Eye Sequence For Defence

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Volleyball is a game of reading. The three components of effective reading are recognising the correct cues (i.e. looking at the right thing at the right time), interpreting them correctly, and deciding on the best solution. We focus a lot on the first of those components when we talk about the eye sequence for blocking. This is the famous ball – setter – ball – spiker that we know so well. We often make the assumption that the same sequence holds for defence, which is why we so often see multiple players occupying the same part of the court. But is that a good assumption?

There is one significant difference between blocking and defending. When a blocker follows their eye sequence, they are in the first line of action. There is nothing between them and spiker. When a defender follows their eye sequence, they are the second line of action, and have the block between them and the spiker. It follows logically that the eye sequence of the defender should include the block. But where?

When players cover the spiker in attack, we instruct them not to watch the ball or the spiker, but to look directly at the block. That is where all the information comes from. In defence from a spiker we can’t watch only the block (hold that thought until later), at least not until we know the relationship between the block and the spiker. So how should we do this?

What do we know about attack? We know quality of the reception is important, i.e. where the setter sets from. We know that spikers make a lot of decisions in attack based on the starting position of the blocker. Where the position 4 blocks starts definitely affects the attack direction of the first tempo attack and the attack from position 2/1 (and probably also the pipe). We know that outside hitters make decisions based on whether the middle blocker jumps with the first tempo, i.e. if there will be a single block.

What should we look at and when? Because the origin of the set is important, we should look at the reception, i.e. the ball. After that position of the blockers is important, i.e. blockers. For blockers, with a tiny time frame in which to make a decision, watching the setter is crucial but defenders have more time, so maybe they only have to watch the ball and if the middle jumps. Seeing that those things happen in the same general space, they can see them together. If we watch the ball, we should be able to see the block, i.e. ball. Then I think we can all agree on spiker. But that is not the end. We have to consider the block, both where it is and how many blockers, so we can move into a space if required, or move back if the block is closed. So then we have two variations… if a single block, we should watch the spiker. If there is a multiple block, we should watch the block.

So what is our final eye sequence for defence?

BALL – BLOCKERS – BALL – SPIKER for a single block
BALL – BLOCKERS – BALL – BLOCK for a multiple block

There we have it. Comments welcomed and encouraged.

Tagged Eye Work, Reading, Defensive Technique

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  1. I like the idea to teach different eye-sequencing for defenders than for blockers. I would further include different eye-sequencing for different defensive positions or situations. While a position 6 defender behind a double block may see only the block, the position 4 or 5 defender will see the attacker and the ball. And they should see it, because if they don’t it means they are behind the block, where they should not be. So for them I would say the sequence should end with SPIKER AND BALL, which at the moment of the attack is the same focal point.
    In addition to that I would also say that defenders can choose different focus. Because they are further away from the action, differences in depth are not so important as for blockers, for whom the focus jump from passer to setter to hitter is quite wide. For the defender with a wide focus this is different and with a wide focus they can observe more things at the same time.
    Maybe these ideas can be an extension to your original idea.


    1. Just as in blocking, the ball is only interesting very fleetingly, to determine general directions. The object acting on the ball is the thing that determines where the ball will go. So I wouldn’t change the last part. And I would go further that if the cue we often give the cross court spiker, ‘see the ball’, should be ‘see the spiker’. They are two different things and result in different court positions.
      As you correctly say, at the moment of attack the ball and spiker are the same point so it is more than enough to watch the spiker before that.
      You are right that there are moments that allow a wider focus and / or the specific focus points don’t need to be as tight as for blocking. For example, when you are watching the block you still see the spiker because they are in the same view.
      I will keep thinking. And please keep making suggestions.

      Liked by 1 person

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