Plan Your Attack: Blocking Strategies

No mat­ter your team’s lev­el of play, work­ing on block­ing tech­nique and strate­gies is impor­tant. We’ll cov­er both in the last of our six-part series.

Plan Your Attack: Blocking Strategies

No mat­ter your team’s lev­el of play, work­ing on block­ing tech­nique and strate­gies is impor­tant. We’ll cov­er both in the last of our six-part series.

How effec­tive are your team’s block­ers? Is block­ing some­thing your ath­letes do because it’s what they’re sup­posed to do? Or are they inten­tion­al about the moves they’re mak­ing? After all, blocks are impor­tant — they build momen­tum quick­ly and allow you to fun­nel balls to your best defend­ers, while also forc­ing hit­ters to mix in dif­fer­ent shots.

In the final blog of our series with The Art of Coaching Volleyball, we’ll show you how to iden­ti­fy weak­ness­es in your team’s front row defense, then dive into how coach­es at Stanford and the University of Illinois teach their out­sides and mid­dles to have a more effec­tive pres­ence at the net.

The Problem

In your last match, you got swept. So you go to your reports on Hudl to dig into the data and see what went wrong. Your team won the serve-pass game, aver­ag­ing a 90 per­cent serv­ing per­cent­age and four aces per set. But hit­ting was anoth­er sto­ry. Your oppo­nent had a .250 hit­ting per­cent­age and their mid­dle had a .430 hit­ting per­cent­age on her own. How did that hap­pen? Turn to your attack ten­den­cies report to find out.

The Diagnosis

You select your oppo­nent to see their attack­ing strengths. To find out what went well for the oppos­ing mid­dle, you fil­ter by her name. Some of her kills came from 1’s and 3’s, but a major­i­ty of the blue lines are hap­pened behind the set­ter. You real­ize your mid­dle and out­side need to do a bet­ter job of antic­i­pat­ing the hitter’s approach so they’re up and press­ing over the net early.

Next, you fil­ter by your opponent’s out­side who boast­ed a .300 hit­ting per­cent­age. It doesn’t look like she was doing any­thing too tricky. Not a lot of deep line shots or even hard angle attacks. Most of her kills were land­ing in the mid­dle back, which tells you your mid­dle wasn’t clos­ing the block.

The Solution

There are two prob­lems to solve. First, your out­side and mid­dle need quick­er reac­tions and ear­li­er move­ments in order to stop the mid­dle. The drill below from the USA Youth National team and the University of Illinois can help. Once you get your front row focus­ing on the hitter’s approach, rather than the ball, it’ll make all the difference.

Then you need to work on clos­ing the block on the out­side. In this drill from for­mer Stanford head coach John Dunning, you’ll learn how to teach your mid­dle the art of jump block­ing. That way they’ll know what to do when they can’t get their feet all the way there or they need to adapt to a fast set.

Want to see more drills and coach­ing tips? Head over to The Art of Coaching Volleyball to start learning.