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In his recent interview on The Net Live (episode 17th September 2012), new USA women’s coach Karch Kiraly talked again on the topic of co-opetition.  This is the concept popularised in the volleyball context (although not invented**) by Hugh McCutcheon.  The basic idea is that players are required to compete against their friends and push them in order not just to improve themselves but the whole team.

While the word is relatively new to me, the concept has been around for at least as long as I’ve been playing volleyball.  I remember learning about it very early in my career and it is one of those ideas that has become an integral part of my philosophy.  The performance of a team in matches is directly related to the level of practice.   At the micro level, a server must concentrate on serving not just for themselves, but for the receivers to practice and improve.  Blockers and defenders are not only practicing block and defence, but by doing that to their maximum they are challenging the setter and spikers on the other side of the net to work at their maximum.  And so the performance of each individual in practice, importantly not just the ones who appear in games, directly contributes to the performance of the team in competition.

Other interesting quotes from Karch’s interview…

“Co-operatively competing as hard as we possibly can.”

“It makes everyone better when we compete like crazy.”

“(The concept of co-opetition) has always been one of the bedrocks of (the USA system).”

“We don’t drill volleyball, we play volleyball.”

“It’s not just about the numbers, it’s about how people play and how they elevate people around them on the court.”

It turns out that ‘co-opetition‘ is actually a concept common in Game Theory, political science and economics.

NOTE: This is an updated version of a post originally entitled ‘Co-ompetition’ that first appeared on March 27th 2010.


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