October 9, 2014

Keep it Real - Volleyball Coaching

Volleyball coaches, like all humans, have momentary delusions of grandeur.  We see Penn State's back row attacks as part of their offense and think our team should do the same or we see Washington swing blocking and mandate our players employ the same technique.

As Dirty Harry said, "A coach has got to know their team's limitations".

Let me explain to all my coaching brethren why hitting from the back row is a poor choice for the majority of volleyball teams (high school, club and/or college).

There is a difference between Penn State and your team, just like there is a difference between Russ Rose and me (height and a wall full of NCAA DI Championship trophies).  Coach Rose has attackers which are monsters, resulting in the 10 foot line (pardon me, 3 meter line) being not too much of a consequence when they broad jump 8 feet and the All American setter puts the set consistently at 7 feet.  It pains me to say this, but your team does not have this combination.

All too often, our hitters are not monsters and don't broad jump 8 feet much less 8 inches, and our setter likes to set the ball at 12 feet just to make sure the hitter does not step on the electrified 10 foot line (pardon me again, 3 meter line).

This results in the hitter presenting a down ball attack to the opponent, which looks like a low arching parabola hit into zone 5 or 6, allowing the competition to transition better.  

"But coach, the back row attack is a great broken play alternative!"  No, it isn't for the majority of programs.  "And let me tell you why." (the late great Robin Williams in The Birdcage).

Hitters will attack a higher percentage the closer they are to the net - 3 feet is better than 5, 5 feet is better than 7, 7 feet is better than 12, etc.  The further away from the net, the more likely the opposing team will be placed into a successful transition position.

There are two reasons why the back row is set too often; 1) lazy setters, 2) lazy coaches.  Unless you are a DI elite team, or have a super stud OH on a non DI team (high school, club or non DI college) the back row set is should be an absolute bail out set/attack.  

"Coach, what do you mean by bail out?"  To answer your question Rocks, a bail out means the setter is so far off the court, she is getting a drink out of the water fountain or the libero has chased the ball up into the stands is taking a bite out of Grandma's banana bread which was sneaked into the gym; that is a bail out set.

All other sets need to go to the front row attackers, period, discussion over - Let me put that into another language for clarity - Todos los otros conjuntos deben ir al frente atacantes fila, punto, la discusión sobre!

Setters can just as easily set the front row attacker as the back row - How do I know?  Because this entire camp summer, I forced my camp setters to only set front row attackers and by the 2nd day, they all were setting the front row with no problem.  

Setting the back row is lazy; it is easier to just throw up a pipe set behind the 10 foot line (pardon me for the 3rd time, 3 meter line) than it is to take an extra step, pivot the hips/shoulders and push the ball to the left side antennae.  Mandate that your setter makes the physical effort to set the front row, and she will do exactly that.

Coaches are lazy for allowing back row sets to occur - Just because the Olympic team or some DI team you see on TV attacks successfully, or a noteworthy coaching clinic demos the skill, does not mean it is best for your team.  Don't take the fast food option and think, "hey, at least we got a swing"....that is like saying, "hey, at least we got food at Taco Bell".  If you demand it, the setter will do it.

The front row hitters will learn to successfully attack a set which is coming from a long distance or awkward angle; don't get caught up in the few early poor swings.  But, here is the payoff - While the number of errors may be the same between back row versus front row attacks (out or in the net), the number of kills by the front row will slowly increase over back row - this is the important point, the opponent will be placed into a poorer transition position with front row attacks versus back row.

Let's ponder that my furry friends.....When the ball is hit back row by mortals, the opposing team has more time to play defense, a clearer view of the attacker, which usually results in a better dig for the setter, and a longer time frame for the front row defenders/blockers to transition into their attack load zones.  All of these examples are not true when the ball is attacked near the net.

If the opponent cannot successfully transition, then your team will be placed into a better position to transition against their transition - wow, lots of transitions going on.  To win the rally, you have to extend the rally while reducing the good opportunities for your opponent to transition attack.  To attack the ball back row will result in the opponent having a transition advantage - Learning to successfully attack front row on broken play balls will result in the opponent's transition attack success being reduced.  

And let me bring this to a nice, tidy finish - Your team will win more rallies by attacking from the front row, than from the back row.  You win more rallies, you win more game, you win more matches and everybody lives happily ever after!

Coach Sonnichsen

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please stay positive or at the minimum present constructive criticism - Negative comments or attacks upon other reader's opinions will not be posted.