Anticipating means doing in advance. This supposes knowledge of things to come. A player's training focuses in great part on the gathering and treatment of available information. Information about the ball, the opponent, the partners. This is what enables him to predict the scenario or at least to formulate valid hypotheses without neglecting the error possibilities.

Gestures technique does include this information gathering. Preparation postures, body organisation respond to this projection into the coming task. What the amateur spectator often calls "good reflexes" in fact the mere automation of technical skills integrating early and relevant information gathering. This can be very efficient in speed and precision.

Reflexes belong to other neural processes. We can se them in the protection reflexes when a ball arrives unexpectedly at a player. Anticipation is not a gift it's an organisation, it can be learned and developed.

We can make an exception when the available time to act (trajectory time) is inferior to the useful time. That is to say to the minimum time necessary for the brain, the nervous and muscle systems to process the information and produce an adequate response. This is the case for example with a handball goal keeper in many cases, with the return of the ultra fast first serves in tennis, and with the defence on certain spikes in volley-ball. In this case the player takes a piece of information upstream from the hit or the shoot (on the shooter's orientation, on his preparation, on his capacities and his habits) and makes a bet on the trajectory by starting off before the ball. This situation rarely concerns the pupils we target here in volley-ball.


Automation of a skill consists in changing it from a conscious operation, which largely mobilises our brain's capacity to process information, analyse and control, to an "automatic pilot" through simplified ways of controls, shorter and less costly. Anyone who can drive a car and remembers his first driving lesson realises that the first half hours of driving was infinitely more tiring and less performing than hours of driving by an experienced driver.

The automation of a skill makes it more precise, faster, more economical and allows freeing the attention to gather information on the surroundings. It is essential in volley-ball.

But an ability must remain adaptable within the variety of conditions under which it is exercised . Without this it is a stereotype creating more problems than it solves.


We talk of "supports" for the placement of the feet in volley-ball. This underlines the fact that from a biomechanical point of view the production of the forces applied to the ball in the hits depends on the position of the feet, of their orientation, on the possibilities opened by these supports to produce and orientate pushes and impulses.

The players and observers' focus on the contact with the ball brings systematically to under estimate this however fundamental aspect of the techniques. Whatever the action (service, reception, pass, block) we must make the effort to look down and observe the quality of the supports.

Beach volley

Beach volley as a six player game is a game form admitted to the Olympic games. It is played with two players on a slightly smaller sand court (8x8 m instead of 9x9 m). The ball is not quite as fast (0,2 bar of pressure instead of 0,3 bar). A match is played in 2 winning sets of 21 points.


We will often use the word "target" because it translates for the pupils the fundamental logic of the game whereas the term "court" is synonym, in collective sports, of 'playing and evolution space".

For the pupils it appears very efficient to present the volley-ball court with an analogy to the goal in handball generally close, of in football, except that the goal cage has been put on the ground! This is essential to move away from "I aim for the ball" to "I aim for the opponents goal with the ball".

This passage from the ball as a target to the court as a target is a fundamental step. Without this the skills develop like pretences that do not answer the real constraints of the game.


The technique corresponds to the ideal combination of efficiency principles and parameters. Players will often compensate a deficient parameter with another. It is even the aim sought after by the opponent to create conditions that are unfavourable to intervention on the ball.

For example the placement delay on an attack from the opponent places the player too far from the trajectory and stops him from using the optimal surface of both his forearms for a bump. He will then use a one armed bump les precise and less safe. Or, an inaccurate reception can bring the setter to execute a one handed pass. Or a spiker who places himself too close under the ball tries to hit while off balance backwards and corrects with his wrist.

However during the learning of systematic deficits (in particular on information gathering, preparation, start of movement) pupils start to adapt by elaborating exclusive compensation skills. In a way they are locking themselves in their initial mode of behaviour. To go back to the examples the player will always do one armed bumps even when he could play a two armed bump or even with two hands. For a spike he will place himself under the ball to recover his marks and his usual compensation modes.

It is the teacher or trainer's job to spot compensation behaviours and to create situations where faced with a variation of constraints the player establishes stable efficiency principles.

