Tag Archive for volleyball statistics

Thinking about my use of stats

Back when I coached in England I came across a thread on a forum asking the members which statistics they find most useful in their coaching. It got me thinking about my own use of statistics at that time.

I’ve talked in prior posts about what was available to me when I coached collegiately in the States. I’ve also discussed the sorts of things I used at times when coaching in England. College volleyball coaches in the States use stats all the time. During matches they get print-outs after each set of the standard stuff. Many also keep serving and passing tallies, and sometimes other things as well. I definitely can get way into the numbers at times. I like to look at things from all different angles and perspectives (see this Boston Globe article for a discussion of advanced stats in the NBA).

In England there were no official stats coming my way during matches. Anything that I did have access to necessarily meant either myself or my assistant had to record them. I found that I had a very hard time doing that because it splits my focus too much. I did some in-training stats, mainly in the area of serve receive. The bottom line ended up being I didn’t use stats very much.

Actually, I didn’t find myself missing them all that much. Granted, stats are very good for giving you an objective view of things. Assuming you have enough reps to have a meaningful set of numbers, of course. That bit tends to be a problem. There is a tendency among at least some coaches (and players) to jump to conclusions based on a limited sample. This is a really bad idea. Stats are good for seeing broad patterns, not for making quick analysis.

I actually think not having all the stats I used to have helped me be a better coach in those days. Because I didn’t have the crutch of the numbers, I was forced to pay much closer attention to patterns of play. Was my OH playing the way she did when she was attacking successfully? Or was her body language telling me this is not going to be her best hitting match? Was my libero going with purpose to the ball the way she did when she passed serve best? Or was she being more passive as she did when she passed poorly?

Basically, what was happening then is that I was not just looking at outcomes, but also seeing causality. If I was just looking at the stats, all I’d see is outcomes. There are a lot of things which influence those that are out of a player’s control. It’s a process vs. result type of focus, which is something I’ve always had to a degree, but really firmed up during my time in England.

Having said all that, I did think it would be better for volleyball in England if there were consistent stats available from competitions like BUCS. They would have provided the basis for telling better volleyball stories to expand the exposure of the sport.

Key resources for volleyball coaches

There’s a list of tools and resources posted up on the USA Volleyball blog. Some of the stuff is the sorts of tools we can use on the court and/or should have in case of emergency. Some of them I’m sure you’ll have in mind. You might already have them in your coaching bag. Some might not have occurred to you before. There’s also a list of computer programs and apps. Here’s the latter.

BAM Video Delay –  show “mirror like” on the face of the tablet whatever the lens is set to show, but by rubbing your finger on the face of the tablet, you can delay longer or shorter up to 2 minutes.  Player does whatever on the court, then before the 15 seconds, or whatever time set amount, goes over to the tablet to see their skill performance. Coach does not need to be present. http://www.orangeqube.com/bustamove/.

Dartfish Express – or Ubersense, or Coaches Eye – fast replay video options for in practice feedback, which includes the ability to draw lines/angles, and more to assist.

Scoreboard  – Simply turns your tablet into a “flip score” device  easy to read from across the court. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/scoreboard-free-version/id496758984?mt=8

VBStatsHD – Does all the stats/video synching you want and more – not cheap – but not expensive at $30. For those who want a powerful app. – http://peranasports.com/?portfolio=vbstatshd-demonstration

ACE Stats/Tap Recorder – Low cost fast stat software.  http://www.ace4vb.com/smart-device-store.html

I’ve used a couple of these apps myself. I wrote about how I’ve used video delay, and also about TapRecorder. I’d love to hear your experience with any of the above, or whatever other applications you’ve used.

The good and the bad of volleyball statistics

Coach Rey has an interesting post discussing the use of stats in modern volleyball. It includes an idea for his own sort of team scoring metric. I found his comments about how complex and advanced stats are these days to be quite interesting. I’d started having that feeling as well at times. I can imagine how overwhelming the mass of numbers are for some. In particular, Rey brings up how confusing things can be for players. I think that is probably something which varies from player to player. Some don’t care about stats while others get quite into them.Personally, from a player perspective, I like to use stats to help track development and performance over time. I also like to provide points of comparison where appropriate.

