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Blocking to the AVP Tour with Jon Guida – Part II

Big Jon Guida is making his way through the AVP Next Tour with partner Jake Elliot. They just won last weekend’s AVP Next, East End Volleyball’s stop in Hilton Head Island, SC (Jon’s home turf).

A few weeks back, Jon asked for a little guidance with his blocking. I put together a piece for him which I later shared here: Blocking Your Way to the AVP Tour. Following is more for Jon, as he progresses throughout the summer. I am using pictures (as we all know they speak a thousand words) to help him to tweak his game. At this point in his volleyball career, Jon needs minor tweaking to the physical part of his game and more focus on reading the game, reading the situation, playing in the moment, and trusting himself and his partner.

Jon Guida blocking in Hilton Head

big_jon_guida_blocking

Being 6’6″ must be nice.  Having a 35″ + vertical must also be nice.  I have neither, therefore, I coach 🙂  Jon’s doing a great job reaching into the angle, but I have three tweaks with his form:

  1. “Shrug” – I believe one of the most under-coached, under-rated moves in blocking: shrugging the shoulder up to the ears.  This does a few things: 1) Provides a couple more inches in reach, 2) “Locks” or tightens muscles in your shoulder and arms – a stronger block, 3) forces the head down which creates a tighter seal on the net, better penetration, 4) the head down also protects the face (again, must be nice to be Big Jon or Phil Dalhausser – see picture below).
  2. Hand Position – Notice his left hand.  Looks to me as if it is pointed slightly upward, towards the sky.  An easy tool for an opposing hitter.  Jon needs to keep his hands facing into the court or “pretend there is a campfire in the middle of the opponent’s court and warm his hands over the fire!
  3. Fingers Spread – His fingers could be spread wider and tighter.  Sometimes a finger or two can block a softer hit shot.  I’ve heard coaches say, “Thumbs to the sky” and “Mickey Mouse Ears” as cues.  I also believe that the “Shrug” helps to tighten the fingers.

Now let’s compare with the best blocker in the world Phil Dalhausser:

Phil Dalhausser perfect blocking form

OLY-2008-BEACH VOLLEYBALL-USA-GEO
  1. Great Shrug – Notice the seal of the net, the penetration.  His shoulder and arms are “locked”.  No one is going to tool this block.  His head is down.  He could even get this block with his head or the ball might go straight up in the air for Todd Rogers to recover.
  2. Great Hand Position – Looks as if Phil is “warming his hands over the campfire” quite nicely; both hands are down, facing the center of the court.
  3. Great Fingers – Wide, strong and tight.  “Thumbs to the sky”. It even looks as if his pinky on his left hand is turned in a bit more to protect from getting tooled.  Awesome!

These minor tweaks are the difference between good and great.  Keep in mind, Phil Dalhausser led the AVP Tour with ‘only’ 2.12 Blocks/Game last year.  Make the details your advantage to get one more block.

11 comments

  1. Hey Chuck!!!
    Great pointers! I’ll be honest, Phil has some pretty big shoes to fill in the blocking category, but i’m sure your tips will assist with improving! I’ll keep you posted how training goes with these little “tweaks” to my form. I’m excited to get out there and try it out! …only if the Windjammer had lights… hmm…
    But thanks again Chuck! I’ll be looking forward for the next installment of skill-work!

    Jon

  2. Hey Chuck!!!
    Great pointers! I’ll be honest, Phil has some pretty big shoes to fill in the blocking category, but i’m sure your tips will assist with improving! I’ll keep you posted how training goes with these little “tweaks” to my form. I’m excited to get out there and try it out! …only if the Windjammer had lights… hmm…
    But thanks again Chuck! I’ll be looking forward for the next installment of skill-work!

    Jon

  3. Those who can’t, coach 😉 Happy to help my friend. Look forward to watching your continued progress.

  4. Those who can’t, coach 😉 Happy to help my friend. Look forward to watching your continued progress.

  5. Comments on your opinion of Phil Dalhausser and blocking.
    Phil IS NOT the best blocker in the world-he is simply the biggest blocker on the tour. A guy his size should average 3-4 blocks a game, EVERY game and completely change the game.
    Much of his form is good to great however, his form is not perfect as you can see from the pic you supplied.
    1. His arms are so wide apart that the ball easily fits through. That’s terrible form.
    2. His hands/fingers are a little turmned out like he’s trying to soft-block indoors. they should be turned in a little more which in turn allows your wrists to bend forward to close in on the ball. You can’t close in and reach forward to the ball when your fingers/hands are stretched outward. If he did it correctly he could completely roof most balls hit near him! “Thumbs to the sky” is NOT the way to go here. Try reaching over the net to roof a tight ball with your hands and fingers reaching forward and then with your “thumbs to the sky” and see which technique afforts the better block. Or just do it there while you read this.
    Blocking should be an artform/technique, and should completely dominate a game with a good blocker, but sadly it’s the least worked on of all skills and the proper outlook and technique isn’t used.

