In practice my teams play a lot of small sided games in which they are limited to two touches. I like the two touches games for a few of reasons. The first reason is that with two touches, especially in a small court, the time between contacts for each player is less and therefore the amount work is more. The second reason is that with less opportunity to set up rally ending plays the rallies last longer and therefore the amount of work is more. The last reason is that the players are forced to think in a different way in order to win points, and to be more aware to prevent them. So two touch games are more work and more thinking and more awareness; a definite win-win-win for coaches.
One of my pet peeves in volleyball, is how much the best teams, at least on the men’s side, is how much the teams play ‘with’ each other. There are a frequent moments in the game where both teams carry out set moves at the same time, when the team with the ball could theoretically do many other things, not least being take any kind of risk. You can see it when the first contact is played six metres from the net. One player jogs to set the ball. One spiker clears out to get ready for a high ball. The other four players stand up, out of the immediate play and prepare to cover. The opponent starts to job over to set a triple block where the predetermined spiker is getting ready. The spiker tips. The scene plays out over and over again.
Of course, if I see those moments jump out at me in indoor volleyball, then you can imagine what I think when I watch beach volleyball. It is as though the teams make an agreement to always use three contacts when there are dozens of situations in a game where a team could win points easily, or at least gain a significant advantage, by at least maintaining the threat of playing over with the second contact. On this week’s The Net Live, recent Manhattan Beach Open winner Matt Fuerbringer had an interesting discussion about the momentum effects of winning or losing a rally that you play over on the second contact. Listening to that it occurred to me that it is less of an agreement to use three contacts but more in line with the hidden motivations that I have written about before.
If the goal was to win a point at any cost indoor volleyballers would attack with speed and variation even in difficult situations. If the goal was to win a point any cost beach volleyballers would play a lot of first and second contacts over the net to the huge areas of free space. But just as the goalkeeper never stands in the middle of the goal even though a third of all shots go there. if the first goal of the volleyballers is also not to look foolish then the whole thing makes more sense.