Previously I commented in my coaching log entry about the volume of communication that took place during training. The university women I coached at the time had finally reached the level of understanding and intensity where they talked nearly constantly during game play. It wasn’t all of them all the time, of course. It was a massive change, however, from when I first got over there.

I joked with the team after training that people must have heard them throughout the sports center we trained in. From my perspective, that was awesome!

Volume = focus and intensity

You see, for me a loud team in training is a focused team playing at a high level of intensity. One of the things I immediately picked up on when I got involved with volleyball in England was how quiet it was on the court much of the time. I remember watching a men’s match my first season and hearing nothing but the sound of the ball on either side of the net. And it definitely wasn’t because they all were perfectly in sync. It blew my mind!

When I refer to a team being loud, there are a couple of elements to it. First is the simple part. Players communicate with each other during play. That’s calling the ball, hitters calling for sets, liberos making defensive calls, etc. There’s also the between play type of talking mentioned by Matt here. That’s being supportive of each other, keeping each other focused and motivated, and all that. And, of course, celebrating.

As Matt posted, though, communication needs to be focused and positive. It’s no good if it doesn’t actually serve a purpose or if it’s negative. It should be about transferring information and encouraging team cohesion. It is not noise for the sake of noise.

I had a comment exchange with Coach Rey (no longer available) about the completely opposite idea of a loud gym – namely a silent one. Conceptually, I understand how it would be amazing to have a group of players who know each other and everyone’s responsibilities on the court to the point they could play silently. Alas, there aren’t many teams that reach that point. I would actually argue that even if they had that perfect sense of understanding, there would still be a fair amount of in-play communication – probably more for women than men.

Top level teams are probably the least likely to need responsibility-based communication during play, right? But, have you noticed they tend to be the ones with the highest volume during play?

So how loud is your gym?

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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.

    4 replies to "How loud is it in your volleyball gym?"

    • Oliver Wagner

      First thing I normally do taking over a new team is stoping calling for balls. I totally agree with Mark Lebedew who once wrote in his blog about taking responsibilities instead of waiting for somebody to call “yes” (or what ever) or seeing everybody going for the ball. Every player most of all in pass receiving should be appointed to an area. So what are they calling for? Either it is there ball or not.

      Otherwise some players tend to take every possible ball and others wait for them to do all the work.

      Until my team is not playing combinations or different passes on each position on offense there is no need for shouting at the setter as well. I think it’s better if the setter organizes his offense. As soon as it is getting more complex there is the need for changing plays or particular sets by calling. But only being loud for the purpose of looking dedicated doesn’t sound very useful to me. I think it’s – as very often – a matter of quality more then quantity.

      • John Forman

        I’d say firstly that on-court communication comes in several forms and purposes and that calling for the ball or calling the ball is only one of them. Addressing your specific points, I will absolutely agree that at higher levels of play the need for this sort of thing is limited as players know their areas of responsibility and there is less chance of confusion. In that case I’m not going to be bothered by players not calling the ball. At lower levels where they are still learning the system of play, though – and in the case where players come from different systems and styles (like I’ve got in the uni teams I coach) – there is a much greater need for this sort of talking. If nothing else, it reduces the risk of injury.

        • Oliver Wagner

          Okay. But if calling the ball excuses others for not taking responsibilities or learning the areas they are responsible for, where is the progression in this system? And if you explain after each calling that somebody else would have been responsible, why calling? Isn’t the picture of a ball falling to the floor more helpful then us talking about the same things again and again?

          • John Forman

            I think the act of running sprints after a ball hits the floor is even more helpful than us talking about the same things again and again! 🙂

            But to your point, I could flip things around and suggest that calling the ball is an indication of understanding and intent. The player calling the ball signals to their teammates and themselves that they know the ball is theirs to play and they are ready to do so. Some players actually pass better when they call the ball as it seems to sharpen their concentration – perhaps a kind of auditory cue effect.

            I’m not disagreeing with your point here. We’ve actually run training with the uni players where they were required to be totally quiet during play to encourage just the sort of development you’re talking about. For me, though, my bias toward calling the ball (at least at the lower levels) comes from the simple fact that it takes no effort and can only make things better – particularly when things get messy as they inevitably do at the lower levels.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.