How To Play As A Team

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Coaches often exhort their charges to ‘play together!’ or to ‘play as a team!’.  The reasons for victory are often described as great ‘team play’ and losses are caused by ‘not playing together’.  But what does that actually mean? How do you play together? How do you play as a team?  I was asked that very question this week.  This is my response.

    • There is no action in volleyball that is more selfless than to cover spikers on your team (except maybe triple blocking, see below).
    • If your job is to block line and let the other defend, you block line.  If your job is to attack, you let the other guy pass the free ball.  Even if you think you see something different, or if you think the other guy is not ready.  You might think you are doing the right thing, but more often than not you create disruption and confusion and make it more difficult for your teammates to make the next play.  You could describe this a discipline.
    • …together.  Share good actions with teammates
    • …together.  Share responsibility for poor actions and show support to your teammates.
    • …should be active in the game by showing support during the action and giving information to the players on the court during breaks in play.
    • Pay attention to the match plan AND follow it.
    • …between rallies.  The information that is shared between rallies is the communication that makes a difference.  A quick review of the previous rally, often with a some technical feedback, and an equally quick preview of the next rally, with scouting reminders and task assignment has a much greater effect on team play and outcome than any communication that might occur during the rally.
    • When players are playing for themselves, they can take no risk because they don’t want to make an error, or take crazy risks because someone has to do something.  Sometimes the moment requires risk, sometimes it doesn’t. Good team players know how to identify these moments.
    • Triple blocking requires work and attention to perform successfully.  It is also a skill in which for maximum success no individual player is trying to block the ball. The first blocker makes position, which is not normally the ‘blocking’ position, and the next two follow. The triple block is at maximum effectiveness when no individual tries to score.
    • The hardest thing to describe are the tiny hesitations that are (barely) visible in lower functioning teams and absent in higher functioning teams. Good teams move without hesitation.

‘Playing as a team’ is something that is often clearer in its absence than its presence and is one of the most difficult things for a coach to describe and therefore ‘fix’.  The points raised here will get your team a long way down the track to that elusive, mythical ‘teamwork’.

*There is nothing more demoralising and / or infuriating for a player than to have a teammate step in front of them to take a ball that is theirs.  And there is nothing more infuriating for the coach than the answer ‘but he wasn’t ready to play it’ when it is pointed out.

The total of 82 practical Coaching Tips can be found here and here.

Check out the Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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