Volleyball is all about positioning. The difference between getting the dig, making the pass, or stuffing the block is often a matter of inches. Fractions of inches even.
One of the most common mistakes we see in young players is they play themselves out of position. This usually happens for one of two reason. Either they are guessing where the ball is going to be, or they know where it’s going to be and they’re trying to time the ball.
What to do I mean by that? Simply put, they are trying to be where the ball is going to be at the exact moment the ball is going to be there. They are trying to meet the ball. We want them to beat the ball!
Considering the court is just 60 feet long (18 m), 30 feet wide (9 m) and the women’s net is 7 feet, 4 inches high (2.24 m) and good hitters can hit the ball upward of 55 mph (about 80 kph), that doesn’t leave a lot of time to think, making positioning that much more important. It also lowers the chances of meeting the ball that much lower.
The ideal is to beat the ball there. Be where you think it will be before it gets there. That’s not the same as guessing where the ball will be. We want to leave the guessing games for TV.
What we want is to be able to use the cues the hitter is giving us and move accordingly. Very few hitters can shape up to hit in one direction and hit in completely another without sacrificing either accuracy, or power, or both!
If we have good blockers in front of us, that’s something else we need to consider in the equation. If the blockers are doing their job, they should be able to take a large portion of the court away from the hitter. That makes your decision as a defender that much easier. How? All you have to do now is sit in the spaces the blockers have left for the hitter. Good blockers make good defenders better.
Once in position, even if you’re there early, you must be patient! Let the ball get to you. Resist the urge to reach for it. Doing so will lead to something ugly most of the time. As often as possible, we want to be stationary at the moment of contact. Even if that is the only moment we are stationary, that is the ideal. If we can’t get that, then we want to be calm from the waist up. No extra flailing. Stable and steady.
One of the hardest thing to learn in volleyball is patience. For a game of inches, you have more time than you think – if you are in position. Even when the hitter blasts one at you, if you are in position, the odds are good you will get the up. How playable it is after that, is another matter. Getting the up, however, is 95% of the battle. Being in position early gives you the best chance possible.