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A Quantitative Analysis of the Most Important Volleyball Skills

Ever wonder what volleyball skills to work on in practice or where you should be focusing more of your time?  The Journal of Quantitative Study released an in depth article, “Skill Importance in Volleyball” to determine the most important skills in women’s volleyball.  A research team studied a 2006 Division I Women’s Volleyball program to come to their conclusion based on specific data collection and analysis.  Coincidentally, the research was conducted at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah where Gold Medal Squared is also headquartered.  In pieces I have read by Gold Medal Squared, this data is eerily similar.  Following is the study:

Skill Importance in Women’s Volleyball


The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate two methods to quantify skill importance for
teams in general, and women’s volleyball in particular. A division I women’s volleyball team rated
each skill (serve, pass, set, etc.) and recorded rally outcomes during all home games in a
competitive season. The skills were only rated when the ball was on the home team’s side of the
net. Events followed one of these three patterns: serve-outcome, pass-set-attack outcome, or
block-dig-set-attack-outcome. These sequences of events were assumed to be first-order Markov
chains, meaning the quality of the performance of the current skill only depended on the quality of
the performance of the previous skill. We analyze the volleyball data using two different
techniques: one uses a Markovian transition matrix, while the other is an implementation of
logistic regression. To estimate the Markovian transition matrix, we assumed a multinomial
likelihood with a Dirichlet prior on the transition probabilities. The logistic regression model also
uses a Bayesian approach. The posterior distributions of parameters associated with skill
performance are used to calculate importance scores. Importance scores produced by the two
methods are reasonably consistent across skills. The importance scores indicate, among other
things, that the team would have been well rewarded by improving transition offense. Importance
scores can be used to assist coaches in allocating practice time, developing new strategies, and
optimizing team performance relative to player selection.

Here is the article in it’s entirety: Skill Importance in Volleyball


Based on these analyses, we would give the following recommendations to
this team.
1. Keep sets and passes away from the net.
2. Force the attack to the middle and right side if at all possible.
3. Devote a considerable proportion of practice time to transition o ense.
4. Get to blocking positions more quickly following a serve.

We have shown two di fferent methodologies to develop skill importance
scores. These importance scores can be used by coaches to change team tac-
tics, change skill performance goals, and focus practice time to increase the
probability of scoring points.


  1. Napo,

    That is a great piece of software. Very intriguing as a visual aid and analysis of players movement. I really like the opportunity to see the trajectory of the set from the setter to hitter.

  2. How would I try and get or apply to a volleyball scholarship, if it’s my last year in high school. I’ve played for six years, but no idea how to get to a next level of volleyball.

  3. Kathleen – you should consider looking at recruiting services. It is one of the best ways to gain exposure when you starting your recruitment campaign late. If you are still interested in finding a school you can contact me, goldenathletics@gmail.com, and I can set you up with a discounted price on my recruitment software. Please feel free to check out my site – GoldenAthletics.com Coach Rey – Very nice article. I am a huge fan of your site. It keeps me up to date with relevant and interesting volleyball news. I appreciate the work you put in to help grow the game of volleyball.

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