There’s a video featuring US national team outside hitter Jordan Larson in which she provides tips on hitting. Jordan had just won the World Club Championships with her Russian Dinamo Kazan team (US setter Courtney Thompson of Court & Spark fame and her Swiss team Valero Zurch also played in the tournament). I saw the video tweeted about and posted on FB in a few places. That made me give it a look to see what the excitement was about.
There are some good highlight clips, and Jordon does make some quite solid points about technique elements. I am not a fan of players hitting the ball against the wall the way she demonstrates for working on arm swing, though. It makes me cringe almost every time I see someone doing it!
Yes, I know that players have used hitting against the wall as a warm-up/training technique for ages. I’ve used it myself. It certainly has a role. My problems with the ball-and-wall thing are specific to those working on developing good arm swing technique. They come from a couple of different perspectives.
First of all, players almost always stand much too close to the wall. How many volleyball players can legitimately be expected to hit the 3 meter line with a straight attack? It’s an extremely small fraction. It is probably zero for the players the majority of us work with on our teams most of the time. So why are they working on hitting the ball straight down (same for this situation)? I much prefer seeing players standing 9 meters away from the wall (the length of the court) and working on hitting the ball into the last meter before the wall. Far more useful from a practical perspective, right?
Second, there is something you can see from Jordan’s example in the video. When players just keep hitting the ball repeatedly against the wall on the rebound, they inevitably end up dropping their elbow. They hit from by their ear rather than with a proper arm swing. Add that to the wall spacing issue I mentioned above and you get an extremely unrealistic hitting situation. Why would we want them doing it over and over again? I’d rather see them catch the ball after each rep and then execute off the toss again.
Lastly, overpasses are the only time a player hits a ball coming directly at them. Those are a very small fraction of attacks players make, so why spend so much time doing that kind of hitting? Better to have balls come from a more realistic direction. A self-tossed ball may not exactly replicate a set (we could use partner tosses as an alternative), but at least the straight up and down trajectory is closer to it than a rebounded ball’s flight.
Don’t get me wrong. There is value to hitting against the wall in terms of warming up the shoulder, and even working on making good contact on balls coming in at awkward angles. I just think as coaches we need to be aware of what’s happening – especially in terms of hitting the ball off the rebound and standing too close to the wall – and how it can impact our developing hitters’ technique.
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