December 7, 2008

Volleyball Attack Broad Jump and Other Skills

In a post I wrote a bit ago, I had mentioned 'broad jumping' as something that I consider important when evaluating Prospective Student-Athletes (PSA's). After posting the article, I received a few questions about 'broad jumping' and this is one of them:

First, coach, I love your blog! I coach club volleyball, and I've directed so many parents and players to your website. It's the best resource of its kind I've seen. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge and insight.

In your last post, something caught my eye and I wanted to ask you about it. " much does she broad jump..." What's the right answer on this in your opinion? Our club is an open-level club at the national level, and we teach players to not broad jump, but to convert all of their approach speed into their vertical "liftoff." But I know other coaches that I respect who teach players to broad jump into the ball for extra power. Then you have that whole back row attack thing... I saw Alex Klineman hitting a bunch of back row attacks where her broad jump must have been about 8 feet... by the time she hit the ball, it looked a lot like a front row attack.

So what do you look for on that broad jump thing? And if the question is too narrow, maybe you can broaden it (no pun intended) to cover the major things you look for in player fundamentals - i.e. what are the "jacks or better to open" items that a player must have to get you to look further at them?

Thanks again for all you do.


You are welcome Anna and I appreciate your kind words. Thanks for spreading the word about this website to other parents/players/coaches - I hope it helps folks understand college volleyball a bit better.

To answer your question(s), I believe broad jumping, when attacking the ball, is very important and I will not recruit a PSA if they have a limited broad jump. There will always be some type of broad jump whenever a hitter takes an approach because of forward momentum (a body in motion stays in motion; or something like that which someone in the past said who was much smarter than me!).

I understand the rationale of trying to limit the broad jump to create extra vertical jump, but I feel the negatives and the sacrifices of these couple of extra inches are not a good exchange.

My thoughts:

1. Increased Hitting Power - Instead of managing the approach to gain lift, use the approach to transfer all this forward momentum into the arm swing. Do a simple experiment - Have a player stand on a box and hit the ball as hard as they can at a defender. Then have this same player take a full approach and hit the ball at the defender as hard as they can. Ask the defender which ball was 'harder' - It will be with the full approach attack.

2. Less Shoulder Strain - Hitters want to hit the ball hard, no matter the type approach. Some do it with their body and others do it with mainly their shoulders. The ones that do it with their bodies usually have less shoulder fatigue because they are using more than just a small muscle group to generate power, which means less soreness. The players that 'over use' their shoulders because of a limited broad jump will eventually develop sore shoulders which easily manifest into bad shoulders. It rarely shows up on the high school or club level, but it always shows up on the college level.

Much of the recruiting evaluation that I do is to guesstimate any potential injuries - Does the PSA broad jump (shoulder strains), does the PSA land on one or two feet (ACL injuries), does the PSA drift on the block (ankle sprains), does the PSA release her landing or stick it (back injuries), when playing defense, does the PSA move horizontally or vertically to the floor (shoulder and back jams). I do this because injuries are the one thing that will crush a good season or take an average season and make it a bad one.

3. Less Back Strain - A full broad jump on an approach allows for the hitter to land and release her landing; again, forward momentum encourages this action. This 'release' of the landing, actually landing on two feet and then taking a step or two, helps dissipate the energy of the landing away from the body. Players that 'stick' their landing, the way a gymnast does, will usually develop sore/bad backs and knees. Gymnasts have thick padded mats to land on; volleyball players have a half an inch of cushioning in their shoes. An up and down approach, will just send all this impact right up the player's body.

4. Harder to Defend - Hitters that have a limited approach and jump straight up and down are are very easy to block, compared to hitters that fly through the air. I used to love blocking and playing defense against hitters that did not take a broad jump because they were very easy to read, when compared to hitters that did broad jump.

5. Better Vision - When a hitter broad jumps, it keeps the ball in front of them, which allows the hitter to have better view or feel (through peripheral vision) of where the block/defense is stationed. When a hitter does not broad jump, they come in a bit earlier and this translates to the ball being above them, instead of in front of them. Now, they are looking up, rather than out - can't see the block or possible open hitting lanes when you are looking toward the sky.

6. The Best Broad Jump - One of the simplest ways to get better is to mimic the best players. Logan Tom, Reid Priddy, Karch Kiraly, Meagan Hodge, Alex Klineman, etc., all take big broad jumps. Keep it simple and mimic the best.

In terms of "jacks or better to open" (my first poker reference on the site), I look for all around skills. I am not a Top 10 program where identifying the needed players is simple; how hard is it to see that Alex Klineman is good? Nor am I with a Bottom 10 program where anything that looks halfway like a Division I volleyball player will make us better. Rather I am in the great between of those two extremes.

It is sometimes easier to explain what are recruit killers for me because the invert or reverse of the 'killers' make a PSA attractive.

1. Comfortable passing and defensive skills. I do not agree with the Asian style of passing as taught by the USA Women's National team - 'Pop' passing or punch passing is an instant killer. Also, stepping to a knee to play defense (as a few club coaches have told me is the newest thing with USA Junior Volleyball), instead of moving through the ball defensively, is a killer.

2. Not broad jumping when attacking - as explained above. The longer the broad jump, the more a hitter flies, even if it is not high, the better I rate them. An up and down approach is an instant 'adios'.

3. A slow or long arm swing - I like an arm swing that loads similar to someone getting ready to throw a punch. A hitter that starts with her arm low, near her waist and then takes a long motion to get her elbow up and behind her head, is not my type of hitter.

4. Blockers with big motions are toast with me. Blocking should be with the body and a strong press of the hands as far over and as quickly as possible. Blockers that have a big arm movement or go high before they go over do not rate well.

5. Attitude - I don't care for players who do not look focused; a rather tough thing to quantify, but I know it when I see it. I like to see it matters to a PSA if they win or lose and I absolutely don't care for players that just make noise or are 'chippy'.

In summary, I am looking for a Volleyball Player - Not someone who plays volleyball. With rally score (boo, hiss) to 25 (boo, hiss) every point is precious and there is no room for small mistakes. A lot of small mistakes happen with athletes that play volleyball - not reading the hitter correctly, not identifying the little things that give away a short serve before the server makes contact, not calling for another attack option after defending a tip, not rotating quickly before a down ball or free ball opportunity; these are just a few of the many examples of small things that Volleyball Players do, which PSA's that just play volleyball do not understand.

Hope I was able to shed some light on Broad Jumping, because I do believe it is a critical part of successful (and healthy) attacking. As for the other items I look for in a PSA, it may be just me, but I would guess it is also a bunch of other coaches. I find that the mid-level programs that are routinely successful are those that correctly evaluate PSA's to fit the program's particular style.

Thanks again for reading and spreading the word.