He Who Defends Everything

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What is better?

A) Nearly make 50 plays, actually make 0

B) Completely miss 49 plays, actually make 1

Yesterday, I asked this question.  As is my wont, the question was deliberately vague while my intent was extremely specific.  As such the only correct answer was ‘it depends’ or ‘more information, please’.  Any other answer required the answerer to make some assumptions, specific to that person.  So in the end, every answer was correct.

When posing my conundrum, I was specifically speaking about blocking and defence, and the scenario when a defender (blocker) nearly defends a lot of balls but actually defends none versus a defender who actually defends balls but touches few.  What I find is that a lot of coaches (and players) think that if they are close to the ball, they are close to defending the ball.  This is a tantalising, yet false assumption.  Tantalising because it is easy to convince yourself that but for a small lack of skill (that you can acquire) or a little bit of luck (that you will have next time) you would have defended a lot of balls.  False, because there is no evidence that this is actually true.

If you analyse the plays what you are most likely to find is that by attempting to defend every ball the players is moving a lot.  As we all know, being on the move makes it far less likely that you are able to control the ball.  A player on the move, while increasing the number of touched balls, actually decreases the likelihood that they are able to make a dig.

Team defence is the coordination of players to achieve a team outcome.  The team outcome is scoring points.  A good defensive system must put players in the position that they are able to make quality defensive plays that the team is able to score from.  Therefore a good defensive system will put players in positions where they do not have to move very much, maximising the quality of the defence, and from which they can subsequently mount an effective offensive.  This means that some balls will land where there is no defence.  This is actually okay.  As famed Chinese coach Sun Tzu once said, “He who defends everything, defends nothing.”

For more great coaching tips, check out the Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

Cover v2


  1. That has always been my opinion – coach must use a system that suits the collection of players he has got at the time, not dream up a system no matter how brilliant and try to teach his available players to use it.
    Is the 2000 Olympic ball in your collection?


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