A while back I reviewed Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. In it there is an interesting quote I think highly relevant to volleyball. It might not seem like it at first, but stick with it.

“These representations enable them to quickly recognize what sort of pitch is coming and where it will likely be when it reaches them. As soon as they see the pitcher’s arm come around and the ball leave his hand, they have a very good idea—without having to do any sort of conscious calculations—whether it will be a fastball, slider, or curve and approximately where it’s heading. In essence, they’ve learned to read the pitcher’s delivery, so they have less need to actually see how the ball travels before determining whether and where to swing the bat. The rest of us, who are illiterate where pitching is concerned, simply can’t make these decisions before the ball arrives in the catcher’s mitt.”

The “representations” mentioned in the quote are mental constructs in our mind. They are a big part of what the book talks about. Developing expertise, the authors suggest, is about building increasingly powerful representations related to the activity in question.

Anyway, can you see how this relates to volleyball? Think serve reception. The passer does something very similar to a batter in baseball. They want to pick up direction, speed, spin, etc. as quickly as possible. Doing so lets them decide on the right course of action and begin moving sooner. Passers don’t have a lot of time to react, so that read from the server is critical.

So are you teaching your receivers to read the server? Or do you focus solely on feet and platform?

If the player doesn’t get a good read, the best technique in the world probably won’t save them.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Volleyball Director for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

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