Saw this in a coaching group:

Looking for some recommendations for drills or activities to do for reaction work and eye work.

Predictably, in the 6 comments responding there were two people suggesting “blind” exercises. One of them talks about tossing the ball from behind a blocker like an over-pass. The idea is they have to pick up the ball and react in a blocking fashion. Naturally, there was also the ball-thrown-from-behind-against-the-wall. As I’ve said, these sorts of blind drills have little impact on the kind of reaction time improvement we’re after.

Then there was USA and pro libero Dustin Watten sharing a workout he did with his team in Poland.

Alas, Dustin includes a blind tennis ball exercise in here. As a plus, at least it looks like the rest of the stuff actually uses visual cues of some kind. Unfortunately, those cues don’t have much to do with volleyball situations, so it’s pretty disappointing. Even more so when you consider he’s apparently working with a strength coach.

Look to the post I quoted at the beginning and notice how “eye work” is included. This is where so many coaches come up short when trying to make their players quicker. They forget that reaction improvement starts with better reading.

Essentially, doing the sort of stuff Dustin shows in the video – aside from the ball thrown from behind him – is just a workout. I’m not saying these workouts can’t be useful. They can have their place, of course. We just can’t expect them to do a lot to improve reactions. As a useful response to the question noted:

…since reaction time is an invariant across most people, it’s actually a result of good eye work that allows players to seem to move faster.

And that eye work needs to involve the cues players need to pick up on to better anticipate and react, which are not included in Dustin’s workout.

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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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