Data-Driven: Using Volleyball Stats to Drive Success

Stats are a great way to dis­cov­er insights you might have pre­vi­ous­ly missed about your team. Here are the most impor­tant num­bers to keep an eye on.

Data-Driven: Using Volleyball Stats to Drive Success

Stats are a great way to dis­cov­er insights you might have pre­vi­ous­ly missed about your team. Here are the most impor­tant num­bers to keep an eye on.

Data is becom­ing an increas­ing­ly impor­tant part of vol­ley­ball. Coaches now comb through hun­dreds of stats after each match, try­ing to find any new insight to improve their teams.

Most suc­cess­ful vol­ley­ball teams usu­al­ly excel in two key areas — lim­it­ing their num­ber of unforced errors and win­ning the serve-and-pass bat­tle. Keep an eye on these next few stats to ensure you’re on the right track.

Hitting Percentage

Kills are a glam­our stat, a num­ber fans and play­ers love to mon­i­tor. But hit­ting per­cent­age is the num­ber that should be mon­i­tored because it’s more telling of over­all efficiency.

Hitting per­cent­age is cal­cu­lat­ed by total­ing kills, sub­tract­ing the hit­ting errors, then divid­ing that num­ber by the total num­ber of attempts.

What makes this stat so impor­tant? Many times, the smartest play is hit­ting a con­trolled shot instead of swing­ing for a kill. Picture an out-of-sys­tem play with the set being low and off the net. If your team empha­sizes kills over hit­ting per­cent­age, play­ers feel they need to swing for a kill rather than keep the ball in play and trust their defense. This can result in unforced errors and free points for the oth­er team.

Each posi­tion should have a dif­fer­ent hit­ting per­cent­age goal based on the qual­i­ty of sets they’re get­ting. Here are some marks to shoot for:

  • Outside/​Opposite Goal: .250
  • Middle Blockers Goal: .450
  • Team Goal: .300

Serving Percentage

This stat mea­sures your team’s abil­i­ty to serve the ball in play. It’s cal­cu­lat­ed by tak­ing the num­ber of serves in play, sub­tract­ing the serv­ing errors, and divid­ing by total attempt­ed serves. For devel­op­ing teams, this is a per­fect stat to get a han­dle on.

An opti­mal tar­get for a high school team should be a serv­ing per­cent­age above 90 per­cent with a serv­ing num­ber below two.

Winning the serve-pass game is a recipe for vic­to­ry. Passing is a key skill because it dic­tates your team’s abil­i­ty to run a suc­cess­ful offen­sive. Serving is also a crit­i­cal part of momen­tum and over­all point scor­ing. It’s very help­ful to under­stand how the two skills are connected. 

Pass-qual­i­ty and serve-qual­i­ty help you bet­ter assess how well your play­ers per­form in these skills over­all. Although there are a few iter­a­tions of pass­ing scales, the pass­ing score will always dic­tate the serv­ing score. In the exam­ples below, you’ll notice the rat­ing giv­en for a sin­gle serve and the result pass add up to a total of four points.

Pass Quality Rating

Use this stat to assess how well an indi­vid­ual play­er pass­es a serve. For most club and high school teams, each pass is rat­ed on a scale of 0 – 3. The qual­i­ty of the pass is based on the num­ber of front row offen­sive oppor­tu­ni­ties avail­able to the set­ter (e.g., per­fect pass, all hit­ters are avail­able). Both the loca­tion and height of the pass are tak­en into account.

  • 0 points = Service recep­tion error
  • 1 point = Poor pass or overpass
  • 2 points = Good pass
  • 3 points = Perfect pass

To improve your team’s pass­ing num­ber, it’s impor­tant to elim­i­nate ser­vice recep­tion errors and focus on incre­men­tal improve­ments. Your pass­ing num­ber will direct­ly affect your team’s side-out per­cent­age, hit­ting per­cent­age and chances of winning.

Serve Quality Rating

This one mea­sures the qual­i­ty of each serve based on the result of the opponent’s pass. The low­er the num­ber, the bet­ter. The rat­ing scale goes from 0 – 4:

  • 0 pts = Service error
  • 1 pt = Opponent per­fect pass 
  • 2 pts = Opponent good pass
  • 3 pts = Opponent poor pass or overpass
  • 4 pts = Service ace

Elite teams should focus on serve qual­i­ty rat­ing and aim to get their oppo­nent out of sys­tem. The qual­i­ty of an oppos­ing team’s pass­es often direct­ly impacts their abil­i­ty to side-out. Limiting their hit­ting options by forc­ing one and two-point pass­es allows your block­ers to focus on few­er attack options, which will improve your defense and your chances of win­ning more points.

As a coach, your chal­lenge is to fig­ure out a win­ning for­mu­la for your team. This is just a taste of all the stats vol­ley­ball coach­es can keep an eye on. But if you start by incor­po­rat­ing these into your review process, you’ll get a more objec­tive view of per­for­mance and can use that to help your team improve.

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