In volleyball coaching we often talk about getting players lots of touches. We encourage small-sided games to increase individual player touches. We debate the quality of the touches players get.

I came across an observation from a coach where he counted that in a 6 v 6, 3-player wave drill one player touched the ball only 5 times in 8 minutes. That doesn’t sound like very many, does it?

I don’t know what the goal of this particular exercise was, but if it was getting all the players a bunch of touches it seems to have failed. We’d want to take a closer look to see where the breakdown was before using it again. It could be the initiation, the scoring, or something else that’s probably relatively easy to fix.

Here’s the thing, though. When playing 6 v 6 games we generally don’t want to worry about individual contacts. We’re working on more team-based things. The natural result is that some players – like setters – get more touches than others.

But touching the ball is only one part of a player’s job. It’s not even the biggest.

Players spend the vast majority their time on court reading the play and moving into the correct position for what’s to come. Hitters transition to attack more often than they actually hit the ball. Defenders move from base to their defensive position far more often than they actually dig the ball. Receivers prepare to pass a serve way more times than they actually get a serve.

I think you get the point.

So don’t get caught up with touches when working on team play. Do, however, get caught up providing players with instruction and feedback on their reading and positioning.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching 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. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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