Category Archives: Volleyball Skills
When big names like John Dunning, Mark Massey and Bond Shymansky start talking about passing, the first thing you are going to hear is the term non-linear passing. In fact GMS (Gold Medal Squared) also uses the same philosophy.
To explain the concept the best I can (hopefully I’ll make a video soon) non-linear passing technique consists of facing or squaring up to where the ball is coming from. The linear passing model is basically facing our squaring up to where the ball will be going, which is usually wherever you put your setter.
I am slightly biased as I teach non-linear passing, but I wanted to discuss some of the pros and cons of the different passing models.
My favorite part about the linear model, which is generally speaking, the older model of passing, is that it requires you to position your body behind the ball. The idealistic model of linear passing would be to actually be able to draw a perfect line from your platform to the target. By getting your body behind the ball and facing your target, this assures that the player is beating the ball and moving their feet to enable the linear model. This in my opinion is a great technique for young athletes as one of the things I hear from coaches across the nation is, “Move your FEET!”
Now the downside of the model is that as the game advances and things get faster and faster, there really is no time to get your body behind the ball. In college men’s volleyball, a ball coming at 65-75 mph is going way too fast for you to actually get your body in front of if you aren’t already in a perfect position. In women’s it would be the same as 50 to 55 mph balls come flying extremely fast at the top levels. So then the linear model has to be adjusted. Many coaches instruct the girls to move sideways and sort of shift behind the ball when they contact it to keep the linear passing model. The problem I have with this is the physics behind it. When you contact the volleyball on your platform, it is only there for a fraction of a second, almost instantaneously. Regardless of what you are trying to do with your body, the only thing that matters is what position your body and passing platform are in, the instant the ball contacts your forearms to pass. So the way that coaches teach to overcome this is by creating an angle with your platform….which is what non-linear passing is all about.
With the non-linear passing model it addresses a few of the aforementioned problems. The key to non-linear passing is that you face where the ball is coming from and create an angle with your platform to direct the ball to the setter or target.
The difficulty with non-linear passing is that you let your platform do all of your work. While moving your feet and passing at your mid-line is still encouraged, the angle of the platform is truly all that matters, so I see a tendency from most athletes to stop moving to the ball. There is a tendency to stand and reach and even, in my opinion, a tendency for the athletes to stop reading the play as much on the other side of the net because body position behind the ball isn’t stressed as frequently.
The positives to the non-linear passing model are the answer to all the linear models questions. When the speed of the game increases, the non-linear model allows you to move your arms only, meaning you can beat the ball easier if it is within arm’s-length. The physics work as the angle of your platform is set a split second before the ball makes contact, giving the ball the correct trajectory regardless of if your body is moving or not.
If the passing models were truly as simple as I just explained, coaching would be simple. Within these two models there are hundreds of variations, and beyond that there is the method of teaching that will vary with each coach. What cues or keywords, what they emphasize the most and what background each athlete came from gives many more variables.
What passing model do you use? Why do you use it?
See you on the court!
FOR VOLLEYBALL ATHLETES:
I have written on this before, but with seasons starting up again, I wanted to try and help those of you that are preparing for volleyball tryouts.
The single most important factor in making your high school or club volleyball team is EFFORT.
EFFORT is defined as “a rigorous or determined attempt.” What I suggest is that you give more effort than you ever have in a volleyball practice or game when you show up at tryouts. Effort is the most easily recognized “talent” that a coach can see. I call it a talent because as a coach, it is hard to teach effort. We can motivate, encourage and support our players, but we cannot force our players to give intense effort.
If you are new to a high school volleyball team or volleyball club, the coaches generally have only a short period of time to evaluate you. The impression you make in the first few hours is very important as many decisions are made during this very first day. Everything from position to playing time is often thought of in a coaches mind as tryouts evolve.
If you are going to give your very best effort in a volleyball tryout, you must be giving it your all, all the time. An athlete that plays hard in a scrimmage, but then is the last to finish when its time for conditioning is not giving their all. What coaches are looking for is some kind of natural talent that you may possess that they can cultivate and turn into an elite volleyball player. Natural talent is often visible in the ability of an athlete to run. By giving your all in tryouts, the coach can have confidence that you are a hard worker and are going to be able to work hard at learning the skills the way they want you to.
