When Bad Plays Look Good

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Coaching is hard. I think we can all agree with that. And I think we can further agree that one of the hardest parts of coaching volleyball is teaching blocking. There are a few reasons for that, starting with the fact that blocking is really, really difficult. Another is that more than with other skills the knowledge of results part of feedback is misleading. The block can be perfect in every way and still not touch the ball. Alternatively, the block can be wrong in nearly every way, and score a point. The following is an example of the latter.

Blockers, especially middles, have to expand their focus of attention to see the whole play develop before and contracting their focus onto the setter. In this example, if the blockers had a wide focus of attention they would see that there are no attackers on the opponent’s left side and that the only possible option is the set to position 1.

Even though the only attack option is in position 1, if we pay attention to the middle blocker, he moves his right. It is a standard, unconscious action of both blockers and defenders to ‘follow’ the setter. That simple movement nearly always compromises the actions that follow it. In this specific example, the middle does not go past his ‘normal’ position but he is still compromised as are every other player’s actions in a chain reaction.

The small, unconscious, seemingly insignificant movement to his right means the middle blocker has to rush to close the block, and collides with the outside blocker in the air thus compromising the quality of the block, reducing the space it takes up at the net and risking a net touch. It also means the third (position 2) blocker must wait before moving and is late to make position, leaving a hole in the block that an alert spiker should have been able to take advantage of. Unfortunately (see above ‘coaching is hard’), the end result of that cavalcade of tiny errors was a block point.

Sometimes you get lucky, especially in the block, but that doesn’t always mean it was a good play, or that you can’t still improve. And sometimes what looks like a missed play, was actually caused by something that happened when everyone’s gaze was somewhere else.

More video analysis is in these series of posts: What Makes This Play Great? and What Just Happened?.

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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