When I was just a lad, and before it was even remotely fashionable, I loved soccer and lapped up everything I could on the subject. So when ‘Escape to Victory‘ came out, starring Sylvester Stallone no less, I rushed off to the cinema to see it. Among the many action packed and exciting scenes in the movie, (I have never seen it again, so in my mind it remains the great movie my 14 year old self loved) was this one starring Argentinian player Osvaldo Ardiles.
I can’t really describe how inspiring this scene and the trick was. Along with all of my friends, I rushed off to the playground and endlessly tried to replicate it. Our lack of success didn’t deter us because we were having fun and learning something new that we had never seen before. And we loved soccer a little bit more. As is very often the case, the imagination to invent a new move, or technique is harder than the technique itself. Once something is conceived as possible, it quickly becomes normal and eventually easy. 35 years later every one of my current volleyball players can do that trick, most of them much better than Ardiles himself. It turns out it is not actually that difficult. But thinking of it was.
Last week France won the European Volleyball Championships for the first time. The final point was scored by French star Earvin N’Gapeth in this manner…
Volleyball fans all over the world went wild and the video went viral. As it should have. The sobering note was sounded by a reader of my Facebook page who cautioned ‘… just don’t let my U17s see it.’ As a coach I instantly understood his point. I have heard and said many similar things over the years about coaches who don’t want their players to see such and such a team or player so they don’t learn ‘bad’ habits and undo all of the coach’s work in teaching volleyball ‘properly’.
But after a moment or two, I started to think about it in another way. Maybe the best solution would be to provide some time in practice for the players to try that move. For that ten, fifteen, twenty minutes you can guarantee that the players will be fully committed and engaged. They might not able to master what N’Gapeth did, but mabye they will find something else new and they will probably understand more about their bodies.
But one thing is certain, they will definitely love volleyball a little bit more than they did yesterday.
I almost did it with my guys… 😉