The Right Way and the Wrong Way

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I wrote once before that coaching is a people activity and at different times I said during presentations that all technical information is available on the internet (for example here).  What I am trying to say is that knowledge is (relatively) easy to gather and that there are no excuses in the internet age for a lack of technical knowledge about volleyball and what I am trying to imply is that the skill in coaching (the art, if you will) lies in what you do with the knowledge, the ability to analyse and to deal with people.  But is it really so easy to accumulate technical knowledge.  A couple of conversations I have had over the last few days have reminded of the many contradictory tales I have heard over the years.

I have been lucky enough to work in five different countries (including Australia), with coaches of at least five different nationalites and players of over 20 nationalities, as well as my own research and observations.  Different countries/coaches/leagues have their own philosophies and methods, many of which have been successful.  Normally a measure of success is can indicate the validity of a philosophy or method.  But what if they are contradictory?  Some of my favourites…

About Technique

“We believe there is one way to do things that is better than all other ways” – Luckily I didn’t turn off at this point, because I learnt many valuable things even after this statement.  One of them was NOT that there is only one way to do things, as you will read.

About Reception

‘The legs are the most important factor in reception’; ‘The arms are the most important factor in reception’.  Both of those coaches won World Championships.

About Spiking

‘It is impossible to rotate around a single point in the core’; ‘Power is maximised only through rotation through the core’.  Only the second coach had actual international success, but the first had enormous domestic success and developed a large number of players.

About Training Defence

One team NEVER trained defence from spikers standing on boxes.  One team paid ex players to spike at their players from boxes.  Both won Olympic Gold Medals, and incidently played each in the final.

About Development

‘You can’t play until you know the techniques’; ‘You can’t learn the techniques unless you play’.  Both systems won Olympic Gold Medals.

About Stretching

‘Stretching before practice is at best useless and at worst negatively affects performance’; ‘You can’t begin practice until you have stretched for at least 20 minutes’.  3 Olympic Gold medals v. 3 World Championships Gold medals

‘The hurdler stretch is absolutely forbidden’; ‘The hurdler stretch is very important’

About Weight Training

‘Receivers should never do bench press’; ‘Bench press is a core exercise’

Cleans should be done from above the knee/below the knee/the ground

‘Hamstring curls is a key prevention exercise for knees’; ‘Hamstring curls do nothing to prevent knee pain/injury’

About Tactics

Here there are far, far too many to mention.  Although an honourable mention should go to the coach who insisted that trying to block a spiker’s best shot was not a valid tactic, at least if you have a ‘system’.

So, I’m confused… Which is the ‘right’ way?  Perhaps you can work out the right way by following these rules.

The collection of Coaching Tips can be found here.

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.


  1. that is confusing!

    especially the spiking on boxes: how do 2 teams both win olympic gold medals and play each other in the final?

    fantastic reference. you can almost guess who some of these coaches are based on their success!


    1. And unfortunately, in spite of all the information available online, there’s still the problem that not all coaches are prepared to be proactive in finding it and be “students of the game”.

      There’s also the tech officer at local associations that’s worthwhile asking about all sorts of things. Wholeheartedly agree. there’s really no excuse.


  2. To add to the profusion of ideas:
    Platonov regarded foot position most important for reception.
    Japanese coaches in the 1970s would not allow their players to lift their arms above the head before a 30 min warm up, stretching, etc.
    In general – one way for a coach to achieve greatness is to invent something that nobody has done before, e.g. Daimatsu and the Japanese roll, back court spike – I think the Polish coach Wagner succeeded with Tomaszew………? after Japanese coaches failed.
    $64 question: Which two gold medal teams played each other in A Olympic Final?


    1. can’t be. Brazil Def Netherlands in 92, Netherlands def Italy in 96.

      The only “replay” olympic gold medal matches in men’s volleyball between teams with the same coaches were Russia and Japan (68 & 72). Matsudaira definitely coached both. Dunno about the soviets. standing on blocks sounds japanese. And paying anyone to do anything doesn’t sound Soviet at all.


    2. All wrong so far.
      When they met in the final only one already had a gold medal. In the match itself the spiking percentages for the two teams were 42& and 37%. They both played great defence.


      1. It can only be 2008 – USA v Brazil – the only time in Men’s indoor volleyball at the olympics when the gold medal game was contested between two countries that had already won a gold medal – brazil recently in 04, USA in 88.

        Can’t be 64 & 68 (as both teams needed to be gold medallist)
        mark said no on 72 J& 88.
        76, 84, 92, 96, 2000, were all won by first time medallists. 80 and 04 were won by teams that had won before, against teams that hadn’t…

        My dad has seen every volleyball tournament at the olympics on TV since the first one (1964) when they beamed in into Saigon for the GI’s


      2. Bernardo v McCutheon. One thing they did have in common was the importance of the team. Both of them kicked players off the team between 2006 and 2008 to keep them at the top.


  3. This article reminded me two things, not related each other.
    – 1: an episode occured during practice. An expert athlete said:”Please coaches, agree upon starting feet position for blocking action! Every coach seems to have a new opposing feature about it!”
    – 2: “The Right way or The Wrong way?” reminded me a famous question about chess:”How Many Moves Ahead can see a chessplayer?”.
    One most important chessplayer answered “I see only one move ahead, but it is always the correct one”.
    Therefore, I suppose “Right way or wrong way” is a false question: you should prefer “the best way” according your situation (team, organization, what you have at your disposal, etc.), in order to optimize successful outcomes.


  4. It’s a like Jim Furyks golf swing. It’s not a coached technique, yet at point of impact with the ball everything is where it should be. If everything is where it should be from a volleyball point of view and the athletes are not undertaking dangerous or potential harmful activities, then is there a case for saying its “horses for courses” and there is no out and out right way, but there are most definitely wrong ways of doing things. Which reminds me… I must cancel that order of hankerchiefs!!


  5. stumbled upon this old post via a more recent post. Could you give the names of the coaches, who said all these things?


    1. technique – McGown / GMS say there is one better way
      reception – Bonitta – legs, Velasco – arms
      spiking – Moculescu – no rotation, everyone else – rotation
      defence – McCutcheon – no boxes, Bernardinho – boxes
      development – Poland – technique, USA – play
      stretching – don’t stretch, mostly USA research : stretch a lot, mostly Italy. This is changed since I wrote the post. Most people do dynamic movements now


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