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Develop an environment that promotes aggressive play

By Pete Waite


Volleyball coaches aim to take a team to a higher level by creating a certain atmosphere, focusing more effectively, and developing an environment that promotes aggressive play. As a coach guides a team toward that championship level, however, it is important not to rush it or take shortcuts. If players are asked to be ultra aggressive at the wrong times, the rhythm of the game will be lost. In the era of rally scoring, you have to have a good understanding of how much to risk in light of what you could lose in the process. Every skill in the sport can be analyzed and broken down to see where your team is gaining or losing points. Rally scoring makes it clearer because every one of your errors results in a point for the opposition. The best coaches not only find ways for their team to score points, but also work hard to minimize instances when their team gives points away to the opponent. Here are a few skill areas in which overaggressive play can lose matches for you:

  • Serving errors exceed aces. Some players really get back and crank on the ball regardless of whether they are jump-serving or staying on the ground. While their aces are exciting, you can’t tolerate too many errors. It’s simple math. If the bad outweighs the good, the player should dial it down a notch to get the ball in more often. The other option is to use a more reliable type of serve.
  • Passing errors can result if one player is too aggressive in going for serves out of his or her assigned zone. Each passer should be given a specific zone or area of responsibility. Unfortunately, some players don’t trust their teammates and thus move well out of their zone to play a ball. This type of overly aggressive play can result in a passing error or in other passing problems in the future. The player whose zone was encroached upon will likely become more passive about taking the ball. He or she will flinch a bit upon sensing that a teammate is coming over to take the ball. Each time this happens, the team is burdened with a higher risk that on an upcoming point the ball will just drop, as the person who usually takes everyone else’s balls suddenly decides to let them have one when they are no longer ready. If a three-person passing formation is used, the court doesn’t have to be split into equal thirds. The best passer can take up to half of the court while the other two share the remaining half. As long as boundaries are established, you can make good use of the skills of the overly aggressive passer.
  • Setters can be overly aggressive and lose points when they force things. The problem can be as simple as forcing the back set when the setter is really out of position on the left side of the court; players have to use great footwork and technique to execute that play without a mishandle being called. Trouble can also arise when players try to force the quick attack in the wrong situation or when they really don’t have the skills to accomplish it. Opposing teams and coaches like nothing more than getting a free point from a mishandle or a miscue.
  • Overaggressive blocking is a common mistake. Blockers big and small often try too hard to block every ball. Blocking is one of the most difficult skills because of the proximity to the net. The blocker has to be very disciplined in order to resist the temptation to swat at the ball. This is a skill that many coaches overlook, yet their teams give up a lot of points because they get called for being in the net. What coach hasn’t said to his or her team, "Come on! We need to pick it up and be more aggressive!" Yet coaches need to be careful in choosing when to say it. There is an optimal level of aggressive play, and it is the coach’s challenge to teach the team how to maximize it and how to sustain it. Along the way, coaches must keep a keen eye on every aspect of the program-on the athletes’ individual skills and on their team play. Coaches are always testing athletes to get them ready for competition, and they are continually trying to raise their level of play. It’s very common for coaches and players to make mistakes during the course of a season, so it is essential to develop an equal amount of trust, understanding, patience, and commitment on both sides. Whatever tactics, techniques, or methods are used, it’s important that they are producing good results. That is the key word to use when evaluating a coach, a staff, or a team. Is what we are doing getting the results we want? If not, it’s time to be creative and find a new way to get there. Be flexible, be patient, and be creative. That’s a good motto for player and coach alike. Attacking aggressively makes good things happen.

This is an excerpt from Aggressive Volleyball.




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