November 13, 2008

Year In and Year Out Volleyball Advice

I was organizing my office a bit and came across an older Volleyball magazine. It had a section called "100 Things Every Player Should Know". This was just a listing of 100 Things with regards to playing-practicing-thinking volleyball - both beach and indoor. While I won't list each 100 Things, there are a few that are significant.

Some ideas/philosophies do stand the test of time. No matter what year, what season, what rules, some things are just standard for our sport. I believe they are worthy of being revisited because they can help you become a better volleyball player, coach and fan.

#4 - Forget the last play and get ready for the next. I call this short term memory; understand what went wrong and then move on. Too many players get into their own heads and allow a previous negative play to predetermine the next play.

#6 - Serve the front court passer. This is a simple strategy that is often overlooked. Instead of allowing a front court attacker to focus on one thing (hitting) make them focus on two things (passing and hitting). When you make a player do two things, odds are better they will mess one of those things up and this will result in point or point opportunity for your team.

#10 - Never tip a bad set. Good teams can see a tip coming from a mile away, because this is usually how far from being a good set an attacker is managing. When the set is poor, hit hard and deep (preferable to zone 1) - When the set is good, that is when the tip will be a kill.

#11 - Keep your love for the sport by not over-training. This Thing is something we all need to remember - players, coaches and parents. The body and the mind need to rest. Too much volleyball or volleyball related training will just lead to burn-out.

#19 - Play with the attitude that every ball is coming to you. This seems obvious, yet there are obvious times when players get surprised by the ball. In rally score (boo, hissss) there is no time to be surprised. It is all about focus and mental discipline.

#20 - If someone is struggling to pass your serve, stay on them. Another obvious suggestion, but how many times do we see a player absolutely shank the ball up to grandma in the 8th row, then the next serve misses her by 20 feet. Point runs in rally score are the difference between a W and a L - in 25 point games, it takes only one significant point run to achieve this difference. Point runs are powered by breaking the other team's serve receive.

#24 - Talk during the play, not between plays. I like to think of it as talking pre-play to identify hitters and quick review of what is going to happen (I have the middle, watch the short serve) then communicating with each other in play (she is coming in, my hitter is out, mine/yours, A, A,A,A). Too many times teams do the 'rah-rah' after a point, but during the play it is silent.

#33 - Keep in mind that you play volleyball with your feet. Very, very true. Players try to make up for lazy footwork with overactive arm work. If your feet are not correct, passing-blocking-defense-attacking-setting, all suffer badly. I hardly ever remind a player about their arms, but I am always talking about their feet.

#38 - Go beyond the ball with your arms when playing defense. Many players shorten their platform range or chicken wing the ball when trying to dig. This will result in off-target digs and shanked balls. Players must finish the ball, go through the ball, over manage the ball to make sure it is a transition attack dig.

#51 - If you're the setter, know who's hitting and who the blockers are. This is the difference between a setter and someone who is setting - big difference. A setter must understand which hitters should be getting sets in certain situations, along with which blockers can be targeted or avoided to ensure the best odds of the hitter getting a kill.

#58- Remember that teams usually win when they serve in and hit in. This Volleyball magazine article was written before the onset of rally score and with rally score (boo, hisssss again), and this Thing is even more applicable. Missed serve is a free point for the opponents and hitting the ball out allows for point runs which is the determining factor in rally score. Simply by serving the ball in (but not free ball serves) and hitting the ball in, it will extend rallies and allow the opportunity for any team against any opponent to challenge for a win.

#64 - Never give an opponent an easy ball. It drives me to drink diet soda when I see my team turn their back and pass a ball over the net. Never give a free ball - the only time you should pass the ball over the net is after you have sprinted halfway to Puerto Rico to chase down a ball on the second contact. Always hit the ball over the net and always try to hit the ball over the net into zone one - Don't allow the other team to load into their free ball attack.

#85- See the hitter hit the ball. With defense, if you cannot see the hitter hit the ball then you are out of position. No matter what defensive position you play, if you cannot see the attacker make contact then you are too wide, too shallow, too deep, too short, too something. You must always be able to see contact.

#100- Play for fun. Ultimately this is what we should all be doing. Professional volleyball is such a tiny fraction that it makes it an unreality. Whether a player or family is on scholarship, whether the coaching staff makes enough to eat steak or hamburger, we are still a sport that must be played for fun. If you (coaches, players, parents) are not enjoying what you are doing, then it is time to bow out of the game. Life is too short and you will negatively impact the experience for those that are playing volleyball because it is fun.

I sincerely believe that if I was to re-read the Volleyball magazine article in anther 10 years, the same things will still be true.