Timeouts and Service Errors – A Cautionary Tale

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Yesterday, I was involved in a stressful and tense match.  Quite a few times during that match, I felt very, very strongly that we had chances to build on a little bit of momentum that we had created, only for the opposition to call a timeout, and my team to make a service error.

After the match, I went to the statistics so I would have some data to tell the team about at our meeting the next day.

The scout file showed that in five sets, our opponent had taken eight timeouts.

I asked my assistant, “From eight timeouts, how many times do you think we made a service error on the next serve?”.  Raised eyebrow.  Furrowed brow. “Five”.  Yes, that is exactly what I thought.


Including technical timeouts in which we had the lead, we served twelve times after timeouts, making three errors, for an error percentage of 25%. This was essentially identical to our overall service error percentage of 22.1%.

The lesson is always, don’t believe what you think you see.  Emotions are great, but they often prevent us from understanding what really happens.

The second lesson is always check before you talk to the team. Whether it is video or statistics that back you up, make sure you what you think you saw is what really happened.

Some statistics on the frequency of service errors after timeouts can be found here and here.

Tagged – Timeouts, Service Errors

A collection of 50 Coaching Tips can be found here.

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

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