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Keys to Blocking Effectively

I was looking through some of my old files from some of my old club teams and came across this piece on Blocking.  Ironically, the premise of the piece was written by Bond Shymansky, who at the time was Head Coach at Georgia Tech (he’s now Head Coach at Marquette).  The current Winthrop Head Coach, Sally Polhamus, was an Assistant under Bond at that time.  Sally is now the Head Coach that I work under.  The volleyball world is a small world.

Keys to Blocking Effectively
By Head Coach Bond Shymansky and coaching staff, Georgia Tech
November 16, 2005

•  Blocking is 95% work, 5% natural ability
•  Blocking can control and win matches through these methods
•  Raise intimidation
•  Stuff for points
•  Take away favorite shots
•  Force unforced errors
•  Take opponent out of their game plan
•  Remember the last shot your opponent hit
•  Block the low hard hit balls. Dig the balls over and around the block
•  When alone, block cross court
•  Most hitters hit where they face
•  Time your jump to your opponent, not the ball
•  Seal and penetrate — control the net
•  Block from a stationary position
•  Block aggressively, not randomly
•  Blocks often come in bunches — be patient
•  Get touches, touches, touches — control and stuff
•  Never give up a straight down hit

A girl on the Low Country Club Team that I coached asked for my advice, “What tip do you find most helpful?”

Here is my answer:

To me they are all helpful tips, but it is almost impossible to think through all these tips in the middle of a set when you are about to block.  That is why repetition in practice is key.  Repetition builds each one of these steps into a habit so you don’t have to think about these tips.  They will come automatically.  Blocking is 95% work and 5% natural ability.  It is about timing and attitude.  If you WANT to block (and dig for that matter) you will be more successful because of this innate WANT.

But if I have to pick one tip, my favorite is “Remember the last shot your opponent hit”.  After you become physically and fundamentally sound in volleyball, strategy and the mental part of the game becomes a greater factor.  If an opponent hits an angle shot successfully straight down, that opponent will likely try to hit that same shot again because it was successful.  Your opponent is building confidence in themselves…and their entire team builds confidence.  On the flip-side, if the opponent tries to hit angle and we stuff them.  They will likely change their hit for the next swing and their confidence is deflated and so is the teams.

If an opponent has a successful hit, our goal is to take that shot away from them on the next hit.  So if they hit angle, let’s block a bigger or more angle.  Now if we successfully block a swing, our opponent will likely change to another shot.  They might try to swing line or tip the ball.  If we block them angle, let’s switch to line on the next swing.  If we can block an opponent twice in a row, on two different shots, the entire team’s confidence is really deflated and we can win that match!

As a hitter, what can we learn from this?  Find your favorite swing (line or angle) and don’t give up on it if you are blocked once.  Unfortunately, we all get blocked (many times a hitter gets blocked not because of poor execution, but a tight or ‘trap’ set), don’t give up on your favorite swing.  It’s worked for you in the past, and it will work for you again.  It’s not the hardest hitters that win games, its the SMARTEST hitters.

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