Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Practice Makes (Im)Perfect

Published on September 17, 2009 by   ·   No Comments

Volleyball skills are importantYou know before your game when you’re standing around with your team waiting for the hitting lines to start and you all just bat the ball back and forth in a circle to each other? Or how about when you’re messing around outdoors with your non-vball friends and you swing your arms when you pass and lift nearly every single set?

You are ruining your game with those simple actions.


That’s right, just those few off-hand goofing around minutes can undo all your hours of rigorous training and careful attention to form. My club coach used to say that if you do it wrong once you have to do it right thirty times to correct the habit. And she stuck by what she said: we would have to do approaches around the gym (2 laps if we were good, 4 if we were bad) to make sure we were going to do it right when there was a ball involved. Keep that 30:1 ratio in mind next time you’re considering neglecting your form, and imagine what it would be like to do 30 perfect reps when you get home to make up for every single error you made out of neglect.

To guard you against such a heinous possibility, here are 3 of the more common mistakes that I’ve seen. Know some more? That’s what comments are for my friends.

1. “Peppering” in a circle. Peppering is technically done with only two people; one person passes, the other sets and the first one hits. Then you repeat until you mess up. It’s the classic warm up drill, and one that you should learn to know and love. However, many people, teams in particular, seem to think peppering is too exclusive. Everyone should get to play together! We’re a team after all!

So they do something terrible: they get in a circle and pass/set the ball around haphazardly.

“Why is this so wrong?” I can hear you demanding. Because it breaks the cardinal rule of all drills.

Any drill you do, no matter the context or the partners, should prepare you for an in-game action of some kind.

When, in a game situation of any kind, do you try to pass the ball to your left or right with absolutely no clear direction in mind and without turning your hips toward your target? You might angle it slightly to one direction or the other if necessary, but you don’t ever (or at least you shouldn’t) use your arms and legs like you do in a round robin type of passing circle.

If you find yourself with an odd number of teammates and need to warm up, there are several options for warming up. But please, I beg you for the love of your form, don’t do the round robin pepper.

2. Goofing off and ignoring form during casual games. If you’re just playing volleyball to have fun and you don’t care about getting better or improving your form, then you don’t need to worry about this bit, or this whole post really. But if you are serious about developing your skills, you should focus on your technique EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU TOUCH THE BALL.

If you’ve got your ball out in your living room and are practicing setting, keep your knees bent, focus on your hand position, and make sure your feet are squared up properly. If you’re in the park with friends and they grab your ball and want to goof off, keep it as clean as possible.

Whether it’s hitting against a wall, passing with a friend, or messing about on your own, make the extra effort to keep your form intact, and remember what happens if you don’t …

3. Reaching behind you when you block and otherwise acting like your teammates don’t exist.

This one happens a lot to people who play casual pick-up games a few times a week and then try to get back into “proper” 6-on-6 volleyball. When you’re playing 4-on-4 and there’s nobody playing defense right behind you, it can be tempting to flail around with your arms and try to make a grab for the tip that went right over your hands. But when you get back on your team and there’s a teammate behind you just dying to pass that tip right to the setter, they won’t be very happy about your flailing.

The same thing goes for becoming a ball hog on a 6 person court just because you won all of your doubles matches on the sand last week. It’s a different kind of game with a different kind of dynamic, and you need to trust your team and let them try for the balls that are in their area of responsibility. Otherwise they won’t be at all impressed by your spectacular dives and digs; they’ll just be imagining you falling flat on your face.

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Photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nzadrozny/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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