A while back, Mark from At Home on the Court wrote a post on the subject of technical vs. non-technical reasons for errors in volleyball. In it he blamed lack of readiness for many of the mistakes we see in play. He once specifically highlighted that with regards to players playing the ball with their feet.

Now, we’re not talking about a player sliding toward the sign boards or the score table. We’re talking about a player who has their weight on their heels. That means they basically have no option but to perform a “kick save” type action. Their lack of defensive readiness prevents them doing anything else.

I’ll add a layer of readiness to the mix by including trust in the discussion. Specifically, I’m talking about the trust between players that someone is going to make a play.

This is something that was very much on my mind once following a training session with Svedala. I saw players making really outstanding plays on the ball. They were recovering balls from out of the net, chasing balls down all over the place, and keeping what looked like sure-thing kill balls from hitting the floor. Too often, though, I saw teammates not anticipating and being ready to make a good next contact.

The same applies to hitters with respect to sets. While I was at Exeter I had a setter one year who loved to do counter-flow back sets to the Zone 2 pin. This sometimes caught our hitters flat-footed because they didn’t expect it, even though it was exactly the right choice in the situation.

Trust in one’s teammates to do their job and to make plays goes a long way toward readiness.

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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.

    7 replies to "Being ready is often a function of trust"

    • markleb

      I don’t think your situation of not being ready to play the second ball is a matter of trust, but again a matter of readiness. There are two states in volleyball: playing the ball, or being ready to the ball. If you are not actively playing the ball, you must be preparing to play the ball.
      As to Oliver’s point, this is a specific situation that occurs often, and was the background to my ‘Why I Don’t Teach Calling’ post. In this situation, it is the coaches responsibility to maintain a long term view, to impose a structure, and perhaps his/her will, to ensure that the ‘wrong’ player does not play the ball. Teamwork is doing your job, and letting others do their jobs.

      • John Forman

        If you give up on a ball, then you aren’t trusting your teammate to make a play, which means you’re not ready. Semantics, perhaps, but it can be a useful language when communicating with a team.

        I’ll leave entry into the “calling the ball” rabbit hole for another place and time.

    • Oliver Wagner

      A different type of “trust” comes into my mind in that context. What if these players start to digg balls way out of their area of responsibility? Doesn’t that lead almost automatically to other players not being prepared at all for any defensive action? Because they can trust “the others” doing that job. Hey, he/she is so good at it. I’ll let her do it…

      • John Forman

        Depends on how you define “way out of their area of responsibility.” Would a ball in the net that needs to be recovered or that’s been shanked off the court that needs chasing down be included in that?

        Basically, I’m talking about balls that take more than ordinary effort here. Expect that your teammate will make the play (be prepared) and you will be in position to play the next ball if it comes you way.

        • Oliver Wagner

          I don’t think the question is, how much out of somebodies responsibilities a ball is. When there is a player on the team that answers to the need of recovering, digging etc. balls, there is a tendency for those around him to lower their own readiness and effort, because they know that their “friend” is doing it anyway. And this normally leads to the one player covering more and more space because the others rely on him.

          In the end most players like to hit not to dig…I think the key is that the coach has to demand that the players implement the discussed defensive responsibilities and stick to it. If he really means it.

          But the coaches I know are very happy with the one player digging balls for them. They like to focus on offense like their players 🙂

          • John Forman

            Sounding very much like a men’s coach there Oliver! 😛

            • Oliver Wagner

              Got me. But I described my experiences with women’s teams. On a men’s team nobody is digging 🙂

Please share your own ideas and opinions.