Developing Soft Skills of Volleyball 

Soft skills are the skills of volleyball that involve processing information, anticipating the opponent, and reacting accurately.

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills of Volleyball

Hard skills are the technical skills of volleyball.

When a coach uses cues for passing such as bend your knees, face the ball, angle the arms toward the target, etc the type of skill the coach is referring to is "hard skills".

When a coach says to watch the server, watch the contact, read the flight of the ball... the coach is referring to the "soft skills" need to make a successful play.

It's important to know what skills your team needs to improve.

Skills of Volleyball

What should you focus on? Hard skills or soft skills?

The first thing to do is determine whether you need to improve hard skills or soft skills.

The following are signs that you need to improve soft skills.

  • Committing too soon. Most players that don't anticipate well tend to commit too early. This means getting in position too early and being out of rhythm when making the play. 

  • Bad read on the serve. Do you have trouble identifying a ball that has topspin? Do you recognize when the ball is floating? The better you are at reading the ball, the easier it will be to make the play.

  • Reacting late and poor communication in serve receive. Do a lot of balls drop between teammates in serve receive? Do you communicate poorly with teammates? Does your team play a lot of balls that are going out of bounds? Do you run into your teammates when trying to pass? All of these are signs of poor "soft skills".

  • Complaining about sets. A hitter that can't adjust well to a bad set will often blame the setter. You likely need to improve your soft skills if you have a hard time adjusting to poorly set balls. If your soft skills are poor, you will have trouble getting in correct position to make the play. 

The following are signs you need to focus on training individual (hard) skills.

  • Your skills are sloppy or unorthodox. Do your skills look unorthodox compared to other players? A big part to becoming a great volleyball player is knowing what "good" is. If you don't know what good skills are then you won't deliberately develop good skill.

    Many coaches and players make the mistake of playing volleyball without first focusing on developing skills. In the long run, lack of hard skills leads to bad habits. Lack of skill development limits progress and keeps players from advancing to higher levels of play.

  • Poor skill execution on easy plays. Even though you get in position, do you still have trouble making a successful play? Often players will develop really good soft skills just by playing a lot of volleyball. These players tend to be good at getting in position. The problem with playing all the time and not focusing on "skill" is that when players do get in position, they can't make the play because of poor technique.

  • Are you a setter that gets called for many double contacts? Even though you can get in position to set, do you still have trouble setting? It won't matter how good you are at getting in position if you can't finish the play.

  • Are you a hitter that makes a lot of hitting errors? You've probably noticed that the more picky a hitter is, the more they need to work on soft skills. The better a hitter is at adjusting to sets, the more they have already developed soft skills.

    If a hitter adjusts well to inconsistent sets and is still making errors, this is a sign the player needs to focus more on hitting technique.

Often you'll see teams win "ugly". Even though the team hasn't developed the technical skills of volleyball (goofy footed approach, poor ball handling by the setter, attackers hitting the ball flat and deep out of bounds, elbow bent or ball contacted outside of the body when spiked, etc)... a team will often figure out a way to win because they have developed soft skills.

Soft skills help you get in position to make the play. Hard skills help the play look good (also more accurate and consistent plays).

Drills for the Soft Skills of Volleyball

It's often said the best drills involve pass, set, hit.

For drills, to effectively improve soft skills, the key is what you focus on leading up to the skill you're practicing.

For example, when practicing serve receive, it's important to pass a ball coming from a server. 

So you if you want to be a better passer, then practice passing a served ball.

If you want to improve your hitting, then practice hitting a set ball.

If you're a setter and want to improve your setting skills, then practice setting a ball that's being passed.

Skills within Drills

It's true that the best drills are game-like, but it's also important to not forget about technique.

The best players focus on technique within the drill. Basically, focusing on developing hard skills within the soft skills of volleyball.

Once a player has learned the importance of focusing on technique while playing the game, the player will now notice their own errors and make adjustments while playing.

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