Techniques v Aesthetics – Part 2

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I once had a player.  He was a libero.  He was young, he came from a lower division, and if I was a journalist writing his story, I would describe him when he came to my team as ‘unheralded’.  And then we worked.  We worked on technique, using a version of the US ‘platform is everything’/’active arm movement’ model.  We worked on tactics, using a three receiver system where all receivers had equal responsibility and the seams between receivers were reduced.  We worked on scouting, charting all servers and preparing videos.  In fact one of the highlights of my season was asking the player how he was finding the first league and him replying, “It’s easy. I always know where they’re going to serve’.

As happens in volleyball, another team saw him playing well and signed him up.  I was nervous for him when I heard that.  I knew that most people didn’t know the background of how we worked but as this team had an Asian coach and a president who is, er… actively involved in every aspect of the team, I suspected they would be less open and understanding than others.  And so it turned out.  Halfway through the preseason they decided he wasn’t what they were looking for and signed another libero.  And recently I met the club president who literally four seconds after he said hello added, ‘We have one of your players who we didn’t properly check out’.  To which I replied ‘He was always good for me’.  ‘Yes, that’s why we signed him, but his technique…’, followed by some kind of action with his feet.

And that’s the thing.  It’s not about how you point your feet, it’s about where the ball goes.  Techinique is vital.  Aesthetics are irrelevant.  A good coach has to know the difference.


  1. Its interesting. I don’t take that as a story about technique/aesthetics, but a story about systems and preparation.


    1. There is a large element of technique/aesthetics. Especially if you saw the action the guy made with his feet. But you are certainly right that the larger point here is about superficiality of thought and understanding.


  2. ‘where the ball goes’ – is a hard one to sell. But when put with the american thought ‘you don’t know something until you’ve measured it’ it becomes easier.

    I think the superficiality of thought and understanding thing stems back to people not wanting to know because they don’t like to be wrong.
    Love your work Mark!


  3. Mark, it is my first time on your page, but I already like it a lot. A coach indeed needs “facts, not (just) opinions.” The ball doesn’t know what you re feet are doing, but it certainly knows what your hands and arms are doing, straight and simple. Thanks for the good page, and aloha from Finland.

    L. Hakala


    1. Thanks very much L.
      I like the line about the ball not knowing what the feet are doing. I use a similar explanation for blocking when blockers insist on watching the ball rather than the setter or spiker.
      The ball doesn’t know what the setter / hitter is going to do so there is no reason to watch it.


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