Coaching Tip #56

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56 look first

Tagged – Tip of the WeekCoaching Practice, Practice Management

Coaches are programmed to try to get the most out of every practice.  There can be no wasted moments in that quest.  If one ball is out of play, then the next one must enter immediately, in order that no valuable time is lost.

But in this quest to maximise repetitions and practice opportunities we actually waste a lot of time.  When a ball is entered immediately after one is dead, very often the player in the question is still looking at the previous ball, or otherwise resetting themselves.  If they are not ready for the next action then whatever it is they do in the attempt to play the ball will be at best an imperfect repetition (because it does not include full cue recognition) and at worst a complete waste of time (because the player sees the ball too late to play it correctly).  Either way it is a pointless repetition and a loss of time.

This common error can be seen very often during serve and reception drills in which someone is instructed to serve a ball after an error.  It can also be seen during wash drills, when a player/s has to wipe the court before proceeding.

To prevent this error in practice management is very simple.  Look first.  Every time you want to blow your whistle to initiate the rally, or put the ball into ball, look first to see that every player is ready.  When attention is there, put the ball in.  The extra second that you take each time will ensure that no rallies are lost and therefore no learning opportunities.

The initial collection of 50 Coaching Tips can be found here.


  1. Interesting point.
    How then, teach your players to be ready faster? In the case of those quick serve/receive or wash drills?


    1. I never, never, never do quick serve/receive drills. In serve and reception, you always have enough time to prepare. The referee does not blow the whistle until everyone is ready.
      Wash drills are not realistic. In a game the ball never enters in this way. So even if they get faster at recognising this ball, it is not preparing for volleyball. It is just a way of working. The eyes of the players naturally follow the ball that is finished because that is what happens in the game. This is natural. Every player in the world is like this. It does not mean they lazy or slow. If you watch the players closely you will see how it happens. They need probably 1 second to finish the rally and refocus on where the next ball is coming from. After this 1 second they should be ready and you can put the ball in. If they are not ready they don’t recognise the situation, they don’t make a good action, and the whole rally is wasted. Of course, if they are really slow or not paying attention after this one second you can put the ball in to make a point and push them to do better next time, but it is still not useful for the game.


  2. Thanks for the answer. I agree 100% and it’s refreshing seeing this way of thinking on other people with probably more experience than me as a coach, hence my question


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