A while back I wrote the Getting the most out of video post. In it I talk about, among other things, the importance of players being able to recognize their errors. I’ve received some not-unreasonable push-back in terms of us being better off focusing on the good repetitions, which I’ve also seen in other places. It suggests I should clarify some things.

Knowledge of Performance

The major factor for me in the use of video is the ability of the athlete to recognize their was an error. In some cases this is pretty simple. Did that pass go to target? Did the serve go where you wanted? You were trying to hit to 5, but it went to 6 instead. This is Knowledge of Performance (KP).

If the ball doesn’t do what the player intended, then clearly they need to do something differently. They understand that. This is where the “feedforward” idea is quite useful. You as the coach can provide the player with potential solutions to try, and can focus them via video on the repetitions where they were successful as reinforcement. No real need to show them what didn’t work.

The challenge comes when the player doesn’t know there’s an error, or alternatively cannot identify the point at which things are breaking down.

No KP

For the most part, players know if the ball did what they want or not. There are a couple of areas of the game where it’s more of a struggle, though. A big one is setters not understanding how far out they are pushing the ball on their sets. The other is in blocking.

Setters not having a sense of their set location is especially the case when they don’t get hitter feedback. Also for back sets where they don’t necessarily see the flight of the ball completely (if at all). I’m not necessarily talking about hitters saying “too wide” or “the set’s dying”, though we all know hitters providing useful, non-judgemental feedback can be a challenge. I’m talking about the setter being able to ascertain the location of their set from how the hitter attacked the ball. Obviously, experience goes a long way there.*

Lacking hitter feedback, the setter needs either video replay or a person to let them know if they’re getting the distance right. This is not technical/mechanical feedback. It’s KP they can then use to make adjustments as necessary. Same is true for set tempo. It’s in the same category of KP as using a radar gun so servers know the speed of their serves.

With respect to blocking, we’re mainly talking about location and timing, though you could also add in hand placement as well. Since so few balls are actually blocked successfully, that’s not really a great form of KP for players. You can do everything right and not get a block, and you can really get things wrong and still somehow come up with a stuff. Video is really useful here.

Where’s the breakdown?

Let’s now shift to the case where the player(s) know performance isn’t right, but aren’t sure why. A classic example of this is the connection between Middles and Setters on quick sets.

There are a few potential causes here – hitter timing, hitter spacing, set timing, set location. Video replay is extremely useful in cases like this to help them diagnose the problem because each of those items is quite straightforward and easy to diagnose with Yes/No answers. I can tell you, every group of Middles I’ve worked with using replay has LOVED it for just that reason. You can basically apply this to any of the tempo offense elements.

And of course you can apply it to broader team things like defense. Is our positioning right? Are we stopped? With respect to offense, is everyone transitioning and available to be set? Are we all covering our hitters?

Yes/No answers

While video analysis after the fact can be useful for deeper diagnosis of mechanical issues, in my experience the best use of in-training video replay is answering simple Yes/No questions. Did I start my approach on time? Is the set out as far as I want it? Did my block get up in time? Were my hands across the net on my block? Was my serve toss in front of my hitting shoulder? In some cases that’s KP. In other cases it’s whether they actually employed the solution they were attempting to employ.

These are questions the player can easily answer watching their last rep on replay. They just need to be specifically looking there. Anything beyond that really requires more than a delayed feed capability – like being able to rewind repeatedly. That’s probably not best suited for a practice environment, but instead for diagnosis with an eye toward identifying potential solutions per what I talked about in the first section above.

Conclusion

So this is how I approach using video with my teams. It’s about the context of failures of execution. If they lack KP or aren’t sure of the source of the failure, video can quickly provide the information they need. If it’s about a technique issue, I’m more inclined to use video to show them getting it right or to confirm whether they are doing the thing they are trying to do.

* A good way to develop this for outside sets (to 4) is to tell your hitters to try to attack line every ball. They can’t do it on sets outside the pin and also struggle to do it well on inside sets.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Men's & Women's Head Volleyball Coach at Medaille College, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and 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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