Here’s a question that came in from a reader on the subject of team cohesion.

How do I get my teams spirit back? They don’t even high five each other when a good play was done. We have ball hogs that don’t trust there teammates.

As a starting point, with regards to the subject of developing trust among teammates, I’d recommend Volleyball Coaching Wizards – Wizard Wisdom. There’s a chapter in that book which specifically talks about building the team concept.

Ball hogs – the problem

There are certainly times when you want a player to get every ball they can. Think of a libero. If they can take the first contact, that frees everyone else up to do other jobs. Or think of wanting your setter to take every second contact it makes sense for them to get so you can run a good offense.

That said, there are a lot of situations where you want a certain player to take the ball, and not another. This is why you define seam responsibilities. It’s why you might give a back row passer priority over a front row hitter in reception. It’s why you might say the player moving toward the net should send 3rd contact over rather than the one moving away from it.

In other words, to operate as efficiently as possible in a team structure, there are better and/worst choices for who should take a given ball (which is a big feature of my ball-calling discussion). If you have a ball hog, they are probably breaking that structure.

And team playing efficiency isn’t the only issue. If one player is taking all the balls, that means other players aren’t getting the opportunity to do so. That’s hindering their development. If the ball hog is acting that way because they don’t trust their teammates, they’re just making things worse.

Fixing the blog hog issue

So how do you fix a ball hogging issue?

The starting point is to talk to the ball hog(s) and tell them how their actions are hurting the team. This probably won’t fix the issue by itself, but it will lay the foundation for what you do next. That’s to make it hurt if they keep hogging the ball.

No, I’m not talking about physical punishment.

What I’m talking about is the player losing if they take balls you don’t want them to take. Blow the whistle in practice when it happens. Explain the problem, then give the point to the other team. Or rotate them out if you’re playing a Winners type of game. Or don’t count the rep (maybe even give them a negative) in that kind of drill.

And as much as it might hurt the team’s overall performance, you should probably sub a ball hog out of a match if they can’t change their habits. The team will be better for it in the long run.

Encouraging and supporting teammates

The advantage of the solution above to the ball hogging issue is that it puts more responsibility for outcomes (e.g. winning and losing) on the hog’s teammates. That means if they still want to succeed they need to help those other players get the job done. Supporting them and encouraging them goes a long way in that regard, as we all know.

You can also put the team in situations where they are reliant on each individual. The Amoeba serving game is like this. Generally speaking, it’s the weaker servers who end up as the last ones left trying to get the win for their team. That really pushes their teammates to encourage and support them. I see it all the time.

Admittedly, Amoeba puts a lot of stress on the weaker players, which you’ll want to watch (along with how their teammates react in losing situations). To balance that out, though, you could flip things around. Find a way where the better players are the ones under individual pressure at the end. Maybe your best hitter, for example, has to get a difficult kill to finish a drill.

The bottom line

At the end of the day what you are looking to do here is to instill in the players an understanding of how much each of them relies on their teammates for success. When they have this sense they are more likely to develop good team cohesion.

Keep in mind, though, that this is something you need to mainly do on the court. Doing off-court team-building exercises might be fun and good for player’s inter-personal relationships. They don’t really address the kind of trust that needs to happen between players on the court, though.

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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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