What Just Happened? Chapter 3

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Following the theme of the last of this series and some recent Facebook conversations, I want to look a bit more at what happens when team structure breaks down during a game.

There is typically a lot of action in defence. Players move to the initial defensive positions, then react to the set and block to their final defensive positions, and often run and chase down balls that are touched by the block. Often the movement doesn’t lead to anything concrete, but we all know that movement in volleyball is a good thing. Reading the play is also a good thing and we often admire players who ‘read’ the game well and give them credit even if their ‘read’ doesn’t lead to a successful dig. But are those ‘reads’ actually good play?

In this clip, #13 in position 5 ‘reads’ the play and in reacting to it moves into the zone of responsibility for position 6. As he is in the line of sight of #18 in position 6, any small movement he makes will distract #18, just as in the first of the series. This is exactly what happens. #18 could have played the ball but the tiny hesitation he has in response to #13 means he is already too late to move.

In this clip, the same basic thing happens, except that this time the defender in position 5 actually prevents position 6 from defending a relative simple ball by diving in front of him.

In the final clip, all three defenders ‘read’ and react perfectly to the ball and end up standing in more or less the spot of the court. This seems like a good plan. After all the more players in the right spot the greater the chance of defending the ball. Surely? Except that when players are close together extra communication is required, and on a clean attack there is no time for that. Again the miniscule hesitation as players decide to play or leave the ball is enough to ensure noone can control it and the opponent crushes the simple free ball.

The lesson is that two players occupying the same space on the court never leads to anything good. Even if it looks like good play led to it, more often that not it is at best a simple distraction and at worst an active injury risk. The coach’s job is to create structures to make sure that it doesn’t happen.


The total of 82 practical Coaching Tips can be found here and here.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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