Life Outside My Cube

My life, a work in progress.

Six Against the World

“Is volleyball all about skill?” That’s was the question of the evening as we watched our friends play a tough tournament set. On the surface, I quickly answered “Yes,” but the question was meant to probe a bit deeper. One aspect of the question was was concerned with God’s involvement in all our lives. Another aspect was concerned with individual skills.

An individual’s skill level will certainly help a team win, and a single stand-out player may win a few points on his own. Even the player who “takes charge” of the court, nudging aside weaker players just to gain a point is can help the team to win a game. But overall, stand-out players or a ball hoggers are detrimental to the team. You see, the greatest “win” on the court is when the whole team is working together and utilizing synergy to play at a higher level.

Volleyball is a fantastic game for emphasizing team play and cooperation. A , but a really good team working together is difficult to beat. A well-executed play involves different skills; each member of the team can participate in their own way, from the obvious pass, set and spike to the fakes and defensive moves. Each play involves everyone in the team, and requires different skills from each person. The beauty of rotations is that over time, each player has time at each position and will tend to excel at each skill needed.

Often, however, a player that has certain natural – or earned – abilities will tend to gravitate toward certain positions. Despite rotations, that person may switch positions after the serve in order to support or replace a weaker player at another position. For example, a short person without a high vertical jump may lean toward the passing positions. If this is done too often, that person will not be able to properly practice setting, spiking or blocking skills, unlike those teammates that occupy those positions regularly. If then a setter, for example, is injured or not available for a play, that passer may not be able to substitute at an appropriate level.

There will always be players that excel at certain positions – spikers, for example, where physical height or a high vertical is an enormous advantage. But it would be unwise for those players to spike exclusively – they may not be in a position to do so on each play, or each part of a play. A collection of players who excel at each position is a formidable team – flexible and dynamic with few weak spots the opponent can take advantage of. As everyone contributes to each position, I believe the team as a whole performs better than one or more stand-out players could on a weaker team. This synergy is the kind of skill that makes a competitive team.

In practice play, a team should be focused on increasing all players’ skill levels at each position. I believe that a team is as good as its weakest player, so that player should command a larger proportion of individual attention during practice. I also believe a team’s performance is as good as its weakest skills, so drills that improve those skills should command a larger proportion of time in practice. Drills and skills practice may seem boring compared to game play, but it’s essential for the proper growth of a competitive team.

I also believe that there is no “i” in team. Ball-hoggers have no place on a volleyball team. That kind of attitude demonstrates self-interest and a lack of concern for the team and other team members. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others”


2 responses to “Six Against the World

  1. Jan May 2, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Last night at the final volleyball game of the league you were rooting for the underdog of the match to win. Per our conversation 2 weeks ago, if volleyball is all about skill and the Supernatural cannot be involved, then, just to be fair, you have to say that chance cannot be involved in a game either. If it is all about skill, then what sense does it make that a team that is going into the final round ranked #9 should come out the winner against a team ranked #1 that has regularly and deliberately played a better game? I’m calling you to consistency here.

  2. outsidemycube May 2, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Good question. In the first game of that match, I saw the #1 team make a huge number of mistakes, which allowed the #9 team to win. The second and third games were clearly dominated by the #1 team. In the end, I felt that the team with the most skill won the match. However, I think that a team can be energized by spectators, and it helps a team play up to the best of their ability (and avoid mistakes). It’s in that spirit that I was rooting for the underdogs.

    Is “chance” involved? Maybe we’d better come to a better understanding on that term before I comment, though on the surface, I’d say that while skill is the foundational element, an individual’s performance can be affected by many things (what they had for supper, who they argued with before the game, a crick in the shoulder) that affects the game play. Those could be attributed to “chance” I suppose.

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