In this series of posts, I have been looking at things we see in a volleyball match that are not what we might think they are at first glance. We have seen non efforts that are really miscommunications. We have seen efforts that are really lack of readiness. We have seen what happens when the setter plays the first ball. We have seen what happens when two players defend the same space. We have even seen smart plays that weren’t smart at all. Now we will look at transition attack.
What is the first thing you see here? If you are a YouTube aficionado, you might jump up and say ‘He’s done an N’Gapeth!!’. You might say ‘What a terrible set! It’s a good thing the hitter could somehow save it.’ You might go on to make the general observation that the play is too risky, and that transition play should be much more precise.
What we see in this clip is the philosophical change that has happened in men’s volleyball over the last five years or so, that is the change in focus from spiking to attacking. A spike is what we teach our beginners, with its four step approach and perfect armswing to generate maximum power. An attack is an action at the net with the object of scoring a point in the simplest way. If the strategy of my team is to create great spiking opportunities then the tactical application of that is first contact without focus on precision, followed by a slowish to high set to provide the attacker time to spike. If the strategy of my team is create great attacking opportunities, the tactical application is completely different. To begin with, speed becomes a higher priority, as attacking before the block and defence have time to prepare is a great advantage. Further on the same theme, spiking takes time, while attacking can be any kind of tip, which requires no ‘technical’ preparation and therefore less time. And finally a spike needs space from the net (which I would debate, but another day), while for an attack, the closer to the net the better.
The greatest thing about this type of play is that, as we see in the clip, it doesn’t need to be precise and, despite how many people interpret it, the risk is actually very low. As long as the spiker is ready and the ball is, more or less, in front of them then a successful attack can be mounted. And if the ball is not quite right, then any tip that keeps the ball in play will still put the opponent under pressure.
When we stop thinking about spiking and start thinking about attacking, the game changes. What is the next change in perception that we will see in the game?
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