I can imagine coaches getting too caught up in the numbers. This is a little bit of the PhD in me talking. The fact of the matter is that as coaches we tend to get only small sample sizes. You need a fairly large number of observations to draw proper conclusions. This is fine in a situation where you can track lots of reps (like serve receive over several training sessions). It’s more problematic when you have to make quick judgements in the middle of a match. For example, when a hitter has 10 swings, 1 kill or 1 hitting error either way has a major impact on their hitting %.

And let’s face it. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in a volleyball match which doesn’t show up in the stats. Having numbers at hand makes it seem like we can make nice clean assessments. The bottom line, though, is that we’re still dealing with people. People aren’t machines. Inevitably there are things they do (or don’t do) which aren’t so easily converted into neat objective measures. Some coaches seem to get so obsessed with the numbers that they forget this fact.

Don’t get me wrong! Stats are quite handy so long as one doesn’t get carried away.

While coaching in England I was jealous of the stats my coaching peers back in the States got. There is very little in the way of statistics there, and most of what does exist comes from coaches collecting their own. I did a bit of stat-tracking in training to give players progress reports and to do some comparisons. At one point I had an assistant who tracked some things during matches when he was available. That’s about as far as it went, however.

I struggle personally as a head coach to keep stats during matches because I find it distracts me from observing the big picture of what’s going on with my team (different when I was an assistant). I wouldn’t have minded having consistent box score type stats provided to me, though. 🙂

Coaching Log – Nov 25, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

With matches for everyone coming up, playing 6 v 6 in segregated teams was the main theme of training. The B side focus was on teamwork, calling the ball, staying switched on, and not looking for someone else to play the ball. I told the B side focus was on continuing to be aggressive in attack, but underlying that was also an evaluation of the setter position. This harkens back to my observations from the Student Cup performance.

One of my primary OHs thus far is also a capable setter (sets for her German club team). I haven’t used her there thus far because I saw her value as an attacker as being in the area of greater need. Even had to use her at MB on a couple of occasions when we were thin on bodies. In the last match of the Cup I had her do some setting for the first time and it was an eye-opener just from the warm-ups. With other hitters coming along, I no longer feel so concerned about losing out on her as an OH.

At the same time, our starting setter up to now is only here for this term. As a result, I need to evaluate our setting options moving forward in any case. One of the teams on the schedule for the upcoming matches is currently top of the table, having beat us a couple weeks ago. We need to be at our best for the rematch, so I took a hard look at the setting in training to start evaluating who would give us our best chance at victory.

Following what was basically a pre-match warm-up, we went straight into 6 v 6. It started with a game featuring one side serving 3 times in a row (not counting missed serves). I put the starting setter with the B team (their setter was missing) and the other one with the A team. I used that to gauge a rough baseline point differential I could use to spot the B side in the straight-up games to follow. I came up with 8.

We then played two regular games which started with the B side serving, up 8-0. In the first the starting setter was with the A side. I then flipped setters for the second game. The A team lost the first set 25-20, and the second 25-23.

Stats were kept for all three games to evaluate offensive effectiveness as a way to compare the setters. More of this needs to be done in the next training, but the early results show quite a stark difference. The kill % for the team when the starting setter ran things on the A side was was 21% vs 36% for the former OH, while the hitting efficiency numbers were .063 vs .190. Need to see if that gap holds up.

Volleyball Coaching App Review: TapRecorder

A while back, I looked into apps I could potentially use to help keep track of statistics in practice. I didn’t want to resort to going the old clipboard method. I wanted something that went beyond just match type stats. That’s in terms of being able to cover the whole squad at once rather than just 6 players. I also want to do more than just the standard kills, blocks, digs, etc.

Most of the apps out there are oriented toward match stating. I did find one which seemed to fit the bill, though. That was TapRecorder from Volleyball Ace.

