This is the second post in a series on communicating on-court. For the first part, see here.

As a coach, the oft-used comment “talk it up” is just not useful.

If you want your teams to communicate (“talk”) then you have to train your teams to do it. If you have not trained your team to do something a 1,000 times in practice, then you have no right to expect it to appear on court in a match. You certainly do not have a hope in hell of it occurring in a pressure situation.

Talking is a habit – just like getting outside the court to spike – and it has to be taught so that it becomes a player’s habit (hopefully, a lifelong one).

Having the wrong people saying the right things is also not helpful in games.

What does this mean? Examples are many, and could include the libero calling “free ball” when the setter has not made the same decision and has not penetrated into the front court, or a loud enthusiastic call of “out” by the team mate who happens to be in the worst part of the court to make a good call.

Step 1

As a coach, it is your job to work out what communication you need your players to involve themselves with on the court. Then you have to work out who in the team is responsible for that communication.

Having half the team calling “out” with the other half calling “in” is just as bad as nobody in the team calling anything. In my last post I gave you a list of key volleyball words and who I thought should be responsible for using them.

Step 2

You need to have a discussion with your team on why communication is important. If your team is not willing to buy into this, then get another team.

Work out with each player in your team what calls do they make ALL THE TIME. If they make three calls instinctively, then go through the list and see if they can add a fourth call. If a player does not make any calls, then work hard with them so that they at the end of the month are making at least one call.

Step 3

You then have to manufacture wash drills so as to test your team’s lines of communication.

Do not worry about the score. If your team is young, base the score on good calls by the appropriate person. Take points off a team if the responsible player does not do their job. I used to give a good call by a player 2 points and non-calls by a player minus 1 point. That way we are rewarding good behaviours or, as John Kessel says, “catching the players doing something right, and telling them.”

It will take at least four weeks of relentless work by you as the coach for your team to pick up the “good talk” habit. The good thing is that most players, once making some good calls, will have this habit for life. However, do not rest there. There are always more and better quality calls that can be made.

Good Luck and Good Coaching.