ABA (basketball) and WHA (ice hockey) tried to challenge the status quo and managed to last a few years before collapsing and being absorbed by their more established rivals.

With this backdrop a few wealthy men led by Berry Gordy, the Motown Records president, decided that volleyball was the next big sport and established the International Volleyball Association, as a professional volleyball league which lasted from 1975 to 1980.  The first big attraction in the league was NBA great Wilt Chamberlain who some years before had taken up beach volleyball while rehabilitating a knee injury.  Other players were attracted from all over the world, including Olympic Champion Ed Skorek and World Champion Stan Gosciniak from Poland and Bebeto from Brazil, who would later coach Brazil and Italy to the World Championships and Olympic medals, as well as all the best American players of the time.  At the time volleyball was considered to be a strictly amateur sport, even though players throughout western Europe were paid to play, and this was the first official ‘professional’ league to exist. As a reward for participation, all players were immediately banned from international competition by the FIVB and many had to be officially reinstated as ‘amateurs’ in later years before they were allowed to participate in international competition.

To make the league more attractive the owners put in place a few rule changes.  A coloured ball was used.  Names were printed on the backs of playing shirts.  Rotation was abandoned, so that there were frontrow and backrow specialists.  And most importantly, men and women played together; each team had to have two women on the court at all times.  The league was marketed in classic American 70’s style.  The most famous promotional activity was giving a six pack of beer to every spiker who hit one of the female defenders in the face (see page 2 of this Sports Illustrated article).  As with other upstart leagues, its existence was short and volatile, with franchises blinking in and out of various cities and indeed existence.  But there were many positives.  One ex player to whom I spoke about it, raved about the level of competition (‘It was the toughest volleyball I ever played), as well as the overall experience, and pointed out that many of those initial rule changes have since been adopted by the FIVB in some form or another.

I’d often wondered what those games were like. As of today, I no longer have to wonder.  I stumbled across a few youtube clips from the playoffs of the final full season the league played, in 1979.  They are pretty cool.