Risk Part 1: Risk and Coaching Philosophy

One aspect of volleyball (and sport more broadly) that fascinates me is the element of risk, and the role it plays in a coaching or playing philosophy.

For example in a competition for 12-year-old beginners, playing the first ball straight over the net is Low-Risk/High-Reward; playing three hits is high-risk/low-reward. At a slightly more advanced level of volleyball where players skills have improved, 3-hits becomes Low-Risk/High-Reward and digging the first ball over the net becomes Low-Risk/Low-Reward. How a coach chooses to teach their team to play depends on how short or far sighted they are. I am guilty of coaching some of the worst volleyball that does not translate to a higher level and seek redemption every day.

Recently I helped out at a camp for the Australian Junior Women’s Development Program. What was evident was the number of players who had playing habits that were low-risk/high-reward at school and club volleyball level, but did not translate to a higher level needed for international competitiveness. The two most problematic habits were (making every attempt at) midlining the ball on forearm reception and spiking to the middle of the court.

Players spike into the middle of the court because it’s easy, and at a crappy level of play doesn’t cost them (the other team either defends poorly and loses the rally, or gets a transition and attacks poorly and loses the rally). Lateral passing is considered (rightly so) as being higher risk than midlining the ball and a combination of teams trying to “manage the game” and weaker serving only reinforces that it is not a worthwhile skill to develop. At a decent level, players absolutely need to be able to lateral pass and spike in places other than the middle of the court. Incidentally, I’ve got a hunch that doing these things and finding success at a basic level of volleyball are not mutually exclusive.

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3 Responses to “Risk Part 1: Risk and Coaching Philosophy”

  1. markleb Says:

    Not only are they not mutually exclusive, it is actually more fun to play ‘real’ volleyball than the hybrid non risk version and you can ignite more kids passion in the sport.

  2. Hugh Nguyen Says:

    I hope they do find it more fun to play this way. I’m also conscious that there are easier ways to find success. Other coaches have tried this and failed.

  3. Simon Naismith Says:

    Yes Leb, spot on. ‘Real’ volleyball can be lots of fun for young developing International athletes and teams. With a ‘real volleyball’ philosophy and ‘approach’ not only do athletes ‘discover’ what is possible, ‘discover’ exciting ways to win, ‘discover’ motivating ways to compete, they ‘discover’ that point winning skills are critically important in ‘competing’ and ‘winning’ at this (‘real’) level of the sport. This philosophy maximised with a strong, committed and resilient mental and emotional investment by ‘the team’, with ‘the team’ moving in one direction can provide athletes’ with the ‘carrot’ required to love our sport and ‘discover’ what is possible.

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