If you are a returning player or bench warmer wanting more playing time, EFFORT is going to be critical to this process. Each year as a coach enters tryouts, they give every athlete a window of opportunity. You and your coach may know that you weren’t as good as some of the other athletes the previous season, but showing more effort than your teammates sheds new light on this subject. As I mentioned before, EFFORT is going to be the most dramatic visible improvement you can make between seasons. In all likelihood, you didn’t go from average skills as a bench warmer to elite skills over the summer, so to get recognized you must give added effort to stand out from the crowd.
WHEN TO GIVE EFFORT:
Effort is demonstrated in many ways. Effort to follow instructions during tryouts is very important. If a coach teaches a skill or asks you to do something in practice it is critical that you give your best effort to do what is asked. Think if I ask you to go to the store and buy me a birthday cake for my grandma. You say “Sure!” I get super excited because you are going to help me accomplish my goal of being a great grandson. Now you come back from the store without a birthday cake. I ask why and you say, “Oh, I forgot.” Immediately I get disappointed and in addition I probably won’t ask you to do anything for me again. Volleyball is exactly the same. If a coach asks that you don’t flip your wrists, you act like you understand, and then you continue doing it for the rest of tryouts, he/she will lose confidence in you. The coach will no longer trust you to be able to do what is asked. If you stop flipping your wrists, the coach will get excited that your are trying to help them accomplish their goal.
In between play effort is critical. Many girls and boys I coach often try hard in games but when it comes to anything else, their effort is disappointing. If you want to gain the advantage at a tryout, you must give extra effort any time possible. An impressive girl I coached last week during volleyball camp showed some great effort. We spoke of the importance of practicing movement for liberos in between plays. Not standing up, but rather remaining in ready position. As we went through our next digging drill, the coach was attacking balls at a line of girls trying to learn a double knee drive. As this athlete rotated between the front of the line and the back of the line, she remained in defensive position. She worked on shuffling her feet and staying low at close to a 90% of maximum. She stayed in ready position in the line as she waited for her turn. While other girls witnessed this, no other girls chose to do the same. This is the type of effort that stands out! This girl was not the very best libero in camp, in fact she had some difficulty following the first rule of advice that I suggested above. But, given the amount of effort she was willing to put into one silly little drill, I would have chosen her for any of my team immediately.
IS THIS JUST A QUICK TRICK?
While you may think that effort is only a trick to get you on a team, I might agree if you only gave effort during the tryout. Continued effort throughout the season will give amazing results. You see, I have never witnessed a lazy athlete that progressed more than a hard working athlete. It may be that and athlete that came into the season with much more skill was able to keep their starting spot, but progression is attached to effort. Individual maximum efforts are difficult to measure, but what I can guarantee is that as you push your levels of maximum effort each day, what you did the day before will become easier and easier.
Good luck to you all at tryouts this and every season!
See you on the court!
1) Approach in the Direction of the Attack
When attacking a volleyball, moving in the direction of where you are going to attack will bring significant increases in your attacking speed. Many athletes line up on the outside and then run right down the side line to attack the volleyball. This is perfect if you are planning on attacking down the line. If you were planning to attack angle, it would be ideal to approach angle. (This is assuming you are only trying to hit harder)
2) Use Your Core to Activate Your Whole Body
The ab crunch while attacking the volleyball is a thing of the past. Using your core to hit a volleyball is the future. By using your torso to induce rotation, you can engage more muscles and utilize your body’s full potential!
3) Arm Swing
In order to hit harder, you need to hit faster! You don’t need to work on your muscles and get big “hitting muscles”; rather you need to work on moving your arm fast! A simple exercise that I tell athletes to do is that every time they drop something, try and catch it before it hits the ground. If you don’t drop things often, grab a pencil and drop it. Wait as long as you can before chasing the pencil and trying to catch it. If you want, add a friend and have them drop it and you try and catch it.
4) Whip of the wrist
While we don’t push the wrist snap for top spin or getting the ball to drop anymore, we do believe that it is part of the “whip” of your arm. Just like when a whip cracks, the hand is the last piece of the whip that snaps and gives it some extra speed. The wrist snap is something that naturally occurs when the rest of the arm swing is in sync.
5) How much you fall…
Do higher jumpers hit higher? Not always in the lower levels. The more you fall after the peak of your jump, the greater speed that transfers to the downward velocity of your attack.
6) Mass of your hand
Some people have this and some people do not. As a smaller player, when I slap hands with the bigger guys, I notice how much heavier their hand is than mine. This added mass gives them an advantage when it comes to hitting hard.
7) How hard is your hand?
It is a delicate process to make your hand firm and hard while attacking, while at the same time keeping it loose enough to be able to whip your arm and wrist around, but its necessary. The harder your hand is the more force from all of the above aspects you can put into the ball.
