After completing the Sport Science Analysis of Volleyball Series, I will be writing a series of continuing articles that will focus on a Critical Analysis of the Technical Skills of our sport. In the preparation of writing this series, a structure for presenting specific concepts and visual data for analysis has been an evolving process. Another element of this series which I am attempting to incorporate is to take advantage of the vast coaching and teaching experiences and biomechanical knowledge of the readers of The Art of Coaching Volleyball.
Access all the articles for this series here:
1) Establishing a Passing & Defensive Starting Posture
2) Efficient Movement & Balance in Passing and Defense
Characteristics of Critical Thinking
Wade (1995) identifies 8 characteristics of critical thinking. Critical thinking involves asking questions, defining a problem, examining evidence, analyzing assumptions and biases, avoiding emotional reasoning, avoiding oversimplification, considering other interpretations, and tolerating ambiguity.
Perhaps the simplest definition is offered by Beyer (1995): "Critical thinking... means making reasoned judgments." Beyer also offers the following thoughts:
- Dispositions: Critical thinkers are skeptical, open-minded, respect evidence and reasoning, look at different points of view, and will change positions when reason leads them to do so.
- Argument: Critical thinking involves identifying, evaluating, and constructing arguments.
- Point of View: Critical thinkers view phenomena from many different points of view.
WHAT techniques are we teaching and WHY are we teaching them?
The underlying premise of developing this series of articles is to pose questions to gain a logical and reasoned understanding about the skill techniques we ultimately elect to teach to our players.
Why do we teach the techniques that we do? I once heard someone in an interview say that he believed most people don’t know what they don’t know! He also stated that he believed people that go on to excel at the highest levels of their professions tend to know what they don’t know and attempt to answer those questions to improve their opportunities for future success. What I do know is that there are many far more experienced professionals than me to draw upon in every discipline comprising biomechanics, health & exercise science, teaching & learning theories, and coaching expertise to name a few. My personal belief is that most players initially teach skills the way they performed them or the way that they were coached to perform them. Coaches that tend to continue to improve their coaching knowledge and acumen are always seeking to find the best way to improve skill technique and all other aspects of their programs.
The two most important questions for me when deciding on how to teach technical skills are what techniques will I be teaching to players and understanding why I have elected to teach them a specific way. I firmly believe that all coaches in the position of authority to ultimately decide how they will teach skills technically to their players, teach them with the belief that it is the best way that they are aware of at the moment. I would have to say that there is not a skill technique that I have not tweaked or changed since I started coaching in 1990. Does that mean I was wrong in what I was teaching back in the day? My belief is that there are as many different ways to teach a skill as there are coaches. I have elected to tell each player I work with that what I teach may be different than what they have been taught in the past, but that does not mean that what they have been coached to do previously is the wrong way to perform a skill. It just means that there are different ways to accomplish the same skill.
I also believe that I should be able to explain the logic behind why I have elected to teach specific techniques and why I would like them to do it that way. I have found players tend to be more open to changing technique if there is an understanding of the logic behind what is being taught. I would also occasionally ask a player that was doing something different technically if it was explained to them why they were being asked to do it that specific way. I feel that these are situations for me to discern whether there may be a more logical way for me to approach a specific skill I hadn’t contemplated previously.
Developing a Philosophy of Teaching Skills
This subject alone should provoke a Critical Analysis of what we elect to teach based upon a players age and experience level. Should we be teaching a beginning 12 year old player, Freshman and Senior High School or Club Player, Collegiate Player and an Olympian the same skill techniques?
For purposes of this series of articles, my personal philosophy is that my expectations of a player should not be their limitations! I attempt to teach the same techniques to a 12 year old as I would a collegiate player. When they show that they are physically unable to execute at a specific level, adjust to what they are able to do at the moment. At what point in a player’s development does the speed of the game determine what you teach? Should it be different at all? An example of adjusting would be to match the transition speed of your training or the speed of initiating the ball to match that of your best competition level.
Identifying the Technical Common Denominators of Accomplished Players
It is my subjective opinion that there is a best way somewhere out there to perform specific skills technically. In my viewing of thousands of hours of video over the past 25 years, I have not found that video clip that shows every aspect of what my perception of what perfect technique would be. I could put together a composite of different players to create my vision of perfection, but it would be improbable to find “perfect technique” in a single execution of a skill. Therefore, in my observation and analysis of skill technique, I have evolved to focusing on what I perceive to be the major technical common denominators of many accomplished players for each specific skill. In any given skill, there may be somewhere between 1 to 5 common postures that most of the players emulate in their execution of the skill. In my training sessions, I will focus primarily on achieving these common denominators and not dwell on how they got to that point. As a caveat, I do believe there are some smaller details that players can focus on to help them get to a common denominator more efficiently. I would say try whatever you feel will be the most helpful to the player you are working with at the moment.
Methodology of Presenting Skills for a Critical Analysis
The primary focus of the following articles will be to identify some of my perceived common denominators through the use of Photographs and Video Analysis. I will attempt to provide as much objective information and data as possible which will hopefully provoke a critical analysis of a specific skill common denominator presented for analysis.
Over the years of coaching players of all age groups and skill levels in camps, club and college, I have found that the same key words, phrases or concepts are often interpreted in many different ways by the players you are speaking to. I will provide some statements that I often hear from coaches that are subject to interpretation by the players to perform.
A Critical Analysis by The Art of Coaching Volleyball Readers
As Stated on their website, The Art of Coaching Volleyball was formed to present diverse perspectives on volleyball techniques, tactics, drills, practice, physical conditioning and mental training. It is their firm belief that there are many ways to coach and many ways to teach this great sport. One of their goals is to stimulate you to think and to establish your own coaching philosophy.
In keeping with their overall philosophy, I am attempting to create a positive forum to take advantage of the experiences of the readers of The Art of Coaching Volleyball. If you would like to share your philosophy and opinion as to WHAT YOU TEACH AND WHY, VERSUS WHY YOU DON’T NECESSARILY AGREE WITH SOMEONE ELSE’S VIEWPOINT, I believe it could add substantially to the critical analysis process of each subject addressed. An attempt will be made to post replies that express only what you do and why it makes sense for you. If we all have a respect for everyone’s right to their opinions, I feel your contributions to a critical analysis could be very beneficial in helping to formulate and enhance our coaching philosophy and abilities.
Access all the articles for this series here: 1) Establishing a Passing & Defensive Starting Posture