Saturday, 20 Jul 2024

Variance and Risk Management in Volleyball

Variance is a fundamental aspect of volleyball that coaches at all levels need to embrace and incorporate into their training programs. Rather than shying away from it, coaches should view variance as an opportunity for growth and development. In this article, we will explore the importance of risk management and how it can enhance player performance in volleyball.

The Role of Variance in Volleyball

Variance refers to the natural variation that occurs from one contact to another in volleyball. It is something that every player must learn to navigate and adapt to. Traditional training methods often focus on minimizing errors, but this approach can hinder player development in the long run.

Research studies have shown that variance is actually a crucial component of motor learning. It allows players to explore different movement patterns, leading to better motor skills acquisition. Variability in performance predicts the rate of motor learning, demonstrating that “motor noise” is an essential element of the learning process (Nature Neuroscience, Feb 2014).

Skill-Specific Variance Management

Now let’s dive into how coaches can incorporate variance management into specific volleyball skills.


Traditionally, serving techniques emphasize “clearing the net.” However, this approach can lead to errors as players focus solely on the top of the net. To address this, coaches can use visual aids such as strings or ribbons placed from antenna to antenna. This helps players maintain a balance between clearing the net and keeping the ball in play within the variance.

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When it comes to spiking, coaches often instruct players to “hit the line.” While this can be effective, it also increases the chances of shots going wide. To overcome this, coaches can use SportCourt tiles and painters tape to mark a target area about a meter inside the line. This enables players to maintain aggressiveness while ensuring the ball stays within the court boundaries.

Serve Reception

Traditionally, the setter is positioned at the net, making it a predictable target for the serve reception. However, this can result in overpasses and missed opportunities. To address this, coaches should place the setter at least a meter off the net, or even farther for advanced players. By introducing variance in the setter’s target, it challenges players to adapt and improves their overall reception skills.


Setting plays a crucial role in creating scoring opportunities for the team. Coaches need to teach setters to manage variance in different aspects of their setting technique.

The first aspect to consider is the target for setting. Instead of always aiming for the antenna or pin, coaches can introduce a target a meter inside the court using a swim noodle or tape. This helps setters avoid setting the ball beyond the antenna, which often results in errors and lower kill rates.

Another variance to consider is the distance from the net. Coaches should encourage setters to set the ball a meter or more back to give themselves more room to maneuver and reduce the risk of errors.

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Setting height is also an important factor. It’s better to set the ball slightly higher than too low to allow hitters to adjust and make the most of imperfect sets. Coaches can use vertically placed swim noodles as visual guides to help setters achieve the desired height.


Digging is a challenging skill that requires a keen sense of anticipation and reaction. To manage variance in digging, coaches should establish a target area in the middle of the court, around 4.5 meters off the net and from each sideline. This gives players a margin of error while still keeping the ball playable.


Blocking is an essential defensive skill in volleyball. To teach blocking effectively, coaches can use swim noodles to simulate the net and emphasize the importance of sealing the gap between hitter and blocker. This kinesthetic approach helps players develop a better understanding of variance and how to effectively block the ball.

Embracing Variance in Coaching

In addition to skill-specific variance management, coaches should also consider the larger context of variance in the sport. Every team, regardless of skill level, will experience variance in performance. Understanding this and being prepared for it can help coaches maintain a positive and realistic perspective.

Coaches should be aware of the impact of factors like finite Markov chains, regression to the mean, and the age/experience level of athletes. Acknowledging the existence of variance can prevent frustration and enable coaches to optimize their coaching strategies.


Q: How can variance benefit player development in volleyball?

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A: Variance is a natural part of the learning process in volleyball. It allows players to explore different movement patterns and enhances motor learning. Embracing and managing variance can lead to better skill acquisition and performance.

Q: What are some practical ways to incorporate variance management into coaching?

A: Coaches can use visual aids, such as strings, ribbons, or tape, to create specific targets for serving, spiking, and setting. Placing the setter off the net can introduce variance in serve reception and improve overall team performance. Creating target areas for digging and using swim noodles to simulate the net in blocking are also effective ways to manage variance.

Q: How should coaches handle variance in team performance?

A: Coaches should understand that variance is an inherent part of the game. It’s important to maintain a positive and realistic perspective, knowing that performance can vary from game to game or even within a single set. Being prepared for variance and focusing on continuous improvement will help coaches navigate the challenges that come with it.


Variance and risk management are essential concepts in volleyball coaching. By embracing variance and incorporating it into training, coaches can help players develop better motor skills, adaptability, and resilience. Understanding the role of variance in different skills and in overall team performance will enable coaches to create effective training programs and optimize player development. Let’s work together to grow the game of volleyball and unleash its full potential. For more information, visit Alpinetgheep.