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The words technique and skill are often used interchangeably or at the very least the distinction between the two is unclear. At my university they were very clear on the distinction. They taught that a technique exists in isolation. Essentially it is the mechanics of a particular action. On the other hand, skill is a technique performed during competition. It is technique in context. This neat and elegant distinction explains many of our observations, and explains why it is that players who can execute good technique in isolation can be poor in competition and vice versa.
The way I personally understand this distinction is that skill = technique + decision making. This formula is important for planning and developing practice. Technique is important* but if we are practicing to play, we cannot separate technique from decision making**. In even the simplest drills we can include a level of decision making which allows us to practice the skill alongside the technique, rather then separately. Which brings us to service reception.
Often, ‘service reception’ is practiced individually; one server with one passer. Often, when practicing ‘service reception’ a server will deliberately serve to a single receiver when the other is not ready. Often, when practicing ‘service reception’ servers will serve to only one part of the court. I would suggest that in none of these cases is the team actually practicing the skill of service reception. A very significant part of service reception is the decision making between players. It should be clear that each additional player added to the service reception formation adds an exponential level of complexity. Therefore, I would go on to suggest that the decisions on who should play which ball and when, are more important in determining the quality of a team’s service reception than the cumulative technical proficiency.
In short anything less than practicing ‘reception’ with all players on court is not really service reception. In a game technique cannot exist in isolation from skill.
In short, there is no such thing as individual reception.
* Technique is ALWAYS important.
** Except obviously for the very short periods of time when we must practice the mechanics.
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