Natural individual movement the often overlooked key factor in discussions about technique execution.
Natural individual movement the often overlooked key factor
in discussions about technique execution.
Karch Kiraly is the head coach of the U.S. women’s national volleyball team. He won three Olympic gold medals as a player indoor and beach. On the internet platform The Art of Coaching Volleyball Kiraly urges coaches to rethink the long-held believe in volleyball that passers should be taught to take balls on their midline.
Discussion about passing in volleyball.
Reflecting Kiraly his opinion Tod Mattox wants to share his experiences concerning the same topic. “I figured out that if we served in the court and didn’t get aced, we would win a lot more than we would lose. Thus, in coaching beginners, I came to view “ace prevention” as more important than passing to target. Though I’m no scientist, it became apparent that players were much more successful preventing an ace when their core was behind the ball. At the lower levels of girls’ volleyball, I still believe in this basic concept.”
The head coach of the girls varsity volleyball team at The Bishop’s School in California continues his reasoning. “For passing, I would argue that the simplest platform angle to create is when you pass in a straight line with your core directly behind the ball. In a second progression, you are still behind the ball, but you pass it off-line (left back pass to a setter in the middle of the court). In the third progression, you pass completely outside your bodyline and create the proper angle to deflect the ball to target. So when Karch says you don’tneed to get behind the ball, I disagree. I say you should get behind it whenever possible since it’s the simplest angle.”
This type of discussion about the technical aspect of motor actions we meet in almost every sport. The base of the discussion is about: do you believe in biomechanics and the so-called ideal movement for a technique execution or do you look at the natural expression of the individual player? Biomechanics underestimates the first three letters of the word. Bio means in this case that it’s about human creatures and people are no theoretical acting machines. So reasoning comparable with the efficiency of mechanical logic does not bring the discussion in the right direction.
Are we able to pass left and right from the body, are we able to pass when the core is behind the ball? On all these questions the answer is affirmative. Indeed, because of high speed, precise placement and tactical variation of services top players need all these options to survive in the passing game.
This should not
close our eyes to the fact that people have individual natural preferences for
movement just like for cognition and emotion. In addition people can differ in
their deep motivational drivers and the needs related. We have these
preferences and deep drivers at an unconscious level in us, while acting we use
them in daily life and we take them along wherever we go. If we play volleyball
we apply our preferences. Independent of the fact you are a beginning player
or a top athlete. That’s also why we experience at the highest level in all
kind of sports athletes accomplishing similar actions in different ways. It’s
because people differ in their individual motor style.
Three dimensions as examples.
“Strange that none of the coaches talks about natural habits” pronounced John Stubbe in his remark. And he is right. Coaches have to stay away from Be Like Me and One Size Fits All philosophy’s. Instead, they should recognize, understand and respect the motor style of the player. Analysing dimensions of individual motor preferences with regard to the referred discussion about the technique of passing in volleyball we will highlight three of them in this article.
First of all we like to advance the dynamics of walking patterns. The difference between Walking from the Bottom (WB: more concentric) and Walking from the Top (WT: more plyometric) is supported by scientific research. WB needs a deeper posture to create speed and adaptation, a position more behind the trajectory of the ball to perceive and wants to make connection in the action with the anterior muscle chain of the body. An example is Sergio, the former libero of brazil’s men team (bodyweight more towards the heels). On the other hand WT needs a higher posture, a position more beside the trajectory of the ball and wants to make connection in the action with the posterior muscle chain of the body. For example Giba, the former attacker of brazil’s men team (bodyweight more to the forefeet). To summarize so far, WB prefers to take balls on their midline, while WT has a preference to pass outside the central bodyline.
As a second dimension we will take the organization of the motricity into account. It’s about individual requirements for perception and the cooperation between upper and lower body. Some people have a vertical organization of their motricity, they require to be straight in the action. Other people have what we call a horizontal organization of their motricity, they need a differentiation to the left or to right in their perception and posture. Vertical players tend to be more straight in line with the ball and the passing intention, while horizontal players incline to bent their (upper) body and head more sideways.
The third dimension we want to emphasise in this aspect is the preferred order between gross and fine motor skills. A player who has a natural preference to start from his large body muscles needs to touch and feel the ball closer to the body. On the other hand, the player who has a need for inserting fine motor skills first is equipped to touch the ball more away from the body. They distinguish themselves in eye hand coordination.
Differences in individual expression.
To recap the last three paragraphs. You can imagine that volleyball players with Walking from the Bottom dynamic, a vertical organization of the motricity and a preference to insert large body muscles first, will find their feeling and expression in passing when their core is behind the ball. It’s the way Tod Mattox recommends to pass the ball. However, on the other side of the spectrum there are players with a Walking from the Top dynamic, a horizontal organization of the motricity and a preference to insert fine motor skills first, who like to pass the ball besides them. In reality there are also combinations of these three dimensions.
In this article we mentioned
three aspects of individual motricity, knowing that there are more insights
such as the radar eye and the dominant shoulder that influence actions. And
what about the shoulder-hip connection. Is the preference an associated (need
for a more frontal position) or dissociated (need for a more diagonal position)
one. In all its dimensions and the required congruence individual motricity is a
very complex whole.
Self-organization of the body.
We follow professor Alain Berthoz, specialized in the trinity of perception, decision and action, in his opinion that the self-organization of the body needs to be respected. He designated the way from complex motor skills to simple actions by the term simplexity. You coach on the intention and the situation and let the self-organization of the athlete do the rest. Observe what the player inserts to master the movement challenge and when he moves to his next level focus on more details about the intention and the situation. In the motor learning process Mattox has a point that you go from what is more simple for the player towards complex situations in different contexts. But the crucial question is: what is more simple and suits for who? A coach should differentiate to provide customization to his players.
Karch Kiraly is right with his statement that taking the ball on the midline of the body should not be a general starting-point in thinking about the passing technique. Partly the reason lies in the internal logic of the volleyball game. However, natural individual movement and self-expression are often forgotten key factors in discussions like these.