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Volleyball Training Journal issue 013
May 06, 2008

Anticipation and the Importance of Playing Doubles




Anticipation may be the one attribute that separates great players from everybody else.

Anticipation is so important because the ability to anticipate makes playing so much easier.

If you can anticipate what your opponent is going to do next, you can better prepare for how you defend them. 

Understanding opponent strengths and weaknesses

A very common mistake players make is not considering their opponents abilities. It's very common for players to just react to the play that's happening without really being prepared to make plays.

If you are playing against someone that constantly overpasses the ball every time they are served short, you should be anticipating the overpass. In other words, it shouldn't catch you by surprise when the ball is sent over the net.

An example of anticipating a strength would be anticipating a hard cross court hit. For instance, if you were playing against someone that loves to crush the ball hard cross court whenever they get a good set, as a defender you should be ready to anticipate this hit.

Watch for what players are really good at. If a player is unstoppable at something (for instance, no one can stop their cross court hit), use this knowledge to your advantage. If you know what players are really good at, this makes them predictable.

If a player hits the ball the same way over and over again, and they are never stopped, then they are going to continue to do what's successful. So then they are very likely to do it again and again because no one can stop them. This makes them very predictable. If you are able to predict what your opponent is going to do, this makes making plays much easier.

There are many game situations like this that if you are prepared for and know what to watch for, you can better anticipate the situation and make great plays look easy.

The ability to anticipate makes everything much easier. Being able to anticipate well helps you both physically and mentally.

It even helps to anticipate your teammates. For instance, you might see your teammate get set tight to the net. You could then anticipate her getting blocked. By anticipating the block, you are then better prepared to cover the court for the block.

Or you may see a teammate get served a really tough serve. You can anticipate where the ball is going to be passed and help out to keep the ball in play.

You should be constantly working on anticipating everything.

The better you are able to anticipate, the easier it is to get in good position to help out.

The importance of playing doubles

I believe everyone should be using doubles to get better at playing 6's.

Playing doubles volleyball is a great way to learn anticipation. When you play doubles, you are constantly trying to anticipate your opponent.

In my opinion, it's much easier to learn anticipation when playing doubles rather than just playing 6's because there is a lot less going on.

You only have two opponents to prepare for instead of 6. There are only two players to study...only two players to learn their strengths and weaknesses.

You can very quickly figure out which player of the two is the weakest passer. In sixes, it may not be as obvious because you can't necessarily serve the same player time and time again because teammates can hide them (for example, if a player is having trouble passing, teammates can step in and pass for them).

In doubles, you can pick on a player and you know fairly quickly how well they pass. At the same time you are picking on them with your serves, you can see if they are a good hitter, because if they are getting served, then they are going to get set to hit.

There are many reasons to play doubles other than just learning to anticipate.

Doubles is great for developing all volleyball skills - hitting, passing, serving, blocking, digging, setting, etc.

If when you play on your indoor team, if all you get to do is play across the front row and never get to pass across the back, you could play doubles which will give you experience passing.

In doubles it's just you and your partner receiving the serve. This is great because you get to work on passing. If you can't pass very well, you're going get in a lot of reps passing because your opponent will likely serve you. :-)

Also, if you want to work on hitting, then you can take up most of the court during serve receive. This means you pass, your partner sets you, and you get to hit.

Or if you want to work on blocking, you can go up to the net to block in every rotation while your partner plays defense behind you.

If you want to work on your hands, doubles is great because every time your partner get's served, you become the setter. Playing doubles forces everyone to become good setters.

Doubles is also great for learning how to serve. With only two people on the team, you get to serve every other rotation. This means more serving repetitions for you.

Doubles is also great for learning to be creative on the court.

When you go back to serve, you can play around with different serving techniques or philosophies. You can work on different serves (floaters, top spin, side spin, serving short or deep, make players move to their left or to their right, etc).

Also, doubles is a great time to be creative with your hitting. You can work on different shots (cut shots, roll shots, pokes, cross court hits, line hits, etc).

I think doubles is very important for learning how to play smarter volleyball. Doubles makes you a smarter player because you develop all the skills needed in volleyball and the skills you need to be a more creative and deceptive player. You also learn how to anticipate your opponent and even anticipate your teammates making plays which makes the game so much easier.

Doubles training should definitely be used for learning anticipation and also developing the skills to be a more creative and deceptive player.

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