How often is your team out-of-system (OOS) during matches? If you don’t have a good idea of the percentage, then you should figure it out. Don’t rely on impressions. They can be badly wrong.

Now, assuming you have a good sense of the OOS percentage, how does that compare to the amount of time you spend on it in practice? Is it something similar or is quite different? If it’s the latter, you probably want to change things up.

There is a strong tendency among us coaches to work on structured play. By that I mean things like serve receive offense and transition plays. We do have to work on those elements, of course, but it all needs to be done in appropriate balance.

Don’t think OOS is that important? Think again. If you want your team to be able to score when you serve, you’re going to need to be effective when OOS – not just when you have nice, clean digs to target. At least that’s the case if you face teams with some quality in their attack.

There are two key aspects of getting good OOS. The first is establishing who takes the second ball when the setter cannot. For the majority of teams that’s generally the libero, but that isn’t a rule. Figure out what’s best for your team.

The second element is training your team. I’ve written before on how you can create OOS situations in your training games. It’s an easy enough thing to do. Importantly, though, you also need to develop the critical skills involved. Namely, setting a good, attackable ball and hitting high balls against well-formed blocks.

Try running a game – even a small-sided one – where the teams can only score on a kill when the ball is hand set. I did that during the 2018 Midwestern State spring season (setters had to bump set). There was a lot of ugly stuff. The players were definitely out of their comfort zone. But it forced them all to work on hand setting. It also created a lot of sub-optimal attacking situations for the hitters, forcing them to come up with different solutions.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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