“This indecision’s bugging me (esta indecision me molesta)”
Is there anything more frustrating than a player who doesn’t go for a ball? What do many coaches do when a ball drops?
- “Go for it!”
- “Be aggressive!”
- “Know your job!”
- “Five pushups.”
Those responses, while common, probably won’t fix the problem. Those comments don’t teach how to solve the problem, because they aren’t specific. We need to find a more specific solution than “Be aggressive.”
Why Does it Drop?
Balls drop on the floor for a few reasons. Some drop because the other team has hit it to someplace we simply can’t reach (or maybe we shanked it pretty badly.) Those are generally due to physical errors or constraints that we can’t immediately control. In other words, somewhat acceptable, at least in the moment. Maybe we make a note to work on that specific skill at practice.
A second type of ball drop happens when one or two or six players could have gotten it, but didn’t. Why didn’t they go for that ball?
We may blame aggressiveness; however, a player’s perceived lack of effort is often indecision, or lack of knowledge. “Was that mine? Should I have taken that?”
It can be as simple as giving the player permission (within the system) to go for it. For my team, it’s pretty simple. For example; will the setter hand-set that ball? If not, are you in a better position to bump-set than she is?
For another example, maybe it’s passing or defense. An easy first guideline is, if you can reach it, it’s yours. Once you get them to reach for everything, you’ll find that more balls get dug. Maybe not perfectly. From there, simple tweaks in responsibility can quickly improve the floor defense.
Coaches talk about being out of system; do we teach our teams how to recognize when we’re out? How can you tell when you’re out? What will you do once someone recognizes you’re out of system? How do you let everyone know, and how do you train to get into the “out of system” system?
A third type of ball drops, even when they knew it was theirs, but didn’t see the right thing. Were they looking in the right spot? Looking for the right cues?
Do punishments work? Maybe in the short term. If, however, a player doesn’t know it was her ball, or was looking in the wrong place, maybe some discussion as to the thought process would work better. Often a payer is being punished over something she simply didn’t understand. Again, “Was that mine?” Five pushups hardly seems fair when the coach hasn’t trained the athlete properly.
Understand why the choice was made to let that ball go, so you can teach. It’s likely they just don’t understand, and they need some information. That appeals to intelligence, which leads to learning how they make good choices. A punishment might make them learn that that single ball is theirs. Will it help them decide which other balls are theirs? The punishment will make them resent the coach, and see exercise as an enemy, and maybe even take the focus off of learning.
And punishment for physical errors leads to…
Fear of Mistakes
Underlying the “not going for it” idea, is a fear of mistakes. If you don’t go for the ball, you can’t make a mistake, right? It’s an absurd thought of course, in the coaches mind. As coaches, we understand that the mistake is in letting it drop, not in shanking it. A shanked ball is a physical error…letting it drop is a mental error. Which is easier to fix? Certainly if a player knows it’s his, he’ll go for it. Then if they can’t make the play, because the ball goes in crazy directions, you can work on the technique and skill.
In the end, you solve dropped balls by learning whose responsibility it is. “Setter takes the second ball.” Well, most of the time. Even better is, “Setter controls the second ball.” Because sometimes she needs help. And she needs to learn how to make that decision, and how to guide her team into helping. That happens in every game, and every long rally. It takes practice.
Teach. Be specific. Ask questions. Guide to the answer. You have answers, they often don’t. Help them learn. Or as The Clash said;
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know