How can we avoid creating false confidence in players? Start by asking yourself this simple set of short questions. How often have you seen anyone teaching the other nets sports NOT using the net? Have you ever played/seen the teaching of table tennis from the same side of the net? Badminton? Tennis or pickleball? In my experience, I have never seen any Olympic level coach on down teach their net sport from in front of the net; except volleyball. Some of you might have seen a rare situation in tennis, which has such a large court surface, but I have not. That includes four years of watching my son in tennis practice. Watch the tennis/table tennis and badminton greats at the Olympics warm up before any match, and you will see them cooperatively hitting, over the net. The net is “regulatory stimuli” that governs the actions of players. It is something that, once you hit 13U in girls volleyball, you will have to be hitting over for about 50 years of play. Yet most coaches drill a huge amount of time without it. If you create it in ways that allow for hitting over it (like the USAV four nets on a rope, or a ribbon or rope) there will be coaches who cannot understand what you are doing. They may scorn the use of such nonperfect nets. Let’s keep thinking about regulatory stimuli in our sport.
Regulatory stimuli is a cornerstone of the principle of specificity. Yet in the interest of making things look better in practice, coaches add gimmicks and training devices, eliminate the realities of the game, and break the game up into drills that are not game-like, but easy to do, like partner or circle passing.
This need for drills builds into the false confidence as the player can do the drill successfully, but fails when the specificity and reality of the game then return in the match. This past decade, one of our national team head coaches was told by an Olympian: “I need to do work on my setter/hitter timing.” Coach replied “We have been playing for two weeks, if you think that needs work, what are you waiting for?”
From a recent Coach Your Brains Out podcast (check their site for great discussions with some of our sport’s best thinkers) my friend and mentor Dr. Carl McGown said two things to ponder. 1. He quoted Brent Rushall, another esteemed motor-learning scientist, “Coaches persist however in violating this basic principle (of specificity) with dubious arguments, false premises and distortion of facts." 2. He said about pepper, “… somehow, we want passing back and forth near the net to be helpful, but it’s not.”
Why do people do this? Because that’s how they were taught, and it “worked.” The tradition of not using the regulatory stimuli of the net has resulted in the promotion of a huge amount of pair ball control done on one side of the net as well as repetitive wall passing, blocked and coach-controlled drills, machines, gadgets and many other ways of “training” that do not transfer or teach the realities of our sport.
The net and antenna, plus the ball and court lines, are regulatory in the things learned in volleyball. We must follow their rules. The basket/backboard, ball, and court lines are regulatory for basketball. Coaches would never train the game flow and shooting shots without a hoop or backboard (just shooting into space and pretending it was good). Yet volleyball coaches constantly train without the reality of some sort of net. It is easier that way as no net “gets in the way” or forces the truth of what the contacts actually are like.
Good coaches do more than just develop volleyball skills. They develop the whole person, physically and especially mentally. Our sport’s uniqueness starts with the remarkable lack of time the body is in contact with the ball – averaging under 5 seconds per match, per player. So over an hour of match play, what are your players doing for the other 59 minutes and 55 seconds of competition?
|Regulatory Stimuli||False Confidence|
|Antennas||Tossing to players|
|Ball flying over the net||<>Same side of net|
|Lines||Playing without any in/out judgement needed|
|An opponent competing against you||No opponent to read|