Home » By Mark Lebedew: Reading And Timing

By Mark Lebedew: Reading And Timing

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

A couple of things have come up on social media recently that forced me to start thinking. Forced me to start thinking about how it is that people fundamentally misunderstand some concepts in volleyball and coaching.

The first was this instagram reel promoted as a drill to improve reading. It is obviously not a reading drill, but why is it not obvious to others.

What is reading? Reading is the observation and processing of game cues. Good observation and processing of game cues leads to choosing optimal game outcomes (decision making) and eventually executing them in the service of the team.

So let’s take a moment to review the above drill. Which game cues is the blocker observing? I’ll wait for you to watch again. The correct answer is zero. There is no reception, no setter, no set, no attack. There is zero game information contained in that drill. The blocker must make a choice, yes, but not based on anything that might happen in a game.

That is not to say the drill doesn’t have a place in training, or that it doesn’t have a positive effect on some elements of performance. It cannot however be said that one of those positive effects is in improving reading skills.

On a similar note, a post on a coaching site, I don’t remember which, asked for advice on improving some element of timing in attack. The proferred advice included things such as tape and other objects on the floor, none of which had any relationship to timing. So where does the advice come from?

What is timing? With apologies to Johan Cruyff, good timing is being in the right place at the right time. So what exactly is that place and time? That is a great question. As unsatisfying as it may be, the answer to that question is, it depends. It depends on the movement of the ball and the players on the court. Every situation is unique.

So what happens when we put things on the floor? The first thing we do is look down, ie not at the ball. So right there we know that any such drill cannot be training timing. We can create a drill that might look like it approximates timing under a particular set of circumstances but once reality intrudes we cannot be surprised that the relationship between player and ball no longer holds.

That is not to say the drill doesn’t have a place in training, or that it doesn’t have a positive effect on some elements of performance. It cannot however be said that one of those positive effects is improved timing.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how creative a coach might be, the only way to improve reading and timing skills is to do things that very closely approximately a game. The coach might simplify situations to teach observation skills and reduce possible options, or provide feedback on eye work (actually they have to do that anyway), or even simplify technique (do you really need a 4 step approach?) but in the end the players actually need to do real reps. And, yes, that takes time. Sometimes a long time, but in some things there are no shortcuts.

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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