By: Mas Shibata
William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director in Holyoke, Massachusetts, came up with the idea for Volleyball, originally called Mintonette, in 1895. On July 7th, 1896 at Springfield College, the first game of "volleyball" was played.
In researching on the internet, Karen Dahlgren Schonewise playing with the University of Nebraska is believed to be the first college player to run the slide attack in 1986. An article on the Cal website by Jonathan Okanes states that Karen Schonewise, a two- time All-American at Nebraska played with the U.S. Junior National Team at the World University Games and noticed a team from Korea running a version of what is now known as the slide play and brought it back to Nebraska after her sophomore season. I was not able to locate a source of when it was introduced and used internationally for the first time. It is interesting that in the 121 years of volleyball as a sport, the slide attack in the USA has only been used for approximately 30 years.
As a general observation, an outside hitter, middle blocker, and opposites can have relatively similar approaches and armswings when they attack jumping off of two feet to attack. The slide attack is a uniquely different footwork approach leading to a one leg attack jump to the set ball. Just as there are a few common elements in technique for the two-foot approach and armswing, an attempt will be made to identify the common key elements in slide hitters.
In my earliest recollections of hearing other coaches talk about the slide attack in the early 90’s, some key teaching mantras were to take a fake step in toward the net and then chase the ball to the outside with an approach run parallel to the net to attack. There has definitely been an evolution of the slide even in its relatively short history.
Slide Approach Analysis
As a starting point for discussion, a video and photo sequence of middle blocker Eda Erdem Dündar of Turkey is shown for an observation and analysis.
Eda Erdem Dündar’s slide approach is fairly typical of the other players that I have observed for this article. The vast majority of players have a similar running approach technique. I will be referring to this specific technique as the “Run Approach” in this article. The arms and legs are coordinated in a pure running sequence. From the entire Row 1 of the photo sequence up to the Row 2 – Frame 1 photo, you can see the running motion of Erdem. The natural motion serves to promote and enhance speed in the approach.
Other examples of the slide Run Approach are shown as a confirmation of this technique as a fairly common element in the slide attack. The first video and photo sequence shows Foluke Akinradewo of the USA with her slide approach.
The video and photo sequence of the slide Run Approach for Simona Gioli of Italy is presented for observation and analysis.
Martina Guiggi of Italy executes her Slide Run Approach technique below.
A video and photo analysis of Robin De Kruijf of the Netherlands displays her Slide Run Approach mechanics.
There are obviously other approach techniques with individual tweaks that are employed by other international players. The next video and photo sequence shows Quinta Steenbergen of the Netherlands using what I refer to as an “Arm Drag” slide approach. I call it an Arm Drag as the hitting arm is extended back behind the hitter in a dragging motion before the last step of the slide approach jump.
Based upon my observations, there are many more variations of the slide approach at the club and high school level than there are at the international level. I have observed many club players who are learning the slide begin their approaches similar to the technique they use for a two foot approach jump. Both of their arms are extended out in front of their bodies and are both extended backwards and swung forward during the approach steps prior to the final left leg approach jump for the slide attack.
Slide Approach Take Off Analysis
At the conclusion of the approach run and before the final left foot take off, are there additional common core components that are used for the slide attack? How are the legs used to jump, and what is the configuration and dynamics of the armswing?
Addressing these questions in the order of their occurrence, the next common element of note would be a right “Knee Drive” for the slide approach jump. Eda Erdem Dündar of Turkey demonstrates how an aggressive and dynamic Knee Drive is used in the slide attack.
When training the slide approach, I often refer to the movement as a high knee skip as a descriptor. Erdem Dündar drives her knee both up and inward driving her right hip back into the court. The degree of the inward knee drive would be dependent upon the location of the set. An inside set would require a more aggressive inward knee drive to get the hitting shoulder closer to the preferred contact point. Note in the middle, side view photo sequence, that the point of the knee is driven up and in front of the body. Some players that often drift out of the court toward the net poles pick up their knees but end up kicking their foot backwards behind them and do not get their right hip turning back towards the court. While the approach jump is off of one foot, encourage your players to land on two feet as much as possible for safety precautions.
Slide Armswing Analysis
In Article 1 of the Critical Analysis of Attacking Series, I focused on and identified what I called the “Armswing Load Position” for a two-foot approach jump which is used by a majority of attackers in their armswings. The Armswing Load Position was described as when the elbow is pulled back and is no longer moving downward or upward before the elbow begins traveling upward to lead the arm toward contact with the ball. I have compiled a freeze frame photograph collage of sixteen randomly selected professional international players exhibiting this Armswing Load Position for an observation and analysis.
I would opine that the similarities are far more prevalent than the differences. There are obvious subtle differences in the amount of knee drive and in the armswing angles of the arms. As for the commonalities, the point of the hitting elbow is pulled to a position behind the hitter’s back with the left shoulder leading and the point of the knee drive is forward in front of the hitter’s body.
