Statistics are important. Quality statistics have the potential to provide some level of objective performance data. However, a cautionary note should be attached to any statistic that you use. Statistics that are relevant to winning and straightforward to your players will be of value. Otherwise, these numbers are merely noise that will not provide either yourself or your players with quality information.
Former National Team Coach, Jim Coleman developed the most commonly used model for volleyball statistics. The model includes serve-receive on a 3 or 4 point scale, serving performance measured in the same manner, and attack efficiency (kills-errors/attempts). Most statistical software mirrors this system.
There is nothing wrong or incorrect about Coleman’s system. However, for any statistic to have the most value, it must be straightforward. If I tell a young player, they are serving at a 2.38, even if that number is meaningful to a coach, I might get the blank stare from the player. If I say to a player we scored 8 points on their serve, the highest on the team, that statistic might have more value to the player. It is not unusual for coaches to access a more detailed set of statistics than the information presented to the players.
Below I’ve listed areas that I value that will be uncomplicated to present to your young players and relevant to winning.
More is better. At the end of a match, the player with the most serves is, by default, your best server! How the point is won is inconsequential. If your team is scoring a lot of points from a player’s serve, that is what is relevant.
The Power of 10
Your team will have trouble winning a set if you give up more than 10 points on errors (serving, attack, block, ball handle, etc.). The caveat is if the other side is also giving up more than 10 points on errors, you still might have a chance. That will be a match I’ll be happy not to attend. The top teams we played at the U-18 World Championships would make 6-7 errors per set. Emphasizing to your squad, the importance of playing low error, without sacrificing aggressive play, is very relevant to winning.
To win a set, your team needs to kill the ball. So, a kill percentage is meaningful (kills/attempts). If you are not killing the ball, you are allowing the opponent to control the point. Not to be ignored is a hitting efficiency (kills-errors/attempts). So, this area is a little vague. A player that scores points with their attack, but makes a lot of errors may end up costing your team the set. See Power of 10!
A percentage of how many times we get quality swings from a pass. You can win without being great passers. However, you cannot win if you are getting aced (Power of 10), or the first contact results in a free ball. So, you might do a percentage (quality swing/pass attempt).
If you side-out at a higher percentage than your opponent, you will probably win. So, again, a percentage (successful side-outs/attempts).
Essential for evaluating both team and individual performance. Subtract points lost (errors) from points earned (kills, blocks, aces). To win, you need to be in positive numbers. Players will remember the kill or the block but tend to develop amnesia, trying to recall the net error or the ball handle error. This stat will show both the good and not so good.
When it comes to statistics, more is not necessarily better. I hope this provides insight as to what areas of the game have the most value and how you might transmit this information to your young players.
About the Author
Jim Stone is the former Head Coach for the USA Youth National Team that won the FIVB World Championships in 2019. He led the U-18 Youth National team to a Silver Medal finish in 2013 and 2015. Jim spent 27 Years as the Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at Ohio State University where his team reached the NCAA Division I Final Four in 1991 and 1994. Under his lead Ohio State won 3 Big Ten Championships. Jim works closely with JVA partner The Art of Coaching Volleyball on the development of coaching education and curriculum for the certification program. View more coaching education on Jim’s website http://www.acoachingperspective.com/ and reach out to Jim with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org