There’s a forum thread at Volley Talk on the subject of the influence of blocking on results. A blog post which suggests blocking may not be that important motivated it. Specifically, blocking is said to be the facet of the game least correlated to wins and losses (my own research suggests it’s second least). The post offers the 2012 University of Oregon women’s team as a prime example. That team played in the NCAA Division I national championship game, but actually was at or near the bottom of the PAC-12 conference in blocks per set during the regular season. Clearly, blocking isn’t all that important!

Is that convincing?

This manner of thinking reminds me of other potential misuses of data.

Blocking is not just about blocks

Of course the big issue with this discussion is that blocking isn’t just about blocks which score points. It is also about forcing hitters to change shots. It’s about funneling balls toward our best defenders. And it’s especially about slowing down hard hit balls. Unfortunately, it’s quite hard to objectively measure those sorts of things directly with standard statistics. We can only get there indirectly by looking at opponent hitting percentages and things like that.

What we can do, though, is ask the question what would happen if we don’t block at all. Once one reaches a sufficiently high level where attacking players hit hard and/or accurately enough to overwhelm the defense, it clearly becomes the case that blocking is very important. Even a weak block is generally better than no block at all from this point onward.

Blocking because that’s what you’re supposed to do

That said, below the point where offense overwhelms defense in the absence of a block, it is quite legitimate to ask whether blocking is worthwhile. We as coaches – and by extension our players – often feel like we have to do things a certain way regardless of the situation. This is another element of the discussion in Using 2-touch games to challenge your players in terms of being able to be effective vs. doing things the “right” way.

How often do you see double blocks put up against teams with no strong hitters? How many times do your own teams do it? I am certainly guilty of that. In all honesty, in part I’ve let it be at times because I see a risk in making things more confusing for the players if I tell them to only single block or to not block at all. Of course, that just means I should train them to deal with that situation.

So at what point do we want players blocking – singly or doubly (or triply)? Should we always have players block in a developmental context?

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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.

    2 replies to "How important is blocking?"

    • Adam

      I agree with what you are saying about measurement. I also feel that the block can also affect a hitter psychologically. In terms of when to use one blocker vs a double block I also agree with what you said 🙂 I did see an occasion this year where I thought the coach made some adjustments that were brilliant. I live in Canada and watched our university women play at our Nationals. In a semi final match it was a bit of David vs. Goliath (also the title of Gladwell’s new book which is worth a read!). The six time national champion UBC thunderbirds vs Laval. Both great coaches, but one team UBC with more size than Laval. Early on in the match it was apparent that Laval’s only chance was to win by playing great D, serving effectively and digging a ton of balls. Well not only digging, but transitioning those balls as well. UBC not a great defensive team, especially vs tip/rolls. Anyways to make a long story short Laval on four/three passes blocked one v one everywhere and everybody else played D. They lost the match but dug a ton if balls. There were also situations where against the better/stronger UBC attackers in transition or Out of system they would send two blockers one way and go 1v1 the other. Sorry for the length and spelling errors I’m on my phone. 🙂

    • Sherif Elshemerly

      Very important to talk about the role and relationship between the efficiency of the block and the serve. Also talking about how reading is very important in the new volleyball.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.