Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

STOP Teaching Technique

The art of coaching lies not in teaching technique, but in empowering players to learn and develop their volleyball skills. In this article, we will explore the importance of focusing on player development, the role of technique in the game, and how coaches can create an environment that promotes skill acquisition in a dynamic and game-like setting.

The Reality of Game Play

When technique is taught solely through blocked drills and progressions, players are limited in their ability to understand the complexities of the game. While technique is indeed important, coaches often spend excessive amounts of time perfecting the technique in isolated settings, rather than allowing players to experience it in the unpredictability of real game situations.

Research conducted by Dr. Richard Schmidt, author of “Motor Learning and Performance, Principles to Practice,” suggests that players should have a solid understanding of a technique after only 6-10 trials in a blocked fashion. However, it is common to see coaches subjecting players to thousands, even tens of thousands, of repetitions in static and blocked training. This approach hinders the development of players’ volleyball skills and restricts their ability to adapt to dynamic game situations.

Empowering Players and Coaches

Coaching should not be about setting limits on players or other coaches. Instead, it should be a collaborative process that encourages sharing and learning from one another. By fostering an environment of mutual support and open communication, coaches can create a space where players can thrive and reach their full potential.

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At a recent coaching symposium in Dubai, UAE, coaches were given the opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences. This exchange of ideas not only benefited the coaches but also had a positive impact on the players. By fostering collaboration and encouraging coaches to empower their players, we can elevate the level of play and inspire the next generation of volleyball enthusiasts.

Developing Volleyball IQ

The game of volleyball is unique and requires players to make quick decisions based on the ever-changing nature of the game. It is essential for coaches to develop players’ volleyball IQ by exposing them to a variety of game situations and encouraging them to think critically on the court.

In a highlight film of National Thailand Schools VB, we witness young players demonstrating exceptional skills and volleyball IQ. They execute one-handed/arm saves, deliver high ball flights, and showcase their ability to adapt to challenging scenarios. These players have developed their skills through experience and a deep understanding of the game, rather than solely focusing on technique.

Embracing the Unpredictability

Tradition can be hard to change, but it is essential to adapt coaching methods to match the realities of the game. As Mark Twain said, “The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.” It is time to challenge the traditional notions of technique and embrace the dynamic and multi-dimensional nature of the game.

For instance, the notion of always landing on both legs after spiking or blocking may not align with the reality of the sport. Peter Vint, USOC Director of Competitive Analysis, Research, and Innovation, emphasizes that volleyball is not a planar game and that the variability and randomness of the sport require athletes to develop skills that go beyond strict technique.

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Skill Over Technique

In volleyball, there is a prevalent focus on right-handed dominance. However, over 75% of volleyball athletes experience knee injuries on their non-dominant side. This discrepancy highlights the need to develop players’ abilities to use their non-dominant hand.

Similarly, coaches often dictate where players should serve, limiting their opportunities to develop a powerful and strategic serve. By allowing players to develop their serving skills and make decisions on the court, coaches can foster leadership and encourage players to explore different options.

The Game Teaches the Game

To truly excel in volleyball, players need to learn from the game itself. The idea that “the game teaches the game” is supported by the experiences of successful athletes like Bubba Watson, who achieved great heights without formal coaching or lessons. While mentors and coaches play a crucial role in guiding an athlete’s discovery, the focus should be on enhancing the player’s understanding of the game rather than dictating every move.

Embracing Lifelong Learning

Coaches play a vital role in growing the sport and shaping the next generation of players. By embracing lifelong learning and continuously seeking new knowledge, coaches can enhance their coaching abilities and provide a more enriching experience for their players.

In conclusion, the key to effective coaching lies in empowering players to develop their skills and volleyball IQ through game-like experiences. By focusing on skill acquisition rather than obsessing over technique, coaches can create an environment that fosters growth and enables players to reach their full potential. Let’s continue to grow the game together by embracing a more dynamic and player-centric approach to coaching.


Q: How can coaches create a game-like environment for players to develop their skills?
A: Coaches can create a game-like environment by incorporating drills and practice sessions that mimic the unpredictability of real game situations. This allows players to develop their skills in a dynamic setting and adapt to the challenges they will face on the court.

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Q: How can coaches empower players to take ownership of their development?
A: Coaches can empower players by allowing them to make decisions on the court and encouraging open communication. By giving players the freedom to choose their partners, call timeouts, and make tactical decisions, coaches foster a sense of responsibility and promote leadership skills.

Q: How can coaches strike a balance between teaching technique and developing skills?
A: While technique is important, coaches should focus on the development of skills within the context of the game. This includes exposing players to a variety of game situations and encouraging them to think critically and make decisions based on the ever-changing nature of the game.

Q: How can coaches continue to grow and improve their coaching abilities?
A: Coaches can enhance their coaching abilities by embracing lifelong learning. This includes attending coaching symposiums, reading books and articles on coaching methodology, and seeking opportunities to learn from other experienced coaches. By staying curious and open-minded, coaches can continue to evolve and provide the best possible coaching experience for their players.


Coaching is a dynamic and ever-evolving field, and it is essential to adapt our approach to match the needs of the players and the realities of the game. By focusing on skill acquisition, empowering players, and embracing the unpredictable nature of volleyball, coaches can create an environment that promotes growth and enables players to reach their full potential. Let’s work together to shape the future of volleyball and inspire the next generation of athletes.