  6. Comments on your opinion of Phil Dalhausser and blocking.
    Phil IS NOT the best blocker in the world-he is simply the biggest blocker on the tour. A guy his size should average 3-4 blocks a game, EVERY game and completely change the game.
    Much of his form is good to great however, his form is not perfect as you can see from the pic you supplied.
    1. His arms are so wide apart that the ball easily fits through. That’s terrible form.
    2. His hands/fingers are a little turmned out like he’s trying to soft-block indoors. they should be turned in a little more which in turn allows your wrists to bend forward to close in on the ball. You can’t close in and reach forward to the ball when your fingers/hands are stretched outward. If he did it correctly he could completely roof most balls hit near him! “Thumbs to the sky” is NOT the way to go here. Try reaching over the net to roof a tight ball with your hands and fingers reaching forward and then with your “thumbs to the sky” and see which technique afforts the better block. Or just do it there while you read this.
    Blocking should be an artform/technique, and should completely dominate a game with a good blocker, but sadly it’s the least worked on of all skills and the proper outlook and technique isn’t used.

  7. Harold,

    Thanks for your comment and visiting :), but with all due respect, how can you say Phil Dalhausser IS NOT the best blocker in the world?!?!

    Currently, Phil is ranked #1 on the AVP Tour with 2.11 blocks/set: http://www.avp.com/Scores-and-Stats/Men-s-Statistics.aspx

    At the 2008 Olympics, Team USA was #1 in the world in blocks: http://www.nbcolympics.com/beachvolleyball/statistics/gender=M/teamleaders/rsc=BVM000000.html

    And in the Gold Medal Match at the Olympics, “The Thin Beast” had nine blocks in the gold medal match, including four in a row in the third set.

    That’s called domination.

  8. Harold,

    Thanks for your comment and visiting :), but with all due respect, how can you say Phil Dalhausser IS NOT the best blocker in the world?!?!

    Currently, Phil is ranked #1 on the AVP Tour with 2.11 blocks/set: http://www.avp.com/Scores-and-Stats/Men-s-Statistics.aspx

    At the 2008 Olympics, Team USA was #1 in the world in blocks: http://www.nbcolympics.com/beachvolleyball/statistics/gender=M/teamleaders/rsc=BVM000000.html

    And in the Gold Medal Match at the Olympics, “The Thin Beast” had nine blocks in the gold medal match, including four in a row in the third set.

    That’s called domination.

  9. Chuck and Jon,

    I think that Phil improved his blocking and all around game last season. He had a wooping .4 more blocks per game than the next best. He wouldn't have such a great statistical advantage if he wasn't an amazing athlete and blocker, maybe there is a stat on his setting location since that is not a height based stat, so you could see how great of an all around athlete he is. You better believe he thinks about the best way to block to get the most stuffs and channels, and makes adjustments to improve.

    To Harold Johnson, I have seen many GREAT blockers of any size (including both Phil and Sean Scott who was on the second best in blocks per game on the AVP last year at an “undersized,” for blocking, 6'5″) who start with their arms very wide (as pictured, and bring their hands together like a fan when the ball gets high. Their arms are spread and can be kept wide for a deep underarm cut attack by the offense, bringing the opposing hand upwards or across to seal the block as if a middle and a setter of different height were sealing off a continuous area in sixes, a blocking style I have recently incorporated indoor to great success, in my opinion, no stats, sorry. It goes the other way too, with a tall setter or opposite setting the block and a late middle, the only area to close the block might be right above the net against a cut down the inside of the right side block. (Hard to explain without diagrams.) And, yes I agree with you, Phil's arms look too spread.

    By reading the play or having a cat vs mouse mentality as a blocker, especially outdoor, you might be in a position where your arms are similar to Jon's, but I also agree with Chuck's eval. Jon needs to have that left hand pressed into the opponents attacking area, cutting off the angles while also angled to direct the ball down and into the middle of the offense's court: warming hands at a campfire is a great analogy.

