What Just Happened?

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Tagged What Just Happened?

In the video above it is pretty clear what just happened. The player in position 6 didn’t go for the ball and his team lost the point. The obvious solution is a bit of coach of one at the next training session and a conversation about his lack of effort and commitment and all will be good.

That is the most common response, and it is certainly the response of his teammates and coach. But is it really getting to the heart of the problem? Here is what really happened.

The player in position 6 is not designated to take tips in most (all systems). His priority is strong attacks and attacks that come off the top of the block. Position 1 and 5 are designated to defend tips, therefore position 6 has a slightly higher position and is primed to be stationary or to move backwards.

As the attacker shows that it will be a tip, the defender in position 1 automatically runs forwards, without looking at where the tip is actually going, because he knows it is his ball. At the moment he realises the ball is not in front of him after all, it is too late for him to change direction and he turns to the watch the ball… and yell at his teammate.

As the attackers show that it will be a tip, the defender in position 6 automatically relaxes, without looking at where the tip is actually going, because he knows it is not his ball. His decision is confirmed by the movement of the position 1 player ‘towards’ the tip that he can see in his peripheral vision, so he relaxes again. By the time he realises that he actually has the best play on the ball, it is much too late. The only thing left for him to do is to make a coach’s dive, but in this case it is too late even for that.

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The error looks like a lack of effort, but it is actually poor reading of the play by two players. The solution is not coach on one and a lecture on commitment but rather an explanation of the situation and teaching the players to spend another fraction of a second interpreting the information presented to them before making automatic movements.

The lesson is that what seems like lack of effort is often something else and the error in the play is often not the last action.

The other solution is to teach your attackers to play this shot. It is almost always a point.

Do you want to learn about teaching midde blockers? Would you like a sneak preview into my practice? Do you want to improve you communication skills? Those and other coach development resources available here.


  1. I have a slightly different read on the play, though one that doesn’t change your ultimate point. The player in 1 is the setter. He makes an initial move toward the ball, but judges it will be easy for 6 to play, so he instead releases toward the net. That’s likely the decision we want him to make in this kind of situation, but then everything you said.


    1. It is possible. Except in cases when the opposite is in position 1 😉
      It doesn’t change the thought processes of position 6.
      The play is pretty common. That is why smart players tip there. It really is almost always a point.


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