More On Timeouts

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My recent post on timeouts caused quite some very interesting discussion both in the comments on the post and on the facebook page.  The discussion was certainly thought provoking and I found myself thinking about it just a few days later when my team was down 0-3.  Do I really need to take a timeout now, ‘knowing’ that we are just as likely to win a sideout without one and I might ‘need’ one later on.  Of course, if I follow the same logic all the way through I don’t ‘need’ one at the end of a set either, but we’ll just ignore that for the moment.

Today by accident, I came across another study that replicated the findings of the one I quoted in my post.  Someone by the name of Paul Arrington studied men’s and women’s NCAA volleyball, and U-18 and U-13 club volleyball in the USA.  He found that for the first three levels, sideout percentages were virtually identical after a timeout and on average.  Only at the U-13 did he see any difference in the the sideout percentage, with a jump of 8% after a timeout.

As I wrote originally, it is entirely possible that timeouts have no actually effect and we coaches are just trying to create a narrative that makes us more important than we are.  While I don’t (completely) agree with that premise, this is a little more evidence to support it.

On a side note, it occurs to me that every post / article / comment makes the assumptions that timeouts are only made by the receiving team.  Perhaps timeouts by the serving team is where we can make a greater difference.

By the way, I didn’t take that timeout at 0-3 either time.  But the second time, I did take one at 0-4.  We won both sets so I must have been right.


  1. This may have been covered in your last post (in which case I apologise), but it is limiting to think that the ‘outcomes’ of a timeout are simply winning or losing the next point. It is certainly possible to think that some information given during a timeout can have an influence on the game for more than one rally.


    1. I did make the point in the original post that affecting momentum was only one reason to take a timeout, but all of the discussion has been focussed around the momentum factor. That is interesting by itself.
      Obviously it is possible for information imparted during a timeout to have longer lasting impact. But would a coach take a timeout immediately this information came to light, or would he wait for an ‘appropriate moment’ to stop the game?


  2. I agree with Alexis, in that a timeout can have an influence on more than just the next point if the information given helps the team. With that being said, i like the thought of calling Time-outs when you are serving, so that the coach can give guidance on blocking schemes and defence. I don’t think that i have seen anyone do that.


  3. I don’t use time outs to try and influence our opponents or what they are doing. Time outs are my chance to intimately communicate with my team. Nothing I say in that huddle is going to effect our opponents but changes in my team based on the time-out might effect them. And IMO if players are older than first/second year players and have been properly trained in practice that 30 second delay shouldn’t physically or mentally effect anything they are doing either.

    If our opponents are on a scoring run and my team still has their heads up, are talking constructively to each other and trying their best to handle the situation they are in – I let them try to work through the situation on the court. I may make a couple strategy adjustments or make a shift in our defense. I use time-outs when their attitudes slip, or confidence starts lagging, or the talk on the court becomes strained or snippy.

    I did use a timeout once just to piss off an opposing coach. We had a lot of delays in our game – scorekeeping problems, referee problems, net problems, lots of balls on the court, etc. Just a lot of stupid random stuff going wrong. The other coach was getting really irritated and yelled “Can we just play this game without any more delays?” So i called a time out…


    1. As always, David, I like where you’re coming from. But I will ask one question…
      When you think of something you want to tell you team in a timeout, do you call the timeout at that moment, or do you call it at another time?


  4. If we are looking at longer term objectives, I would think that calling a time out to emphasize a particular skill is valuable. Pointing out cues that opposition players are giving, and tweaking technique even with well experienced players can be worthwhile time out uses. I liked to use them at times to give players a chance to work things out with themselves as well.

    We had a coach who would always call a time out at 4 and 10! A New Zealand men’s coach tried to call a time out before the first serve of the match!

    Whatever you do, if you win , it’s because you have good players that you have been able to communicate effectively with – if you lose, it’s the coach’s fault!


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