This is a piece I wrote many years ago for my own use, but never posted on my blog. It’s interesting for me to read some old pieces to see how my coaching philosophies have changed and developed over the years. In some ways they’re very different, yet still the same. My blog is a place of reference for my own knowledge throughout a season. I post this information for others to enjoy too. So Enjoy.
The beginning part of a season is typically the time a coach focuses on the development of individual skill work, offensive strategies (playsets), defensive alignments (blocking and defensive systems) and line-ups. We (me included) often unintentionally overlook the “before fundamentals” that result in losing a couple easy points in a set. When I first started coaching, my focus of fundamentals was the six skills of volleyball: serving, passing, hitting, blocking, setting, and digging. But there are fundamentals before these fundamentals that are often overlooked and not addressed with teams: communication, posture, and movements.
Language – Be sure players are “speaking the same language”. If we have a player from Spain, China, and USA all calling for the ball in their native language, it would obviously be a bit confusing. How different is it when one player calls “Ball”, another player says, “Mine”, and another “I Got It”? The basic communication patterns are not the same. Words can overlap, create confusion and noise which can result in a ball landing between two players.
Clarity – Be sure players clarify who the ball is intended. Simply use a player’s name after contact. Especially in an out of system situation when the setter is not contacting the second ball OR when the setter is beyond the 10’ line and she is setting a backrow player.
Responsibilities – Train the responsibility of the 3rd ball contact in out of system situations. Too often a front row player will have their back to the net giving a freeball to the opponent versus a backrow player able to make a smart controlled attack on the ball.
“Go Posture” – the athletic posture of the athlete to allow them to “GO” to the ball. Players should be engaged and be in this posture throughout a point.
Defensive Posture – a low, stopped and balanced position on every setter and hitter contact.
The Cycle – 1. Base 2. Release 3. Cover – continued movement throughout a point. Remind players to “touch their mark”. A mark is a location on the court determined for each position of the cycle (keep in mind that a mark can be alleviated when a proper read and movement is required).
Discipline is the key to success in these “before fundamentals”. Team breakdown occurs when communication is incorrect, clarification is forgotten, a posture is broken, or the cycle is not followed throughout a point. Teaching the Before Fundamentals will save you a few points a set.