Home » By Mark Lebedew: Thinking About… Extra Balls / Wash Balls

By Mark Lebedew: Thinking About… Extra Balls / Wash Balls

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

Wash drills are not realistic.

The primary objective of wash drills is to create more game, i.e. realistic, situations in practice but the drill format itself is not realistic.  The concept of a ball entering the court immediately after a rally has finished is the counterintuitive.  And we cannot kid ourselves about this.  There is no way (repeat zero ways) a coach can put a ball into play that is ‘realistic’.

Wash drills are an (the) essential component of effective practice.

Given that these two statements are both correct, we need to work out how we can maximise the effectiveness of the format.  The first thing we must understand is that the eyes of the players naturally follow the ball that has just completed the rally.  That is what happens in the game. It is natural. Every player in the world does it and it is not a sign of laziness or lack of attention. If you watch the players closely you will see how it happens.  They need one second (or perhaps less) to finish the rally and refocus on the next action.  Before attention is refocused, players are not looking in the right place and are not in good positions.

There are many reasons to put the extra ball in fast, such as improving the ability to refocus or optimizing conditioning, But if the extra ball is entered during the (very short) period before the players have refocused, the subsequent actions are poor and the whole rally is essentially wasted. With the wasted rally needing to be repeated, often after some coach intervention we end with the equation of trying to gain 1 extra second of work, but instead losing or wasting 30 seconds or more. There are of course factors that must be considered (ball / players / sweat on the court), as well establishing the parameters and tempo of the drill, but the art of running the drill is to find the ‘sweet spot’ for putting the ball in. That moment  is exactly the moment that the players refocus their attention. This ensures no time is wasted, and that the actions that follow are as realistic as possible.

Many coaches will try to ‘trick’ the team by putting the ball into play from an unexpected place or to an unrealistic place, so the team is ‘ready for anything’.  There are no situations in volleyball when a ball comes from an unexpected place, or at an unexpected time.  Where the ball comes from is ALWAYS predictable.  It ALWAYS comes from the place where the attention is focused.  If a ball is unexpected it is because the player was not looking in the right place or has misinterpreted the cues presented.  The purpose of practicing in game situations, is to learn and practice seeing, recognising and reacting to the cues presented in the game.  To deliberately provide unrealistic situations negates the reason for using the drill form in the first place, and by ‘practicing’ that which can never happen, is again essentially waste time.

No drill form by itself is ‘valuable’.  It ALWAYS depends on how coach runs it.

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 leads VfB Friedrichshafen, while in 2022 he led the Slovenian national team during the Volleyball Nations League.

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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