Thinking About… Extra Balls / Wash Balls

Posted by

thinking about...wash balls

Wash drills are not realistic.

The primary objective of wash drills is to create more game, i.e. realistic, situations in practice but the drill format itself is not realistic.  The concept of a ball entering the court immediately after a rally has finished is the counterintuitive.  And we cannot kid ourselves about this.  There is no way (repeat zero ways) a coach can put a ball into play that is ‘realistic’.

Wash drills are an (the) essential component of effective practice.

Given that these two statements are both correct, we need to work out how we can maximise the effectiveness of the format.  The first thing we must understand is that the eyes of the players naturally follow the ball that has just completed the rally.  That is what happens in the game. It is natural. Every player in the world does it and it is not a sign of laziness or lack of attention. If you watch the players closely you will see how it happens.  They need one second (or perhaps less) to finish the rally and refocus on the next action.  Before attention is refocused, players are not looking in the right place and are not in good positions.

There are many reasons to put the extra ball in fast, such as improving the ability to refocus or optimising conditioning, But if the extra ball is entered during the (very short) period before the players have refocused, the subsequent actions are poor and the whole rally is essentially wasted. With the wasted rally needing to be repeated, often after some coach intervention we end with the equation of trying to gain 1 extra second of work, but instead losing or wasting 30 seconds or more. There are of course factors that must be considered (ball / players / sweat on the court), as well establishing the parameters and tempo of the drill, but the art of running the drill is to find the ‘sweet spot’ for putting the ball in. That moment  is exactly the moment that the players refocus their attention. This ensures no time is wasted, and that the actions that follow are as realistic as possible.

Check out my practice gym. See what drills I use and why

Many coaches will try to ‘trick’ the team by putting the ball into play from an unexpected place or to an unrealistic place, so the team is ‘ready for anything’.  There are no situations in volleyball when a ball comes from an unexpected place, or at an unexpected time.  Where the ball comes from is ALWAYS predictable.  It ALWAYS comes from the place where the attention is focused.  If a ball is unexpected it is because the player was not looking in the right place or has misinterpreted the cues presented.  The purpose of practicing in game situations, is to learn and practice seeing, recognising and reacting to the cues presented in the game.  To deliberately provide unrealistic situations negates the reason for using the drill form in the first place, and by ‘practicing’ that which can never happen, is again essentially waste time.

No drill form by itself is ‘valuable’.  It ALWAYS depends on how coach runs it.

More things I was thinking about here.

Tagged Practice Management, Practice Philosophy


The collection of Coaching Tips can be found here.

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.



  1. First (not importat) thing, the link in the sentence “More things I was thinking about here” doesn’t work, it seems strange beacuse all the other link work well.

    Second thing: Lorenzetti in a podcast (Coach Factor is the format) speaks about the rithm of the drills is isualyy “drugged”, i.e. we as coaches don’t reproduce the real pace of the game and we put a lot of balls that make the drill unrealistic, so sometimes he uses the real rithm of the game during the prctices.
    The day before yesyerday in a web conference, Lorenzetti went deeper and added that he used the first ball to reach the objective of the drill and a second ball without objective.

    In my experience, usually are the players that ask for a second/third ball to keep the rithm of the drill high. IMHO, in this case, before the drill the coach should clarify and communicate how the second ball will be played and during the drill should take the right time to put the ball into play, trying to simulate the situation (the position of the coach, the timing, the spin of the ball, the type of the launch and so on…)


    1. re thinking about… you are right. I was thinking the same thing… Maybe I will change it
      re Lorenzetti… I agree with everything there. In my practice, only one ball has a condition/instruction. After that everything is free.
      My post is not about these things. It is about the timing that the ball comes in. And that many coaches try to put the ball in very fast, but if it is too fast the players can’t play well. The coach has to wait for a short moment so that the attention of the players is in the correct area.
      In general, the word ‘ritmo’ / ‘rhythm’ is interesting. In Italian it is used to mean ‘speed’. High rhythm, means high speed or high tempo. In English, the word rhythm means something different. Rhythm is also the change of speed, for example we talk about the rhythm of the spike approach (slow to fast). So for me, I want to practice at a ‘high tempo’ but with a ‘correct rhythm’.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s