Ask Coach Houser: How Do You Deal With a Mistake-Prone Squad?

Coach Houser:
I believe that the vast percentage of matches at the high school level are lost, not won. It's teams losing with players making errors on "routine" plays, and not winning by making spectacular hits or winning jump serves. I'm going to tell my players that 90 percent serving in the court is an absolute must this year. And girls who make more than 10 percent errors on hits will not be set.

Privately, I agree with your thoughts about routine plays. Yes, many teams lose matches because they miss too many serves, have too many doubles called on them, are in the net, etc.

However, for some reason, people look at volleyball to be different than any other sport when it comes to making mistakes.

Let's look at softball. There are many girls who swing trying to hit the ball hard. They occasionally strike out. Yet, there isn't a parent and coach outcry. Wonder why?

Oh, you may say, "She can't help but strike out some." You are right, if she and her coach believe that her swinging is in the long-term best interests of the team, then she should swing hard at some balls.

Let's look at basketball. There are girls who try to hit three pointers. They succeed maybe 30 percent? 40 percent of the time? Yet, you don't hear people scream because the percentage isn't 60 or 70. Why?

Is a 30 percent success rate just accepted? Odd. But, again, she's doing the right thing, if she and her coach both believe that a 35 percent success rate actually benefits the team.

Even girls who shoot lay-ups probably miss 10 percent of the time. Where is the "If you miss one more layup, you're running tomorrow," or "You're benched!"

Going for It

So, on every team I've ever played on or watched, when the softball player gets "her pitch," and when the hoops girl gets "her shot," she goes for it. If she does everything right and she is athletic enough, she usually will be successful more often than her opponents, thus guiding the team to victory. Regardless of whether she makes a mistake 10 percent or 20 percent of the time. Right? Right.

Likewise, that's what the mature volleyball coach understands and accepts. Ok, before I go on, if there's a third hit that has to be forearm passed, sure we want it to land in the court. Or do we want our girls to place the balls in the 1-zone? The 2-zone?

If so, then our girls will miss a few of them. When a second ball is coming to a hitter, do we want her to just forearm pass it over to the opponents? No risk there. Or do we want her to set it with her hands, thus allowing us to hit the third ball. If so, she will probably be called for an occasional double contact.

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