Fair warning. Reading The Science of Volleyball Practice Development and Drill Design. It’s a VERY technical, academic type of book. There’s a lot of interesting information, but it’s not a light read. Author Edward Spooner coached at a variety of levels. He seems to have spent most of his career in JUCO volleyball, though.

The first part

There are two parts to the book. The first features six chapters and focuses on practice planning. The first four chapters are very theoretical. Lots of discussion of motor learning and related subjects. This is likely to be the slowest part for you to read because the language is dense. Many long sentences with multi-syllable words. Here’s an example.

“When initiating new skills for a novice player or reviewing skill execution with an experienced player, instruction via demonstration, mirroring and modeling should be used to capitalize on the visual and observational learning capabilities of these players.”

Basically, this translates to, “Showing is better than telling.”

The last two chapters of this section are more practical with respect to actually forming a practice plan. Then there’s an appendix, followed by a glossary. That takes you up to page 79 of 204. Interestingly, Kindle thought the book ended after Chapter 6 for some reason. Seems like a formatting issue in the book file’s construction.

The second part

Moving on, the second section focuses on designing drills. Here too there is a theoretical element, then a practical discussion – one chapter for each. For some reason, the author resets the chapter numbers here back to 1 and 2. They take you to page 103.

From this point on the book is collection of drills. The author breaks them into a three different categories.

The first is Introductory/Cognitive Drills. That one is where players are working on simple skills in a more introductory fashion.

Perfection/Advanced/Combined drills comes next. As the name suggests, these work on skills beyond the introductory phase.

The third and final group is Autonomous/Automatic/Competitive. Here’s where you have drills for the advanced phase of skill and tactical development.

Each drill features an indication of the type, intensity level, required equipment, needed personnel, objective, coaching points, concentration keys, rotation, performance goal-scoring, and sequence of action.

Additional info

The book includes a list of references at the end. Some come from the world of tennis (though The Inner Game of Tennis is not one). Unfortunately, many of them are quite dated. The book has a copyright date of 2012, but most of the references pre-date that significantly. The author describes the book as based on his Master’s research, which he seems to have done a number of years before the book came out.

This is potentially meaningful, you see. A big part of especially the first part of the book comes from work on motor learning. It would be very interesting to see how it would be updated based on more current material.

Overall thoughts

While I do think there is a bunch of interesting material in the book – some of which I’ll talk about later – I struggle to recommend it. It needs a major edit. There are a lot of typos and structural issues. And as my observation above about the language might suggest, it could be much more readable.

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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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