Back in 2014 I had a conversation about volleyball stuff with one of my returning players. It was her fourth season with the university club, her third playing for me. I think it was maybe about her 5th year overall in volleyball. She told me that something dawned on her while playing doubles with a couple of other players. It was the importance of “finishing the play”. By that she meant getting the kill when the opportunity presented itself.

I know what you’re thinking here. Kind of a blinding flash of the obvious.

To be fair, the player in question until basically the prior year was mainly a libero. At least she was a strongly defense/passing oriented player. In my first year coaching I used her a couple times as an OH, but more out of requirement than preference. In my second year the attacking side of her game really started to develop. She still mainly thought of herself as a defender at that point, though, and didn’t really get why people liked hitting so much. The strong defense and ball-handling, combined with low error hitting made her a really good O2 for my team, which had a couple of higher risk O1 types.

After a summer of playing beach doubles (which she hadn’t really done before), I sensed an attitude shift. Maybe hitting was more interesting than she thought. 🙂

I think the beach play started to get her thinking and seeing better, but she told me what motivated the “kills are good” thoughts that day was getting tired during long rallies. OK, not exactly the way I’d have preferred that lesson be learned, but you take what you get sometimes.

The takeaway from all this is that sometimes you have to look at things differently as a coach. And sometimes you have to put players under a different kind of pressure to get the type of gains in their play you’re after. One conversation had me thinking about ways I could get that group of players more focused on scoring points.

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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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