Don Patterson | AOC senior content manager
Watching just one approach and attack by former USC All-American Samantha Bricio is a valuable hitting lesson all by itself. So let’s watch. Here’s Bricio ripping from the left side of the net and former Stanford All American Cary Wendell Wallin narrating, telling us everything she likes about Bricio’s form.
Jim Stone, coach of the U.S. girls’ youth national team and former coach at Ohio State, says this: “I use the Bricio video a lot when I’m teaching kids to hit. I think she has perfect technique in terms of her upper body.”
An added bonus, says Stone, is that Bricio has never had shoulder problems. “I think part of that is because she incorporates so much of her upper body and her core rotationally that it takes a lot of stress off her arm.”
Shoulder ailments are something Stone sees all too often, especially at the juniors’ level.
“There’s a whole generation of players who walk around with ice bags on their shoulders because their shoulder is doing all the work,” he says. “Using good technique, (Bricio) is able to generate all of that power without putting a lot of stress on her shoulder.”
Keep in mind, Bricio carried a massive offensive load at USC. The Honda Award winner, who is from Guadalajara, Mexico, finished her collegiate career in 2015 with school records in kills (2,095), aces (301) and points (2,546.5). In her four years as a Trojan, she took a staggering 5,499 swings. That’s also a school record, and it supports Stone’s point that her fluid form made her durable as well as great.
Here are a few other things of note about Bricio’s hitting:
- Arms swing way back. Look how far behind her and how high her arms get when she’s making her approach. This allows for a bigger forward swing of the arms when she takes off, which propels her higher. “She really assists her lower body in the jumping motion by incorporating her upper body,” Stone says.
- Elbow points toward the ceiling. Coaches always talk about “high elbow,” but if you watch the slo-mo of Bricio, you see that her elbow is more than just high – it’s pointed upward while the lower half of her hitting arm is angled downward. “We tend to teach attacking incorrectly,” Stone says. “You hear coaches say, ‘Get your elbow up.’ So players, with good intentions, jump and get their elbow up. But if you watch Bricio, she gets her elbow back and it’s pointed to the ceiling before her hand starts to come through to the ball. Most kids don’t get themselves in that position.”
- Non-hitting arm points at the ball, then drives down when the spike motion begins, a technique that Wallin talks about in this video. “That helps cause torque in the body,” says former U.S. Olympic coach Terry Liskevych, citing an Isaac Newton principle that we’ve all heard in science class: “For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.”
This physics reference is just one more reminder of something that Bricio obviously gets and all volleyball players need to learn: Hitters with “a great arm” owe their success to a lot more than just their arm.
Don Patterson is the editor of DiG magazine and is the senior content director for Art of Coaching. Previously, he was a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times and an editor at CBS Sports.