Technique Or Readiness?

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Much smarter coaches than me have stated that volleyball is 100% technical.  That is, all volleyball problems have technical solutions.  While I am happy to agree that technique is central to success in volleyball, I sadly cannot concur with the ‘100% technical’ line.  That is because not only is volleyball a game, but it is also a team game.  To focus solely on the technical component completely ignores the decision making and teamwork components which, I would contend, are fairly vital.

I recently attended a clinic in which the presenter made the statement that the ability of a non setter to set a high ball was a technical problem.  My experience and observations very strongly disagree.  There are many actions by non setters (perhaps even the majority) that end poorly.  Of that there is no question.  The question is what is the cause of those poor actions.  I would ask ‘can the player set a high ball if you throw the ball to him?’.  In my experience most players of any reasonable level can set a single ball, or series of balls.  If that is the case, then the problem during the game is not technique.  The next question I would ask is what happens before the set?  Does the player turn out of the block fast, looking for the ball or does he slowly turn thinking his part of the action is over?  Does he move to the ball with purpose or does he frantically look around trying to figure out if he should play it or hope against hope that someone else will step in?  Those are indications of poor teamplay and organisation, lack of role understanding, poor communication and above all, lack of readiness.

If you look at other areas of the game in which ‘technical’ errors occur, you can often see a lack of readiness at the heart of the problem.  For example, how many ‘non efforts’ in defence are a result of the defender not being in the right position or in a ready position?  How many defensive actions with the feet are actually because the defender is standing up watching the play and not in a ready position?**  How many missed sets are because the player was getting ready to attack instead of actually watching the playing and doing what was required?  How many ‘poor sets’ are actually because the spiker wasn’t ready to attack?  How many free balls played over the net are actually because no one was ready to set or attack?  And so on, and so on.

Technique is vital to performing volleyball skills.

Technique is irrelevant if you are not ready.

**If you test it out it is virtually impossible to move your foot to the ball if you are in a ready position.  You have to move your hands away first.

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  1. Interesting post, Mark. It matches with what other coaches say: 80 % of the game are mental. I used this cognition for my homework assignment for the coaching A licence. Do you agree that it’s 80 %?


    1. In a sense you could say that the game is 100% mental as no part of the game exists without preparation or decision making. But the game also cannot exist without technique. They can’t be separated.
      Maybe you can say that 100% of the game is mental and 100% of the game is technical, and the game is 50% technical and 50% mental.
      If you understand the English word play 😉


  2. The problem with allocating a percentage to technical or mental is that it is a relative to the opponent. If the technical proficiency of each team is comparable then the outcome is decided by close to 100% mental aspects (I would add that what is usually described as ‘mental’ is actually a grouping of mental and emotional, but that is a discussion for another time). If one team has a clear technical advantage then the game is decided by close to 100% technical aspects.

    Of course, the entire argument is absurd as soon as you start to discuss the idea that in order to be technically excellent for an entire match/season/quadrennium you need an extraordinary mental and emotional capacity.


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