In his Volleyblog column that was published in the Fall 2014 edition of Volleyball USA (the old USAV magazine) Karch Kiraly talks about staying positive in the face of disappointment and adversity. A lot of the focus is on looking forward rather than backward, but there’s one part where he talks about preparation. At that point he mentions something he heard from a military prospective. First, you develop a plan. Second, you develop contingency plans for if/when the initial plan goes awry. The latter is critically important because, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” as Helmuth von Moltke stated. To put that in volleyball terms…

Your plan will probably go out the window on the first serve.

Our plans can get foiled at many different levels. It can happen in a match. It can happen in a season. Bigger picture, it can happen in a cycle (recruiting cycle for collegiate teams, Olympic cycle for national teams, etc.). The point is, it’s not enough for us to have a plan in place. We also need to have plans to be able to react when part of the primary plan breaks down. This is especially true in situations where a quick decision will have to be made – like I talked about in the Sub Six post. You need to know the decision you’ll make in advance so when the time comes it’s basically automatic rather than done in a panic. This requires thinking about all the different things that could potentially arise.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Don’t just plan. Prepare.

It’s not enough to have a contingency plan. You need to have prepared for it’s implementation in advance. Let me provide an example.

Your starting setter sprains an ankle. What do you do? If you’re like most teams, you’ll put in your second string setter, though in some cases your second best setter might have a different primary position (something I dealt with a while back). Seems like an easy call, but the next question is how prepared your team is for that change. I don’t just mean the setter coming in, though that’s part of it. I mean everyone. Have you given that setter enough reps with the starters for everyone to feel comfortable together? Or is the setter change going to freak everyone out?

If you’ve worked your second setter into the first team, or otherwise mixed players around in training, then the transition likely will be relatively smooth. The players will know what to expect and adapt accordingly. If you always did strict A-team/B-team splits in training, though, you could have a problem. Something to think about as you develop your training plans.

This is one of those things that separates great coaches from good ones. They are able to make good decisions when things are going against them because they’d prepared themselves to do so.

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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 "Preparing to be prepared"

    • Kelly Daniels

      This is probably my most favorite blog thus far. I wish I had read it before yesterday. My team at a qualifier was in position to beat the first seed. We had a game plan from scouting them, but it we didn’t have a back up. We were really the better team, but the initial start of the match they stuff blocked the left front attack. They had a huge blocked that didn’t present itself when scouting them the day before. I had a friend that played them on day one and their block wasn’t in the scouting report. Our athletes didn’t know what to do and matter of fact neither did us coaches. About mid-match the coaching staff figured out to attack from the right side. We got the momentum in doing this, but we were too far behind to win the set. What got us is that our passing wasn’t on so most of our sets were to the OH. The opponent block and lack of confidence keep us behind the whole match. What I realized after the match we didn’t make the adjustment to move personnel into that position to defend their attackers. We knew they had a good attack from LF position. We dug the attacks, but the digs as designed went to where we set our strong pins. Additionally, we knew our setters know our RS are our weakest attackers and don’t have a a lot of confidence in setting that position. What we should have done as you described in your blog is ‘trained’ more specifically on the RS. We do not spend a lot of time training our RS attackers. Something we are going to address in preparation for national championships.
      Thanks for the post. It was awesome!!!

      • John Forman

        Glad it gave you some food for thought Kelly.

        By the way, someone tossed your name in for Volleyball Coaching Wizards consideration. 🙂

        • Kelly Daniels

          WoW!!! I am truly surprised and honored to be even mentioned!!!

        • Kelly Daniels

          BTW..Whomever nominated me, please give them my sincere appreciation for their consideration.

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