Every coach has a picture/s in his or her head about how volleyball should be played and how the techniques required to play the game should look. The clarity of the picture/s depends of course on the level and quality of the coach but every coach has them. I remember beginning coaching at North Adelaide Bears and finding that the players I had didn’t fit into any of the pictures I had rattling around in my head. One player I particularly remember was a pretty good receiver but with a poor ‘technique’. Obviously I did whatever I could to ‘fix’ him and make him an actually ‘good’ receiver. You can imagine the frustration from both him and me during this process when the player in question became demonstrably worse at receiving. I was a little comforted by the fact that when changing anything there is a short term performance decrement before the new techniques take hold, but only a little. Eventually we abandoned our attempts to be technically correct and went back to passing the ball well. That was my first lesson in the differences between technique and aesthetics.
In my inexperience / ignorance, I had overlooked the simple fact that technique serves the goals of volleyball and not vice versa. In every phase of volleyball there is an objective. And for each objective there is a technique that (theoretically) optimises the chances to achieve that objective. Techniques are functional. Techniques are not the end. Techniques are not meant to be aesthetic. As a coach, I need to always separate techniques and aesthetics. I need to look at what is actually happening and I need to ask how that relates to what I think I’m seeing. In the story above, I only looked at his aesthetics and in doing so I made him a worse player. Luckily he has since forgiven me but it might have cost us a Division 2 title.
Actually it didn’t. We had no chance. But I still learnt a valuable lesson.