8) Contacting the ball in the center
If I contact 100% in the center of the ball, then 100% of the velocity I hit the ball with gets transferred to the volleyball. If I miss the ball even slightly, I lose a percentage of that transfer.
One thing that all of these have in common is that they require practice. As GREAT volleyball players develop, they all begin to do these things and become better and better at them as time goes on. Some things in volleyball you will be able to change and some you cannot change, the important part is understanding what you can change and working from there.
1. Score Points!
A kill block is the most sought after block in volleyball. While there won’t be many of these in a typical game, they can be game winners or losers and have huge impacts when your in a tight squeeze.
2. Make the Attacker Change their Hit!
Given how many options an attacker has when approaching the net, a primary goal of a blocker is to take away their most prominent hit. A blocker can do this by taking away the angle of the hitters attack. This does not guarantee you will block the ball, but it most likely means the opposing hitter has to change their hit, maybe even to a tip if you are lucky.
3. Work Together on Defense!
Team defense is just that, a team effort. By blocking the proper angle or blocking where you are supposed to, you allow your teammates to play defense behind you. Coordinating the block and defense is how great teams work together. When blockers stop coordinating with their defensive counterparts, points are lost fast.
4. Touch the Ball!
While I don’t have stats on it, getting a touch on a ball is almost as intimidating as getting a block. The opposing hitter knows when you touch the ball. As a blocker, you know that you are getting your timing and positioning dialed in also. Touching the ball can slow it down for you teammates, or even eliminate an easy kill.
The most important part of touching the ball is making sure you are not making any technical errors, which make your touches points for the opposing team. Don’t be a target for the attacker! Learn to have a technically sound soft block.
5. Protect your House! (Inside 3 meters)
While your libero may be extremely quick, even the best libero has a hard time covering a ball at the 3 foot line. Straight down attacks come hard and fast! As a blocker, if all you can do is get a soft block up and prevent a kill in front of the 10-foot line, sometimes that is all your team needs to dig a ball and rally back for a point!
6. Scare the Hitter!
My favorite part of blocking is the scare tactic. Usually all it takes is one block to have the attacker trying to evade and avoid the block at all costs. Intimidation at the net can not only occupy an attackers mind, but it can also get very frustrating as they are limited in what hitting options they have left.
7. Scout the Oponent’s Offense
Not only can blockers benefit from recognizing and adjusting to the other team’s offense, but the back row players can also. Communication between the front and back row players creates a more cohesive volleyball team. I like to think of this like football. The defense on football is adjusting at all times. Yes, they have their specific coverages, but if the other team decides to run, then they have a plan to stop the run, if they pass, they have specific assignments for that. In addition, when you have a great receiver like Randy Moss or old school Jerry Rice, you have to pay specific attention to that detail. In volleyball if you have a great outside hitter and a weak opposite attacker, you have to be conscious of this.
I frequently hear debates on volleyball conditioning during practice. I still firmly believe that conditioning during practice time is a poor practice.
Why is it such a waste of time?
From Science of Coaching Volleyball Carl McGown states,
“Research indicates that physical fatigue reduces both performance and learning. Some coaches argue that athletes have to play when they are fatigued, so they need to learn skills when they are fatigued. However, research has found that this procedure is not justified. It appears that practice under ideal conditions is best for learning, regardless of the conditions under which the task is to be performed.”
As a volleyball coach our main job is to teach athletes how to perform volleyball skills. If we choose to run suicides, sprints or any other type of conditioning, we are making the learning process more difficult for the athletes.
Now the most common argument I hear is “when my team plays in long tournaments, we get tired. If we practice playing when we are tired, we will be good at it in tournaments.”
The first is explicit in the transfer of training. I learned this concept when I was trying to learn how to sing. I had been taking voice lessons for a couple years and I was getting frustrated that I didn’t sound like a pop star. I could sing in German and Italian and my voice was beginning to sound like an amateur Josh Groban (not really) but I wanted to sing like a pop or country star. I asked my teacher if I could learn how to sing like the guys on the radio. She simply said, take everything you have learned and do it not as well as you know how. That should do the trick.
I learned then, that if I had been trying to sing like the guys on the radio during the whole time I was training, I may have sounded just like them, but my voice would not have been able to sing beautiful masterpieces.
The same concept applies to volleyball. If you practice volleyball while you are tired, you may be able to play tired. But if you practice without fatigue, you will be able to perform at a high level and still be able to perform when fatigued.
See you on the court!