Armswing Load Preparation Analysis
Is there a specific method used by the attackers in the Armswing Load Comparison Analysis photo collage to get to their load positions? Presented below are examples of how some of the Armswing Load postures were arrived at. Photo sequences of Eda Erdem Dündar of Turkey, Simona Gioli of Italy, Martina Guiggi of Italy, Foluke Akinradewo of the USA, Robin De Kruijf of the Netherlands, and Quinta Steenbergen of the Netherlands, respectively, are displayed for an analysis of techniques used in preparing their armswings.
I have attempted to organize the photo sequences to show a progressively increasing arc of the arms away from the body to get to their Armswing Load Positions. The first sequence shows Eda Erdem Dündar begin to initially lift her arm up in front of her body and pulling it up and back into the Load Position. Simona Gioli has a quicker and more compact armswing where she initially swings her hand down to her right hip before her elbow pull to the Load Position. In the subsequent three sequences by Guiggi, Akinradewo and De Kruijf, the motions are fairly similar with the exception being that the arcs of their arms begin to extend an incrementally further distance away from and outside of the body before the arms are set into their Load Positions. Quinta Steenbergen has the most unique motion among these players beginning with her slide run approach and arm drag technique. She does reinforce the idea that you can get to the same place using a different modus operandi. The Frame 2 photo of Eda Erdem Dündar and the Frame 4 photo of Quinta Steenbergen put them in a similar posture to complete their armswing contact but arrived at these positions utilizing different motions.
Court Positioning, Timing & Approach Angle Analysis
My earliest recollections of coaches training the slide attack were for the player to load somewhere near the ten foot line and the center of the court. I am sure not every coach was teaching an identical Slide Loading Area with this philosophy but it was fairly prevalent at the club level in the 1990’s when I was beginning to learn the sport. With the current trend toward the faster offenses, how has the speed of the game influenced the slide attack at the highest levels? What does transition footwork look like? Where does the hitter transition to on the court? What is the timing involved of the attack run? What is the preferred approach angle to hit the ball?
The video below shows how Olympian Foluke Akinradewo of the USA runs the slide attack in a serve receive situation from the left front position. Just as there is primarily a three or four step approach footwork pattern used in the two foot jump approach, there is also a transition load position followed primarily by a three or four step approach for the slide attack. For analysis purposes of this article, the focus will be on the final three steps of the slide approach.
The sequence for observation and analysis would be transition footwork toward the middle of the court, a shuffle step to the approach load area, and the approach run and attack. Care should be taken not to take one example of anything and use it as the definitive template of teaching technique. Every situation will have some nuance that will require a different footwork pattern or a timing adjustment of some kind. Should a recurring pattern develop amongst different players in similar situations, it would definitely influence inclusion or even exclusion, into a coaching philosophy or teaching a specific technique.
One recurring pattern in my observations of international players is that the load area to begin a three-step approach for the slide attack is approximately twelve feet off the net and approximately ten feet from the sideline. The second or right foot step is typically near the ten foot line and the final left foot plant jump is an adjustment with the knee drive directing the shoulder toward the ball. Another recurring pattern regarding the timing of the approach is that because of the increased speed in which the slide is being run internationally, the set is being released by the setter on or immediately after the attacker’s second right-step foot plant has left the ground and before the final left foot plant.
Compare and contrast the slide technique of Olympian Thaisa Menezes of Brazil. Menezes is also in a left front serve receive situation but is starting farther off the net near the ten foot line. This necessitates a different transition and approach pattern than Foluke Akinradewo to get to her preferred loading area.
The next two videos provide a different view of the approach and timing for the slide attack by Eda Erdem Dündar and Robin De Kruijf. Freeze frame photos are inserted to show the timing of the slide approach steps in relation to the release of the set.
From this back view angle, you are able to see that the loading area of the attackers to begin the approach is approximately ten feet from the sideline and that the set does not get outside of the attacker’s hitting shoulder. Another common occurrence among players is what I refer to as a “Banana Shape” approach to the set ball rather than a straight line pattern. The approach angle from the Load Area to ball contact appears to be in the forty-five degree range.
Given the relatively short history of the slide attack in the sport of volleyball, the rapid transformation to the faster tempo has been dramatic. Obviously, not everyone will be able to perform at the level and speed of international players, but the concepts and philosophies that make it possible to be successful can be incorporated at the earliest levels of learning the slide attack. Encouraging your players to use a natural running motion for the approach, staying in front of or outside of the set ball, using an aggressive knee drive, and landing on two feet are common core components incorporated into the techniques used by most accomplished players at any level.
Many younger players, and even some older and more advanced players, are reluctant to get out of their comfort zone and attempt to run the slide attack. Some athletes with experience in sports involving a throwing motion of some kind will actually have a more technically efficient slide attack armswing than a two foot approach jump attack armswing. Initiating and introducing progressions for the slide attack approach and armswing without the timing component would serve to encourage its use.
Quite possibly, the least utilized out of system attack is the slide set. How many times have you seen your middle been signaled for a 1 Set or a 3 Set only to become a spectator on an out-of-system pass or dig? Simple footwork pattern adjustments would allow for a slide attack in these situations. A little extra time spent in training these circumstances could prove to be very beneficial for your team’s success. Eda Erdem Dündar demonstrates how to adjust her approach and timing to score in an out-of-system serve receive situation.