Game space

The game space is first of all defined by the target that is to say the court. With beginners it is merely a big rectangle separated in the middle by a net without particular meaning. Through training the perception of this game space gets more complex and takes meaning.

In defence from the position of the ball (in the three dimensions) we differentiate the zones directly threatened, those that are threatened at a later time or those that the opponent can't reach. We can be made to go and catch balls from our partners well outside the court.

In attack as well the players move around and take marks outside the court , particularly for the run-up to a spike.

Finally, if the attention grabbing element in the game space if the net for a beginner, we will focus on making the players more independent from this focus point and able to play at different distances from it.

Hitting space

This is how we call the space in which the player can efficiently intervene on the ball. With beginners it is a restricted zone close to him, above, in front of him in his visual field. He acts with little efficiency in front of his shoulders, at a height that runs from his extended arms to his chest.

The time and space markers of the trajectory, movement and hitting techniques will progressively increase this hitting space, forward, to the back, to the sides and the top (with impulses). This technical construction is not limited to hitting gestures but includes the player's rapid appreciation of the possibilities and intervention modes on the ball. This enables him to orient himself and act with correct timing. The hitting space is individual. It depends on the player's experience and resources, be they tactical, technical or physical.


The net is only an accessory whose function in the system can be summarised like this: "the role of the net is to make defence possible". This is why, during learning, the net can occasionally be lowered or replaced with other devices according to the level of the players without distorting the problems too much, under the express condition that a device adapted to the skill level of the pupils makes defence possible or in other words gives some time.


The notion of post derives from the rule which imposes the placement of players ones relative to the at the moment of the service and a clockwise rotation on each recuperation of the service. This allows to identify positions and zones but placements in the game are much more complex.

See the resource on
the posts outline

Situation of reference

The match situation is the situation of reference. It is in this situation that we spot problems to solve and that we notice progress.

It is organised in adapted forms of practice to fit the teaching framework, the number of players in the teams, the courts, the net, the scoring system, but its format is stable. At college we rapidly reach a 4 a side game on 9x9 m court. These are the game conditions that players will find in associations/clubs.


Technique can be defined as a transmitted ability.

It answers the question: how to do it?

This supposes that it retains what is mist universal in the manner of doing of one person or another. It is characterised by efficiency, reliability and economy. When teaching very different levels and ages we can see that the transmission of these efficient ways of doing cannot be reduced to an imitation of reputedly perfect gestures. This is a poor and narrow conception of techniques which weight on the teaching of volley-ball.

See the resource on
technique in volley-ball


The notion of tactics implies the idea of choice and decision.

It answers the question: what should I do?

Technique as a mode of action and tactics as choice and decision tools are the two inseparable faces of the action. We could not develop one without the other.

Tactics can be very elementary for the beginner: send to the other side of the net hoping for an opponent's fault for example. It is nevertheles a choice, a goal that the player fixes himself. When this solution is no longer enough we must find something else and develop new skills, acquire new techniques to enable new choices. The action is enriched and fed on two sides: tactical and technical.

This is why the acquisition of a technical skill cannot be coherent if the player does not clearly know what he is trying to do and why he is trying to do it. At the same time, the fact of knowing what I'm looking to achieve in a match, in which situation and why, gives meaning to technical learning and creates motivation.

The quasi historic tradition of organising the teaching around exercises (boring, repetitive, sometimes formal) seen as a necessary evil followed by a match as a reward makes un sometimes forget that it is in a game situation that we spot the problems, the attitudes, the abilities efficient or not. This is where the learning situations draw their usefulness and make sense. This is an organising principle of the teaching.

See learning situations.

Uncertainty zone

These are the zones situated at the limits of each player's intervention zone in court defence, whether on a serve or an opponent's attack. We could just as well call them "indecision zones". The game is based on resolving the uncertainty and earliness of the reaction and of the anticipation.

We are not only talking about reaction times to a trajectory but about reaction times for choice. Aiming between two players creates an uncertainty which cannot be resolved by the decision and the early communication by one of the players involved. In a learning situation if there is ball distribution it is interesting to aim regularly at these zones.

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