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Playing Volleyball: Top 5 Reasons Why Communication Is Key

Communication on the court is key in volleyball. I've always said that refusing to talk on the court is like playing volleyball with a blindfold on. How is anyone going to know "who" is going to do "what" if no one is talking about anything.

I first learned how important "on the court" communication was in college as a Lady Vol while playing for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In high school I didn't talk much on the court because I knew I was supposed to get the ball the majority of the time. Well that didn't work as a freshman in college and all the upperclassmen let me know very quickly that that wasn't how it was going to be. No matter what level you play...players can't read each other's minds nor is there any time during a game to guess whether you are bringing an off the court problem on the court and since volleyball isn't an individual sport keeping things to yourself does not help the team.

It was one of the most important lessons I ever learned in volleyball and I remembered it throughout my entire professional indoor volleyball and beach volleyball career.

Teammates should always talk to each other and direct traffic among themselves. There are many, many situations in which players who talk to each other avoid problems of confusion, indecision and surprise on the court. I learned this lesson from some of the best players and coaches to play the game so now I'm passing this information on to you.

Here are a few situations that may not happen often but happen at least once a match in which communication with teammates can help solve a problem before it happens.

1. Digging the Off the Court, Angle, Down Ball.

When a down ball is being hit from way off either the right side or left side of the court...past the antennas...the only way it can be hit back into the court is at a cross court angle. Since there is no way the down ball attacker can hit the line without hitting the antenna why stay and block or defend the line?

There are two things players can be letting each other know...a) "Down Ball" b) but more importantly "Dig Cross Court". By yelling "Dig Cross court' or " Dig the Angle" the defense should shift a few feet to the right or left depending on where the ball is coming from and quickly defend the part of the court that makes sense that the ball will come to...which is cross court. If you are concentrating on how the play is developing You can learn to call out what is going to happen before it happens.

Many times in club, high school and some in college when this situation occurs I've seen a defender or two is left defending a part of the court that the ball will never come to...wasting time, energy and manpower. By talking about what the hitter is doing the whole team knows that it will be useless to have anybody defending down the line and that they all need to shift to dig the cross court ball.

2. As soon as you see that the third hit over is going to be a free ball.

This may seem obvious but consider this example. Many times a player has to turn their back to play a ball whether they are running off the court or not. Especially if this is the third contact, the minute the player bends their knees with their back turned...You Yell "free ball" when you know its about to come over. The sooner you do this the sooner your team can transition back into a free ball defense. But if you wait until the player has already contacted the ball AND its on its way over the have wasted precious time that could have been used to ALREADY be in position so you could run a faster offense and catch the opposing team off guard. Learn to watch the arm position of the attacker...if there arms are below their waist...then couldn't possibly be attacking the ball so Call the free ball as soon as you can.

3. When You Understand What Play the Other Team is Running.

Telling Secrets are okay in Offense but secrets don't exist on defense. Call out what play you see developing. A lot of people are quiet in defense and assume that everybody sees the same thing. Remember...people always interpret what they see differently...just ask a cop. Teammates need to be able to "see" or interpret the same thing the same say. Since this doesn't always happen if you see a play developing Call it out so everyone knows what YOU see developing. If you have 3-4-5 voices all calling the same thing...then everyone knows that everybody else is seeing the same play. This way its easier to see and make adjustments during the pauses in the game because no one is guessing about what's on the other person's mind.

4. When the setter is front row.

Too many setters make too many points especially when they are front row and I think for the majority of the time its not because they are crafty its because opposing teams aren't talking about them when they rotate up to the front.

Usually you hear one middle blocker and one setter say "Front row setter" as if it only means something to these two players. But since it's usually the back row defenders that have to dig the setter's tip attack it is really, really effective if five or six voices talk about the fact that she is right front or middle front or wherever she is and then in addition one blocker should say "I got the setter" out loud right at the net so the setter will think twice about tipping because now she knows that everybody on the team is AWARE of where she is on the court. Get into that opposing setter's head by making her/him think twice about attacking anything while she is in the front row.

5. Anticipating When a Hitter Will Tip.

The more you play the more you will be able to watch the movement of an opposing hitter's arm and better identify what and where they are going to hit. A good hitter will disguise their tip by doing the same spike arm movement then slowing down their wrist movement at the very last second to tip.

Always, always call out when you see the tip to your teammates. When I play, since "tip" is such a short word I can say it 6 or 7 times before it hits the ground. I've learned that it takes a second for people to react to what is happening so I repeat the word over and over again so it gets in my teammates minds what is going on.

A very good way of learning to recognize when a player is going to tip is when you are "Peppering" with your partner in warm ups in practice and in games. Make sure to mix up your "attack" in Pepper so that you hit five balls then you tip, then you hit 3 balls then you tip. Mixing up the attack is mimicking what actually happens in a volleyball game. You don't want to get into a comfortable rhythm doing your pepper. Both partners should challenge each other so neither knows what "attack" is going to come next. So ultimately, the faster you recognize when someone is going to tip...the faster you can communicate this to your teammates.

About the Author:

April Chapple is a former USA Womens National Team member and Volleyball Professional who created the first virtual volleyball mentoring community with volleyball skills,coaching and information sites including and for all females who play.

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