I always feel like somebody’s watching me.
Who’s playing tricks on me?
We often say, “We get what we train.” If we train players without a ball, what do they look at? Probably the thing you are working on (feet, hands, steps). What should they be looking at? The opponent, the ball…anything but their own body.
This ties in nicely with a new section for IMPACT 2017, intrinsic vs. extrinsic feedback, based on a life’s work by Dr. Gabriele Wulf [https://www.amazon.com/Attention-Motor-Skill-Learning-Gabriele/dp/073606270X]. Dr. Wulf’s research shows that by using extrinsic cues and/or metaphors, we are far more likely to have players looking at the game, rather than their own hands or feet. For instance, rather than saying to a setter, “Put your feet like this,” consider saying, “Open up to the passer.” Retention is higher according to Dr. Wulf, and your players are looking in the right place to read and react to the game.
What is the classic eye-focus error? Usually, it’s staring at the ball. Once the ball is flying toward you, it’s usually too late to make much of an adjustment. So before the ball is coming, it’s important to see the person who will hit/set/pass/serve the ball. That’s where your read comes in, and that’s the way those incredible players seem to read the minds of everyone around them. They’re reading, just not reading minds. They’re reading movements before ball contact.
Lately, many coaches are adding “reading” as potentially the most important skill. With that in mind, what eye-focus errors are you working on in practice, and what are your cues to change the error?
Here are a few eye-focus errors that we might be training;
Underhand tossing, rather than passing/setting to target.
Hitting a stationary ball, rather than a moving one.
A coach tossing to him/herself, rather than receiving a set to hit.
We have to train the things that are hard. What’s the hardest thing about hitting a ball? The timing. That means that hitting a stationary ball is likely not much help in learning to hit. For a quick list;
- Hitters read setters.
- Setters read passers.
- Passers read servers.
- Blockers and diggers read hitters.
- Blockers read setters.
Easy to say, hard to practice. Make sure and check where your players are looking, so that you know they are picking up the rich feedback that the other players are providing.