Jim Stone has a post in which he considers a few different topics related to modern game. As one of the interviewees for Volleyball Coaching Wizards, he is always worth hearing from. Also, I think cross-blog discussions are great for stimulating thought and sharing ideas, so I’m going to use this post to react. There are five of what Jim calls ponderings in his piece. I’ll take each in turn.

Pondering #1 – Should Digs be Rewarded Based on Subsequent Contacts?

Jim starts off by considering whether there’s a better way to judge defensive effectiveness. It’s not really a question of whether we should continue to count digs as we currently do. Rather, he wants us to think more about the purpose of defense, which is ultimately to score points. To that end he proposes the dig-to-kill percentage is a better metric.

I’m all for using dig-to-kill, especially on a team level. It can be a little tricky when trying to compare players on that basis, especially when considering setters in the mix (see Pondering #2), because it’s not always a level playing field. Even still, it’s a useful metric for bench-marking, evaluating progress over time, etc.

The one challenge I would have to looking at dig-to-kill as a primary metric is that it only captures what happens when you actually dig the ball. If you don’t actually dig the ball often enough then it really doesn’t matter how well you convert those digs into points. So ultimately what we probably need is a ratio of how often we score following an opponent attack. That sounds like the makings of a separate blog post. 😉

Pondering #2 – Libero’s and the Second Contact

I have already shared my views on who should take second ball when the setter is out, so I won’t spend much time on it here. The one thing I will add, though, is that coaches should never default to standard patterns. Always evaluate things based on your group of players. Also, train so you can create more options.

Pondering #3 – Should an attack directed off the blocker’s hands and is unplayable by defenders be considered a blocking error?

Ultimately, Jim’s point here is that there’s much more opportunity for measuring block effectiveness. My response to the question posed, though, is “No”. I have a hard to calling it an error since the blocker has so little control relative to that of the attacker.

That said, there’s a lot of value in capturing the different types of block touches. Jim mentions both when the ball goes off them in an unplayable fashion as well as those that result in a dig. I would add ones covered by the attacking team. Combining that will actual blocks then gives you a sense of what’s going on when the block prevents the ball from crossing the net. Too many covered balls could, for example, be an indication the block isn’t penetrating enough.

Pondering #4 – Serve-receive target area 5′-10′ off the net.

This is something else I have written about before. Looks like neither Jim nor I like this idea of passing everything well off the net. Aside from the requirements to run an optimal offense, I don’t like the implications of teaching kids to pass that far from the net. What might be best for winning at a certain level isn’t necessarily best for their long-term development.

Pondering #5 Offenses should have more hitters than blockers

This is something Jim specifically spoke about in his pre-convention seminar at the 2021 AVCA Convention. Basically, it means developing the back row attack so we can overload the opposition block. This has been part of the men’s game for a while now. Fortunately, coaches in the women’s game have come around to the idea the back row attack can be effective, if done well. It’s hard to get good at something if you don’t believe it’s possible.

Do you have any thoughts on these subjects? If so, share them in the comments below.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Assistant Volleyball Coach at Radford University, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His previous 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. Learn more on his bio page.

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