Win the warm up or win the match?
Anyone who has been around me (Coach Shumaker) for any amount of time has heard me ask the question, “Which would you rather do, win the warm up, or win the match?” This question may seem silly, but it isn’t. It’s actually a deeply significant question when it comes to establishing a club program. The point of this question is to help establish the amount of practice time devoted to drills versus playing competitive games. Let me explain…
After years of watching volleyball high school, club, and collegiate volleyball, I have noticed a phenomenon. Teams that look better in pre-match warm up don’t always win the match. You have probably seen it, too. A team looks like world beaters during hitting lines. The hitters crush the ball, while the other team fails to impress. Yet, once the match starts the seemingly weaker team wins soundly. One team wins the warm up; one team wins the match. Which team do you want to be?
When I was in fourth grade, my mother made me take piano lessons. A huge part of my lessons were playing scales. Playing scales were a necessary reality. However, just because I could play my scales, didn’t mean that I was a good piano player. I had to move on from playing scales to playing actual music. In volleyball, the single-focus drills are like the scales in piano: They are necessary, but they are not the whole story. High-tempo, game-like drills are like playing “real songs.”
So let’s get back to the idea of winning the match instead of the warm up…
Most team’s warm up consists of single-focus drills. The setter is setting the ball from a perfect toss from the coach. The hitter is taking the set and hitting, but without an opposing block. It is easy to look good in this scenario. However, this is not at all game-like. The setter rarely gets a perfect pass. The hitter rarely hits against an open net. Teams that spend 80%-90% of practice running drills usually look great in warm ups. But, that doesn’t necessarily help them win matches.
On the flip side, teams that spend less time on drills and more time on real, game-action volleyball rarely look better in warm up. But, once the match starts, it is often a different story. My college program has experienced a fair bit of success in the past several seasons. But, we rarely win the warm up. This is because other than in actual pre-match, we spend very little time on “hitting lines.” We want to win the match, not the warm up.
So what does this mean to C4 and your daughter? Great question. Here is the answer: At C4 your daughter will learn to win matches, not the warm up. Of course, we will do some drills. They are necessary. But drills have a limited purpose. During actual team practice (as opposed to position training), your daughter will spend a minimum of 50% of her practice dedicated to game-action play. In fact, the older teams will spend closer to 75% of practice in game action. Not only will this help your daughter get better at real volleyball, it will also help your daughter enjoy practice a great deal more.
So, which would you rather do: win the match or win the warm up?
At C4, we want to win the match. We hope you do too.