In the coaching group Volleyball Coaches and Trainers, we heard this story;
One of my 5th graders on our middle school team (brand new to the sport) asked me today, “Who is Surfer Steve?”
“What?” I asked, totally baffled.
“You’re always saying for us to go to Surfer Steve.”
Lesson learned; be clear in your message.
“Stop teaching passing” is an infamous blog by John Kessel, found here; http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Volleyball/Features/2011/March/02/STOP-Teaching-Passing
We don’t need to learn passing form; we need to learn to receive the serve. Every player can demonstrate great passing form, without the ball. The question is…can they get that form to the spot where the ball will land?
We’ll all be gone for the summer
We’re on surfari to stay
Tell the teacher we’re surfin’
Is this the best player of all time? This picture hangs in The Badger Region office.
Clearly it’s not the form we would advocate. However, he and Aldis Berzins passed nearly perfectly in the 1984 Olympics, often with crazy types of form, like this. And it continues today with Eric Shoji and many other top passers.
Karch states, he has never been asked to “pass midline.”
Al Scates, coach of 18 national championships at UCLA (and Karch’s coach) says (paraphrased), “If you can’t pass, you can go sit on the bench with the rest of the Pine Brothers.” Yet we have the job of making them better. We can’t simply cut the bad passers, or we’d cut them all when they first come to our programs.
How much do you work on passing? John Speraw, UCLA and USA Men’s national team coach; “If you spend 100% of your time on passing, it’s not enough.”
Carl McGown, BYU coach, 2 time national s champion, 7 time USA Olympic coach, nd maybe the most influential worldwide volleyball coach of all time, speaking about pepper; “…somehow, we want passing back and forth near the net to be helpful, but its not.”
We make some common mistakes as coaches. Tell this para-athlete to “move your feet”, or, “Pass with your legs.” It’s simply not necessary, and both are bad cues.
How do we pass better? By passing more. There is no magic.
Let’s explore some principles. Principles are (nearly) facts, scientifically proven, a base to form your ideas with. If you can’t prove it, it’s not a fact.
You need to measure, to see what works. For example; right is good, left is better, midline is best, when passing. Is that true for everyone? Probably not. And midline isn’t critical…you can still pass, even when the ball is outside your midline. Remember Karch above? You probably ought to learn to pass outside your midline, because you’ll need that skill when you can’t get the midline there.
Back to principles.
- The ball only knows angles.
- Simple is better than complicated.
- Quiet movement is better than noisy.
- Arms are more coordinated than legs.
- You have to read.
Reading is critical. David Cordes of Ridgecrest Starlings has a drill to prove this to you. Have your athletes stand on an end line, facing you, while you serve over their heads. They can usually (or at least often) predict where the ball will land, with only a meter of so of warning. How? They read the server. So how can our players, 45 feet away, do a better job of reading?
Principles, mentioned above, lead to keys. Keys are simple, short phrases that remind athletes what to do. You work on one key at a time, while the athlete does the whole skill. Develop your on keys, based on principles, that you can use with athletes. Here are some examples, for serve receive.
Carl McGown’s business, Gold Medal Squared, developed some keys. These are not their exact keys, as you should buy their book, go to a clinic or look them up on YouTube. But generally;
- Have a stable platform
- Use simple movements
- Read the server
USA Volleyball keys, from IMPACT;
- Be ready to move
- Move to intercept
- Form flat platform
- Finish and freeze
Women’s National Team Keys
- Be ready (linebacker, upright posture)
- Face server
- Read server
- 1-2-3 steps and reach (no time for anything else)
Note that reading is common to all three organizations.
Maybe you’ve developed your own keys. We are using the phrase “low to ball”, because we had a bunch Sunday passers…they liked to pray first. That key was specific to our problem and it’s worked quite well.
What passing drills are best? Simple…drills where you have to pass real serves. Every single drill can start with a pass. In fact, you can cut your court in half the long way, and double the amount of passing chances. If you make a team pass before they can play the rest, they will get infinitely better at passing. The motivation is high to get better.