Calling the ball

I’m hoping this post generates a bit of conversation. I’m very curious to hear what people have to say on the subject.

The widely accepted philosophy seems to be that we want someone making a play on the ball call it. They should say something along the lines of “Mine” or “Got”. And if there may be another player coming for the ball as well then they should keep calling until they either make the play or have someone call more forcefully and/or beat them to the spot.

Not all hold this view, I should note. For example, Mark Lebedew is not a proponent of players calling the ball. But that is a discussion for another time, which I address here.

Assuming you want players to call the ball, I’d like to hear your view on the following. The area of debate among volleyball coaches seems to be what the other players should or should not say when someone else is taking the ball.

My personal philosophy is that if you are not taking the ball you simply open up to the one who is. You are thus ready to cover them in case of a shanked pass. You can also help them with a line call where appropriate. What I don’t want to hear is “You” or “Yours”.

Why do I not like “Yours”?

For two reasons.

The first is that very often players go off sound rather than words, at least initially. By that I mean while passing you lock in on the ball. You’re not so focused on what’s happening around you. As a result, when someone says “You” the word may not register, though, the sound will. If the serve is such that you anticipate a call from your partner and you hear a noise from them, it may cause a hesitation. This is exacerbated when the player is already somewhat tentative.

The second reason is one of initiative. I want the calling to be a proactive thing which is part of starting the act of playing the ball, not a passive one of letting someone else do so. Also, if the other player isn’t already moving for the ball and you call “Yours”, it’s probably too late.

Of course much of the issue with ball calling can be sorted out by simply establishing the rules as to who has responsibility for the seam. This is Mark’s point.

By the way, I always like to hear players call the ball three times with increasing volume and conviction – “mine, Mine, MINE!”, “out, Out, OUT!”. This way no one is going to miss the call and in the case when a player is calling the ball for themselves is reinforces to them that they are taking it in their own psyche. Much better than a little “got” peep we often hear.

So what’s your philosophy? Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it.

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John most recently coached for an NCAA Division II women's team. That followed a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.

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