Where do your team’s points come from?

In his book, Thinking Volleyball, author Mike Hebert offers up a typical scoring chart for his college teams based on winning a 25-point set. It looked like this:

Kills 12
Opponent Errors 8
Terminal Blocks 2.5
Service Aces 2.5

I only share the specific numbers above as an example. It should not be taken as indicative of where your team should be in its point scoring distribution. These numbers are from upper level women’s NCAA Division I play. A typical distribution for teams at other levels, and on the men’s side, could vary considerably. For example, at lower levels of play I’d expect to see the influence of kills and blocks reduced. Similarly, errors and aces likely would be higher.

The point isn’t the specific numbers above, but the idea behind them. As coaches, we should have a good handle on how we score points and how we give them up. That allows us to set training priorities and develop match strategies. Additionally, if we know the point scoring balance of our leading competitors, we can get some sense of where our team needs to be, if it isn’t there already.

For example, going into the 2013-14 season I knew the women’s university team I coached needed to get stronger in the attack. In 2012-13 we could defend with just about anyone and keep our errors down. We just couldn’t get as many kills as we needed to compete at the top level. Recognizing that, from the very start of 2013-14 I focused on a more aggressive attack. We were never a dominant offense. We improved enough, though, within the scope of our overall play to reach the national semifinals.

Caution in thinking about these numbers is required, though. It’s easy to look at the table above and think something like “Well blocks and aces don’t account for very many points, so we should focus our time elsewhere.” The problem with that kind of mindset, though, is that while blocking and serving may not directly translate into a lot of points, they both contribute to them indirectly by putting the opposition under pressure, forcing mistakes or easier transition opportunities. So don’t just think all you need to do is work on hitting!

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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