    I would also suggest that Jon's block is not a patient blocking style, if he was blocking angle I feel he should have his body better positioned into the angle more straight up and down, if blocking line then also more upright, ready for the high roll, which it looks like he is…barely getting. It almost looks like he is blocking ball, and I am not sure on the merits of having that type of a blocking strategy (from the getgo). By all means stuff block a CLOSE set. If you are going to jump into the angle, and: not step, then jump; he should look more like an angled spear and not a boomerang.

    Another way of thinking about this is: let your defender do his/her job.

    Looks like Jon is getting the block, however, with his right hand! It looks like a high roll from the opponents strong side, this would be (very) good if he is blocking line (defensive signal: 1) for covering his area of the court. That, many times, can be just as important for a team by channeling the hits high for a defensive run down or right to a waiting defender, and I know from experience that Jake is a great one. Furthermore, pike or press INTO the opponents court, not sideways, he might be able to get an additional three to four inches higher, and into the opponents space, with his right hand if he was.

    Like I said, it looks like he is guessing for a stuff block then trying to recover to stop the predetermined defense of high roll or spike line, which is why this looks like a somewhat disciplined, but successful block.

    This is getting long, but a lot of information could be gathered if we could see the defender to see if Jon is supposed to be blocking line or angle, since (as long as it wasn't a busted defense) that would probably tell us which one he is supposed to do.

    I'd really like to see if Jake is just sitting line or if he is set up angle and moving line.

    Jon, I saw you two made the main draw, awesome dude!

  10. Chuck and Jon,

    I think that Phil improved his blocking and all around game last season. He had a wooping .4 more blocks per game than the next best. He wouldn't have such a great statistical advantage if he wasn't an amazing athlete and blocker, maybe there is a stat on his setting location since that is not a height based stat, so you could see how great of an all around athlete he is. You better believe he thinks about the best way to block to get the most stuffs and channels, and makes adjustments to improve.

    To Harold Johnson, I have seen many GREAT blockers of any size (including both Phil and Sean Scott who was on the second best in blocks per game on the AVP last year at an “undersized,” for blocking, 6'5″) who start with their arms very wide (as pictured, and bring their hands together like a fan when the ball gets high. Their arms are spread and can be kept wide for a deep underarm cut attack by the offense, bringing the opposing hand upwards or across to seal the block as if a middle and a setter of different height were sealing off a continuous area in sixes, a blocking style I have recently incorporated indoor to great success, in my opinion, no stats, sorry. It goes the other way too, with a tall setter or opposite setting the block and a late middle, the only area to close the block might be right above the net against a cut down the inside of the right side block. (Hard to explain without diagrams.) And, yes I agree with you, Phil's arms look too spread.

    By reading the play or having a cat vs mouse mentality as a blocker, especially outdoor, you might be in a position where your arms are similar to Jon's, but I also agree with Chuck's eval. Jon needs to have that left hand pressed into the opponents attacking area, cutting off the angles while also angled to direct the ball down and into the middle of the offense's court: warming hands at a campfire is a great analogy.

    I would also suggest that Jon's block is not a patient blocking style, if he was blocking angle I feel he should have his body better positioned into the angle more straight up and down, if blocking line then also more upright, ready for the high roll, which it looks like he is…barely getting. It almost looks like he is blocking ball, and I am not sure on the merits of having that type of a blocking strategy (from the getgo). By all means stuff block a CLOSE set. If you are going to jump into the angle, and: not step, then jump; he should look more like an angled spear and not a boomerang.

    Another way of thinking about this is: let your defender do his/her job.

    Looks like Jon is getting the block, however, with his right hand! It looks like a high roll from the opponents strong side, this would be (very) good if he is blocking line (defensive signal: 1) for covering his area of the court. That, many times, can be just as important for a team by channeling the hits high for a defensive run down or right to a waiting defender, and I know from experience that Jake is a great one. Furthermore, pike or press INTO the opponents court, not sideways, he might be able to get an additional three to four inches higher, and into the opponents space, with his right hand if he was.

    Like I said, it looks like he is guessing for a stuff block then trying to recover to stop the predetermined defense of high roll or spike line, which is why this looks like a somewhat disciplined, but successful block.

    This is getting long, but a lot of information could be gathered if we could see the defender to see if Jon is supposed to be blocking line or angle, since (as long as it wasn't a busted defense) that would probably tell us which one he is supposed to do.

    I'd really like to see if Jake is just sitting line or if he is set up angle and moving line.

    Jon, I saw you two made the main draw, awesome dude!

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