TapRecorder What really attracted me to TapRecorder was its flexibility. It is based on a spreadsheet model, making it highly customizable. Basically, you can keep track of just about anything you like. In my case, I could do something like putting all my players on a single screen and track their passes in a serve receive drill.

The app comes with a set of sample recordings (downloadable from the website). You can use either on their own or as the basis for developing your own templates. Creating new recording sheets is pretty easy. I can be a bit tedious when you need to add in a long list of players, however. There’s a companion application which will allow you to do it on your computer for upload to the tablet. I haven’t used it yet, though.

As with any stating app, there’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve, though designing your own recording sheets helps to at least make things more intuitive for you. And obviously if you’ve only got TapRecorder on one device only one coach at a time can use it, which is no different than working with a clipboard. You’d need multiple versions of the app to have more than one coach stating, but there’s a companion desktop application (Excel-based) which will allow you to aggregate data from multiple recordings. I haven’t used that yet myself, but when I do I’ll add my observations here.

Scoring Serving and Passing Effectiveness

For the sake of making solid objective assessments of your team and players, and to see how they progress over time, it is worth compiling as many volleyball statistics on them as you can during both training and competition. One of the easier stats to keep is that for serving and passing effectiveness.

Let’s start with passing, as it leads into the serving stats I’ll be talking about.

Scoring Serve Receive Passing

The common practice among volleyball coaches is to score passing on a 0 to 3 scale. This is primarily for serve reception, but one could also rate free ball passing and even digging in the same way. The scale looks like this:

3 – Perfect or near perfect pass giving the setter all setting options

2 – Good pass, but the setter has primarily just two options (forward or back)

1 – Poor pass allowing the setter only one option, or forcing a non-setter to set.

0 – Ace or over-pass

Generally speaking, teams want to aim for an average score of 2.0 or better. Squads who are able to do that will usually run an effective offense.

On an individual basis, the best passers will come in around the 2.3-2.4 level on average. Obviously, you probably won’t see that kind of average for lower level players.

I have seen some coaches use modifications on this system. For example, 1 could be an over-pass, shifting the rest of the scale up such that a perfect pass is a 4 rather than a 3. This might be suitable for lower level teams where an over-pass doesn’t translate into points for the opposition as frequently as it does at upper levels. In any case, feel free to adapt the system to suit the needs of your team.

Scoring Serves

As for serving, we use a 0-5 scale which is largely an inverted version of the passing scale.

5 – Ace

4 – Over-pass

3 – Opposing team passes a 1

2 – Opposing team passes a 2

1 – Opposing team passes a 3

0 – Error

As with passing, the objective here it to average 2 or better. Doing so means the other team cannot run its offense consistently, making your defense and transition game more effective. Again, you can make adjustments to suit your needs.

Stat Both Training and Matches

I strongly recommend you score serving and passing in training games as well as in matches. If you only score during matches then your bench players won’t ever get scored. Part of the reason for keeping volleyball statistics like this is to give your players very specific feedback on where they are currently and where they need to get.

Note, I am not in favor of taking stats in passing drills that do not strongly replicate game conditions. I have a couple of reasons for that. First, the serving is often not very realistic. Sometimes it’s overly aggressive. At other time’s it’s too conservative. Second, drills often don’t have the same cooperative dynamics as game play in terms of passers working out seams and things like that.

Scoring serving and passing also gives you a clear an unambiguous way of ranking players for lineup decisions. You’re less likely to have ruffled feathers when you decide to have Joe hidden in serve receive or Jane serving last in the rotation if the player knows they are not one of the better performers in those skills.

Make Sure It’s Consistent

Since the serve and pass are two sides of the same coin, keeping these serving and passing stats is quite easy. The one requirement, though, is that a consistent metric is used to make scoring judgements. If you don’t have consistent ratings then the averages derived won’t be reliable. It may sound easy to define a 3-pass, but it’s going to vary based on the athleticism of your setter and/or the ability of your middle hitter(s) to stay available for a front quick set. You can be more liberal with your scoring if your setter is quick and your middles mobile, but if you have a more slow-footed setter and/or lumbering middles the range of passes which could reasonably be called a 3 will be narrow.

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