Once upon a time, Jason at the now defunct Court and Classroom site wrote a laugh-outloud post on calling service zones. It mainly related to high school aged players. I wish it was still available, because so much of it was in the “sad, but true” category. Other stuff would have you in tears.
For example, with respect to calling for a serve to Zone 3:
Area 3: This serve will turn into an absurdly easy lollipop serve to area 6, allowing the opposing team to violently impose their will upon us, and ensure that we don’t call ever call for a short serve again (until the next match).
Comic relief aside, serving strategy is often on my mind when I coach. As I wrote in To Call Service Targets, or Not to Call Targets, I’m not generally a zone caller. This is a change. When I coached at Brown in the early days of my career I called them all the time. Things are different now. I did call them at Radford, as that was the head coaches philosophy. You might be surprised at the frequency they were missed given that was NCAA Division I.
These days, in a developmental situation, I like to work with players to be more aggressive with their “comfortable” serve. Then we work on expanding their repertoire. I find in competitive situations, players are often more likely to produce successful results with their “best” serves to a non-optimal zone than their weaker serve to a better target.
That said, I understand the value of a coach calling serve zones (though it doesn’t always work as expected). It reinforces a stated plan and allows the coach to adapt to what they’re seeing in the match. I just don’t want robot players, though. I want ones who think for themselves and can create their own solutions.
While at Svedala, in Sweden, I didn’t call signals, aside from sometimes giving a player a specific instruction (normally something like “first serve is good”) or a reminder of which passer we’re after. My focus instead was on keeping our serving focus in huddles on the target(s) we pointed out in our scouting – or a target which has turned out to be particularly good for us in that match.
That said, I can see how I might look to signals as target and strategy reinforcement options for some teams.
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