I previously outlined what I think are the factors which drive coaching success, and how I define success in this discussion. In this post I address one of those factors – team organization.

Defining team organization

First things first. When I say team organization, I’m not talking about off-court stuff. I cover that in the administration post in this series. Rather, I’m talking about what you might refer to as teamwork. I’d be inclined to say it goes beyond that, though.

Let me break it down into component elements.

Systems of play

The easiest aspect of team organization to discuss is probably the systems of play a team uses on offense and defense. These should be decided based on a combination of trying to maximize the abilities of the players in the team and the realities of one’s level of play.

To provide an example, consider the back row attack. If you have one or more hitters capable of being effective from there, then it could make sense to incorporate that option into your offensive system. If you don’t, though, it’s best left out, at least until talent levels rise sufficient to the requirement.

Similarly, let’s say teams in your league frequently tip behind the block. In that case, you want a defensive system with someone responsible for that ball. One where no one has that particular coverage would likely prove disastrous. Further, you probably don’t want someone critical to your transition attack (e.g. your best hitter) taking the tip if it prevents them from doing their job offensively.

Critical in this system development process is deciding whether to favor defense or offense when there is a conflict between the two. The most common example of this is the decision on libero position. Do you put them in 5 or 6? If the pipe attack is important to your offense, but a lot of defensive balls go to 6, you might have to make a decision. Do you lean toward more attacking options? Or do you lean toward better defending?

Another example is block vs hit. You might have a big blocker you want to play in one position, but who hits best somewhere else.

And of course the decision of 5-1 vs. 6-2 system mixes decisions based on block, offense, and defensive considerations.


Of course how you line the players up on the court is a key organizational consideration. Which hitters go next to the setter? If you’re running a multiple setter system (6-2, 4-2, 6-3), which hitter goes next to which setter? Does your middle hitter lead or follow the setter in the case of the 1- and 2-setter systems? If you’re doing something like a 3-middle system, what happens when two of them are in the front row together?

The answers to these questions tend to have to factor in multiple considerations. Which players pass well together, and which don’t? Can we get our best passer in Position 6? And similarly, can we hide a weaker passer or a key attacker? What are the blocking implications of a certain front row?

Opponent scouting considerations are more of a competition management consideration. If you don’t prepare the team for any variation you might use, however, it’s a failure of team organization on your part.

Who takes which ball?

Broadly speaking, the system question defines areas of responsibility. But what about balls in seams between players? What about who takes second ball if the setter plays first contact? When shouldn’t the setter take second contact?

There are a number of decision points where multiple players could take the ball. You should know the answer to the question of who is preferred and need to train that into the team so it’s automatic.


A coach who is skillful in team organization is one who gets the absolute most of their personnel. By employing systems and strategies which maximize their abilities and account for the sorts of things they’ll see in competition, and train them to make the right decisions with respect to responsibilities, they consistently put their teams in the best position to succeed.

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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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