Service Reception

I used to really suck at teaching Service Reception and wanted to get better at it. I was often lucky to have good service receivers on the teams I coached, but that didn’t mean i taught it well. The idea of being able to teach anyone to receive a serve well really appealed to me.

So at the beginning of last year I decided to change the way I taught service reception. I used a lot of these ideas I had gotten from Simon Phillips (tech officer at VSA). I had been exposed to these ideas from Simon before but was skeptical, until I saw some year 8s pull it off in a game. The ideas aren’t anything new but contradict with how a lot of players and coaches were taught how to pass. Gone is the “staying on the balls of your feet”, “getting low”, “hips and shoulders pointed at target”, “passing with your legs” etc. Hugh McCutcheon had presented these ideas at a symposium in Canberra in 2008 and Simon lent me a DVD copy. Everything you need to know about teaching how to pass that way in succinctly explained and demonstrated on the DVD.

I can say that it works and I have shared these ideas with a few other coaches who have since adopted them. Recently, Mark Lebedew presented a workshop on the same ideas. I wasn’t at the workshop, but according to people who were there, the ideas met with a mixed reaction from the room full of coaches. However, I can say that the idea of “passing through the centre-line of your body or on your left side” has been adopted by at least a few teams.

There are four common criticisms that i regularly get about this type of passing that i’d like to address:

1) This isn’t how I was taught how to pass/this is different. Duh.

2) This isn’t how the best passers pass. A skill model is just a means to teach someone a skill, not how to master it. Elite players will find different ways to master a skill utilising their unique attributes. as far as it being a means to teach a skill, it’s a lot more effective than every other way i’ve tried to teach service reception. 

3) I can see how it might work with adults, but I don’t think you can teach kids how to do it. Well, I’ve coached both primary school aged kids and adults (and everything in between) this year and it’s worked fine on both. This criticism has strangely always come from people who don’t coach both adults and children. If anything, Ive found it easier to teach it to young children than adults, simply because they’re more open-minded.

4) It encourages people to swing at the ball uncontrollably. You need to get them to understand the relationship between the speed of their arms and the resultant movement of the ball. basic newtonian physics.

5) It encourages people to not move their feet and swing flagrantly at the ball laterally and behind them. Therein lies the real reason we don’t understand how to teach service reception as well as we could do. I found this 2-minute excerpt from a John Kessel presentation that sums it up nicely.


10 Responses to “Service Reception”

  1. Alexis Says:

    Everyone who reads this blog (unless its just me and Huy as he thinks), watch that video. I’m still not completely convinced about Kessel’s ‘90%’ thing, but the rest of it is fantastic. Is passing more about reading the serve than about technique?

    • markleb Says:

      My internet connection is too slow to watch the video, but reading between the lines, ‘reading the serve’ is Eye Work ( Technique is what you use to subsequently get the ball to go to the right place.
      You need both.

      • Hugh Nguyen Says:

        Pretty much Mark. Kessel goes as far as saying that 90% of your success in passing a jump serve happens on the other side of the net, and 80% if it’s a float serve”… Alexis thinks it’s an exaggeration.

        If you have read it right and are in the right spot, then the technique that you presented at the workshop removes more errors than the “old” way.

        I’m surprised your internet is slow given that you usually stream/dnload so many matches and there’s not a lot of games on the net at the moment.

      • markleb Says:

        i’m on the road, and i have seen it now 🙂

  2. SAVolleyball mum Says:

    Just putting it out there, I read it to 🙂

  3. mickmurphy Says:

    SAVM, Alexis, Murph and Mark are your regular readership, Huy…

  4. markleb Says:

    The questions are easy to answer.
    1 – that’s the advantage. how many people do you know who can actually pass? not replicate a movement pattern in a way that is pleasing to the eye, but actually pass. If you can use the fingers on more than one hand, send me the videos. I can give them a contract. the way it was done before, hasn’t worked.
    2 – watch the best passers and see what they do. they pass like this.
    3 – simpler is simpler. young, old, man, woman, human, alien.
    4 – it encourages people to focus on their platform and direct it to a target. everything new looks and feels uncontrolled.
    5 – (didn’t you say there were 4 questions?) it encourages people to follow their platform. that involves moving their feet. there is nothing flagrant, or uncontrolled involved. plus what kessel said.
    On a couple of other notes, the single point I wanted to get across at the talk was the importance of the platform. The left/middle stuff was the 2nd part.
    Judging by the comments, there are exactly four of us, as Murph says.

  5. Simon Phillips Says:

    I read it too, just don’t comment 🙂

  6. Hugh Nguyen Says:

    wow, the blog stats function on wordpress is really deceiving! I know eldo reads it too. the cool thing about the stats application on here is it shows you what search terms people google before browsing through the blog, and often you can tell people are googling themselves…

    Back to passing… feet/body balanced and stable – read the ball so you are in a position where your feet/body are balanced and stable, and you can create lots of angles with your platform. one simple arm movement to the ball. aim platform at target, hold platform on contact. control speed of arms.

    It’s been the easiest way to get people receiving serve and start enjoying volleyball. When you make it about platform, it changes the whole way you look at the game. A year ago ex-volleyball Vic tech officer Michael Brookens pointed out something to me that was quite profound. When someone is passing, the other 11 players on the court should be watching their platform and anticipating what to do on the 2nd or 3rd touch, or the first touch over the net etc. His men’s team had a fast tempo “playbook” where plays would be run depending on where the pass went (ie where the platform was pointed, or where you could anticipate it was going to be pointed).

    For me i didn’t teach anything that advanced beyond telling my players to always be watching their teammates’ and opponent’s platform and anticipating where the ball would go. We’d take a “mindfulness” approach to accept the quality of the first ball for whatever it was and adjust accordingly. the mantra was “play the rally you’re in, not the one you preferred” and “having the setter set the ball is preferable, but not essential” etc etc. We do a lot of “game teaches the game” sort of stuff that teaches everyone to pass, set and hit. everyone plays every position in front court and passes in the back court. i did this with teams from beginners to reserve women.

    Ive had people argue with me that the style is “ugly”, “out-of-system” and doesn’t promote “positive errors” conducive to learning. i’ve had people who have lost to, or seen my teams win describe them as the “worst teams to win a match at at this level”.

    the reality is, the standard of passing at jr girls level is about 1.5…. at AJVC this year, U17W was about 1.8 (if you wanted to be competitive), U21W who have the most control only passed at about 2.0. A significant amount of time the quality of the pass means the second ball will have to be a high-ball set. Am i supposed to insist that my players always play “in-system” and play “aesthetically positive” volleyball? If the teams that have their best passers on can only pass at 1.5-1.8, i may as well let everyone pass right?

    Using these principles; my U15 norwood girls team made it to the SF of the U15 albury wodonga nationals against state teams. They lost to Heathfield 17-19 in the 5th after losing their best 2 players in the first match; 3 of my 4 norwood junior girls teams finished 1st or 2nd in their junior league divisions and are going into finals on friday (the 4th was in a division with one of the other teams); me and Murph’s div 1 women and reserve women’s teams at Austral went from losing every game last year (or many players had not played club at all) to only narrowly missing out on finals.

    If i’m teaching people to play the ball off their platform, overhead with a swing and how to read to both, i’m teaching volleyball right?

    • markleb Says:

      If teams really do pass at 1.5, there is no reason to specialise.
      I really like this way to receive. So, I will say yes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: