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By Mark Lebedew: Practice v Competition

by WoV
source: marklebedew.com; Photo: CEV author: Mark Lebedew

A couple of stories come to mind. In a full time centralized National Team program there are typically more players training full time than are required for any given tour or competition. When the team is away, those players remain and practice in a small group. In my experience, the coach who worked with those players, without fail, would report to the returning team that the players had worked well and improved a lot. And without fail, when those players returned to training in the full group, there was no evidence of improvement.

Mark Lebedew – Photo: CEV

I was once involved in the review of a National Junior Team tour. When the topic of poor reception during competition came up one of the coaches wondered aloud why these good receivers were not able to perform in competition.

In both cases, the coaches had misunderstood the relationship between practice and competition and between practice performance and learning.

The players in the first group had improved. At the drills they were doing. But small group drills have little transfer to complex team drills.

The glaring answer to the question in the second situation is ‘they are not actually good receivers’. Which begs the question why the coach thought they were. The answer to which was they can do the small drills better than the other players.

The two stories and postscripts highlight a common coaching situation. Coaches work with the players to prepare for competition. When the players don’t perform at the expected level the coaches always look at why the player didn’t receive the training properly, and never (rarely) reflect on the training itself.

The evidence supplied by competition is (mostly) unequivocal. And if the coach wants to take credit for their good preparation work, they must equally take credit when the evidence shows their work was lacking.

About Mark Lebedew:

Mark Lebedew – Photo: CEV

Mark Lebedew authors the At Home on the Court Blog. He coaches professionally in Poland, from january 2021 with eWinner Gwardia Wrocław, in season 2019/20 with Aluron Virtu CMC Warta Zawiercie and in the period 2015-2018 with KS Jastrzębski Węgiel. That follows five seasons Germany where his Berlin Recycling Volleys won three straight league titles and a CEV Champions League bronze medal. He has prior professional experience in Belgium and Italy. Mark was also Head Coach for the Australian Men’s National Team. From 2021/2022 until the end of the 2023/2024 season he was at the helm of VfB Friedrichshafen, while in 2022 he led the Slovenian national team during the Volleyball Nations League. In the 2024/2025 season, Mark Lebedew will lead the Netherlands team, Nova Tech Lycurgus.

Mark partnered with his brother and father to translate and publish “My Profession: The Game“, the last book by legendary Russian coach, Vyacheslav Platonov.

With John Forman, he is behind the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project (link http://volleyballcoachingwizards.com/) which identifies great coaches from all levels, making their experience, insights, and expertise available to people all over the world. The project has produced multiple books, a in e-book format available here ( link to http://bit.ly/34yakou ) or at Amazon here (link https://amzn.to/2JRqTE6).

In 2021, he launched project Webinars and Presentations on Demand. If you are interested for coaching presentations and webinars available on demand, click here.

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