What To Practice – By The Numbers

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It should be the first concern of coaches when planning the content of practice to think about how much they have to practice everything. A lot of coaches will tell you what is most important after doing sophisticated statistical analysis and ranking the different elements. For example, some will say that volleyball is serve and reception. A simpler and more effective way of deciding what to practice is to look at the frequency with which your teams performs each element. Surely the frequency that you have to perform something gives a fairly strong clue to it’s importance. To do that, let’s look at the simple Match Report.

The Data Volley Match Report is an excellent overview of the match and contains all the information we need to determine the content of practice.

The four numbers that should jump out are the number of attacks from each team, the number of serves and the number of receptions. Volleyball is spiking. It always has been and it always will be. It is the preeminent skill in volleyball. And it is the thing that you do the most. More than service and reception.

The next question we must ask is ‘What are the skills that are most closely associated with and connected to spiking?’ This information is not included in the Match Report, but can be easily extracted. All spikes are connected with a set and a block / defence. Seeing as spiking is also the preeminent skill of the opponent then we can similarly determine that block / defence is equally important.

So the most important skills in volleyball, based on frequency, are:
1a. attack from set v block / defence
1b. block / defence v opponent’s attack
3. serve / reception

The key points to note are that all spiking is against a block and defence. That has to be the key takeaway for planning practice. And given that our block and defence is performed with as much frequency as attack, it fits neatly that virtually all of our practice time should be spent in some form of 6 v 6.

Having come to that logical conclusion, how much time should we spend with different types of spiking? Coming back to our Match Report…

About a third of our attack is from good reception, about a third is from bad reception, about a third is in transition.

Volleyball is spiking. And spiking does not exist without blocking. They are inseparable.

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