Earvin NGapeth has long been considered one of the best players in the world. However, his French team despite promising much, has been wildly inconsistent during that period, winning World Leagues and European Championships, and yet coming up short in the similar competitions, often just a few months apart. That all changed with their Olympic Gold Medal. Or perhaps didn’t with their early European Championships exit, but I digress. NGapeth has been and continues to be their undisputed leader, and fully deserved the MVP award he received in Tokyo.
I have written about him before (here, sorry about the videos, here) but this year really watched him closely on videotape. I focused a lot on what he did during the rallies especially what he did better actions, when he was not playing the ball. It has been a mind bending experience. If you don’t watch closely, it will often seem like he is lazy and loitering around the court doing nothing. I cannot rule out the possibility that he does indeed do that at times, but for the most part, what looks like loitering is something else again.
What you can see between the actions, is him constantly taking in information and making small adjustments to his position. And once he has processed the information and decided upon a course of action his movement to ball is exceptional. This action might be my favourite attack of the entire Olympics.
It is a fairly innocuous situation, it doesn’t look like anything can come of it, and then suddenly he is in a perfect position to spike. The Russians are so surprised that he was able to spike they didn’t put up and block and somehow he missed the court. However, his observation, decision making and execution were the keys to creating this situation, and they were exceptional.
In this action, he gets a lucky (probably, maybe?) dig. Instead of running to transition or chasing after the ball, or some such nonsense, he simply changes his orientation so that he can see the ball and player clearly, and the court. From there, having again summed up the situation much better than any other player on court, it is a simple solution to take one step and attack.
The third action here is similar. He is out of position, but doesn’t try to regain or find some position that he is ‘supposed’ to be in. For added fun, watch the reaction of Argentina’s #12 who probably still isn’t sure what happened.
Volleyball is a game of reading. Reading requires great observation skills, and that is much more difficult to do when you are constantly running around the court. So the lesson is, be like Earvin, move less.
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