Wednesday, 29 May 2024

From Positive to Perfection

In the world of sports training, there is a transformative principle that coaches and players are being encouraged to adopt. This principle challenges traditional methods and offers a more effective approach to training. After decades of coaching experience, the impact of this concept has been witnessed at all levels of play, from youth teams to Olympic champions. The principle is simple yet powerful: teach positive errors on the path to perfection.

This shift in training culture may take some time to fully embrace, as it requires a departure from traditional methods that prioritize non-game-like drills. However, the benefits of this approach, especially for younger athletes, are undeniable. By encouraging players to make mistakes that are better than the traditional errors, they are given a margin of error to learn and grow. This approach allows room for improvement and fosters a mindset of continuous growth.

Let’s explore some common examples to illustrate how this principle can be applied:


Traditionally, players are taught to practice spiking against a wall. While this may help develop wrist snap and other skills, it ingrains a habit of hitting into the net or the block. To address this, a new tradition can be introduced. By setting up a “net” on the wall and playing games against it, players can practice hitting over the tape. This promotes hitting over the net, which leads to shots that clear the net and develop vital skills like reading and reacting to the game.

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Partner passing is a common method used for training passing skills. However, this often results in the ball being passed straight ahead instead of towards the setter. To shift this approach, players should be encouraged to see the ball coming from over the net. The goal is to err by passing off target but towards teammates, rather than passing to the other court or outside the antenna. Another positive error to make in passing is to pass high first. By aiming higher, even if off target, the setter or other teammates can still play the ball.


Traditionally, there is a strong focus on not serving into the net, which is seen as a negative error. However, serving long can still result in the ball being in play, as officials may call it in even if it’s slightly out. To promote positive errors in serving, players should aim to serve every ball over the net. This gives them a chance to knock over a player on the opposing team or force them to make a play. Additionally, after serving, players should practice running into their designated back row defensive position, as this simulates game situations and reinforces good habits.


The traditional approach to setting involves standing close to the net and setting the ball high to teach hitters how to hit. However, this limits the options for the hitter and can lead to hitting into the block or out of bounds. To address this, setters should start by setting their first sets on angles, standing further away from the net at the 3-meter line. This allows hitters to have more space and angles to work with, increasing their chances of success. As players improve, they can gradually move closer to the net but never closer than a meter off the net to ensure they have enough room to swing through and safely land.

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Partner pepper is a common drill used to develop ball control and warm up players’ arms. However, this drill often results in players digging the ball straight back to where it came from, which is a negative error. To encourage positive errors in digging, players should be taught to dig the ball up to themselves instead. This leads to higher balls on their side of the net, giving teammates more time to react and make a play. Players can also practice alternating pepper, where the hitter moves forward to become the setter/target halfway between the hitter and the ball being dug. This reinforces the habit of digging the ball towards a target on their side, away from the opponent.


Traditional blocking drills often involve standing on a platform or shadow blocking, which does not accurately simulate the movements and timing required in a game. To develop effective blocking skills, players should practice blocking live hitters. By watching the hitter instead of the ball, they can learn to time their jumps properly, penetrate over the net, and take away the favorite shots of the opponent. Positive errors in blocking include not blocking a hitter who doesn’t deserve a block or having a block be late, resulting in a deflection that can still be played.

By implementing these changes in training methodology, coaches can help their players develop a more well-rounded skill set and a mindset focused on continuous improvement. It is important to create a positive and supportive training environment, where mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth rather than failures. Success in sports comes from making positive errors and constantly striving for perfection. So, let’s embrace this principle and transform the way we train, from positive to perfection.

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