There is a lot of information floating around on the importance of eye work for players. There is a lot of information on exactly what players should be looking at in each situation, in attack, defence, in block, not least on this blog. However, in all my years of coaching I have never heard about eye work for coaches. If what and where you are looking is important for players, it logically must be no less important for coaches. After all the first step to effective decision making is information collection and most of that is visual.
The coach is responsible for individual technique, team structure, tactics and opposition scouting all at the same time.
To fulfil all those tasks:
- Where should he look?
- What should he watch?
- Where should his main focus be?
- Where should his peripheral vision be?
- Can he even do all if those things at once?
During practice I usually tend to watch whatever I have told the team to focus on during that drill or game – footwork, arm swing, body position, etc. During games I can tell you the one thing I don’t watch – the ball. This has caused problems the few times when I have had to referee a game. I am a horrible up ref, because I forget to watch where the ball went, I am too used to watching the player who hit it. The other time this gets me in trouble with my team is when one of them makes a close play and they disagree with the ref’s call and they turn to me for support or verification. I hate to admit to them that I didn’t see where the ball landed because I was too busy watching how she hit instead of where she hit.
Thanks for your comment, David. I learned to watch the players feets at first when working on techniques, because the feet usually show the basic fault to work on.
But the idea of watching everything but the ball in games is new and at the same time makes very much sense to me. But it still sounds not so easy to introduce to myself 😉 Don’t we all tend to watch the ball?
I don’t so much watch the ball, as I see the ball. I try to keep it there in my peripheral vision. But I don’t focus on it. This is a learned habit. I usually coach beginners – players who have been playing for 0-7 years so a huge part of my visual focus is on the ‘how’ they are doing things. I discovered very early on that I cannot specifically watch where a ball lands after being attacked, and how the attacker is following through, landing, and recovering at the same time. So I will vaguely see the ball travel to an area of the far court but not with enough focus to tell if a close ball is in or out.
It took a few years but I eventually learned to not ‘need’ to see where the ball landed. If the target point is critical to a drill or play, I will task the players to watch that for me and provide feedback to their teammate who is hitting. It is much harder when I am involved in the drill (setting, chipping, tossing, etc) to put the ball into play, and then take my eyes off it and watch the players. But I am working to take myself out of all my drills, so that is becoming less of an issue. Except there are still times, especially with very young players that I have to be involved, since they haven’t developed the skills yet to keep a drill going on their own.
During games I tend to stand closer to the warm-up area than the attack line on the sidelines. I can keep more of the opponents court in my line of sight, while I watch what my players are doing. But that also moves me even further away from those deep line or corner shots and makes them even harder to see.
In practice I like to watch a hitter from the other side of the net, but will move all around so that I can see them from several angles. You want to un-nerve your setter? Try watching your hitters from over her shoulder. For some reason they don’t like a coach hovering just behind them while they set…
And like you, on almost all skills I almost always start by looking first – at their feet.
There is indeed a big difference between a practice and a game. During a practice I also work from the feet up. In my humble view preparation is the key for an action. Most preparation starts with positioning and body balance. That is why I start with the feet. During a game I try to focus on the game plan and execution of this plan. It is impossible to watch it all, so instead focus on a few things (if possible) and to have others focus on the remaining points so you cover as much as possible.
I think is very important see the player positions during block/defense phase.
Everyone has to be in the exactly position about the tactic plan stabilized.
You know, the match will be won in break-phase (sorry for my bad english…).
Over the course of many years, I realised that I wasn’t getting the information I wanted to and that it was because I was watching the ball too much. I have taught myself, or rather am teaching myself, to watch away from the ball and am much happier about my level of observation.
The purpose of my post was to see if this was a common phenomenon as it was not something that I had ever heard about. Logically, if were important, I would have expected it be taught at coaching courses but I have never heard it except for one passing comment in an article by Carl McGown.
Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences.
The ball is passive. It goes where forces move him to. If you look at the ball, you can get an idea of what happened before, so it should not be damned to look at it. Although to be sure, you have to look at what happend before. At this point coaches must be visual decathletes: dynamic, static, focussed, unfocussed, …
Dr. Gernot Jendrusch studies eye-work in sport at Ruhruniversität Bochum since 2003. I am not sure if he has ever published about the eye-work of coaches. Maybe you find something interesting here: http://www.sehenimsport.de.