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My Impressions from Volleyball

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Over the past two years I have participated in four sports for Physical Education. They are Aerobics, Touch, Track & Field Athletics and Volleyball. In Aerobics I struggled to overcome stereotypes and self-awareness to achieve at a high level. While training for Touch it was a constant battle to stay focussed when the girls and the football boys kept arguing and the low turn up rates made training difficult. Athletics set a challenge for me to get motivated enough to train at an effective level for my 800m event. These events were very physically demanding on me to achieve at a level, which I saw as satisfactory, however Volleyball has not been so taxing on me. Compared to the other sports studied, Volleyball has less stereotyping and fitness demands, with the focus being more on skill performances.

In Volleyball there are six main skills involved. They are digging, setting, spiking, blocking, serving and transitions between positions. As a class we thought that we had learnt all there was to Volleyball last year, we thought we knew how to dig, set and spike.

The ideal performer in Volleyball can dig well hit spikes accurately as they keep their hands low, get into position and dont swing their arms but rather relax them, allowing them to absorb the speed of the ball so that the setter has the opportunity to set it.

After one game it was obvious that I still needed a lot of work. When passing I found myself swinging my arms to shoulder height, sending the ball straight up in the air and behind me. Realising something was wrong with my technique; I listened to what Mr Wilson had to say and began learning the skill again at the cognitive level. I was at the reshaping of old habits into new patterns (p92 Better Coaching) stage but quickly proceeded to the associative stage of fine-tuning.

In Volleyball the ideal performer sets a ball accurately into the hitting zone of the spikers. They do this by getting in position, the ball, if allowed to continue to fall, should hit them in the forehead; and only using, in this order, their knees, wrists and fingers to propel the ball.

At the start of this term my sets were not very reliable and I found it impossible to set a decent serve back up. Then Mr Wilson taught us a better way of setting which was similar to the old style except that the elbows are kept virtually straight and the power is generated with the knees and wrists. I seemed to pick this skill up very quickly and moved from the cognitive phase well into the associative phase rapidly. I now can set a well-hit serve as well as place the set into the hitting zone of a spiker regularly.

An ideal performer in volleyball must be able to despatch a well-placed set firmly over the net and into the court. To do this, timing is very important, as you must hit the ball at the highest point you can. The ideal performer is also usually tall as this improves the height above the net they can reach.

Since last years Volleyball unit I have grown six and a half inches which has changed my game dramatically. Last year I was virtually useless in the frontcourt as my fingertips could barely touch the top of the net. This made effective blocking and spiking impossible, however this year I can get close to my elbows above the net, so this term I began at the cognitive phase at both of these skills. Firstly I was not interested in power in my spike, only looking at timing my jump to intercept the ball as high as I could, but as my timing gets better I am hitting the ball harder. I think with a bit more work I will move into the associative phase for spiking, working mainly on timing.

The ideal performers in Volleyball work in pairs to block, within a ball width apart, and time their jumps to reach their peaks when the ball comes over the net, therefore having as much in front of the ball as possible.

The skill of blocking is mainly to do with timing and I believe to improve any further I would need to increase my leg power, which could not really be done in only a few weeks. In a team we need to work on, when blocking, getting two blockers in position, as one is fairly ineffective. I try to fix this by getting as close to the other blocker as practicable and calling out to others to do the same.

The ideal performer can serve accurately, consistently and firmly with the ability to change the amount and direction of spin on the ball. They do this by tossing the ball into their hitting zone and only varying the movements of the wrist in their swing.

Last year probably my best skill was my serve. I could hit the ball as hard as I could, just over the net, with no spin and it would go in. With no spin on the ball it tended to tail in different directions making it hard to hit, while being very consistent. This year with the raising of the net height and the extra power I now have, I found this technique ineffective and not as consistent, with few dropping before the out line. To rectify this I tried hitting the ball softer with no spin but found that it did not tail nearly as well as before and I decided to try something different. After doing a spiking drill where we worked on getting top spin, which made the ball dip, I decided to incorporate top spin into my serve. In the first week I found myself hitting the net regularly as I had to find my new hitting zone. My consistency is now coming back and I can hit with varying amounts of spin, which makes it harder to judge. I believe I am well on the way to the late stages of the associative phase where practice is vital to improve.

Ideal performers make quick transitions between positions automatically throughout the game. For instance when a free ball is called spikers get into position back from the net and the set gets to the front of the court. This is done every time without fail in ideal circumstances.

For us, this was the first time we had heard about transitions. Firstly we learnt where we should be in different situations, and then we put it into game play. Now, as a class, we are in the early associative phase as we know where we have to be but we need more practise to actually get fluent at it. I believe I am slightly further advanced in transitions then the class and have even started to make my own transition, like when receiving serve and I m the setter, I position myself on the outside of the player in position #2 so that they can get the ball with out me interfering and I can get to front court quickly.

I believe that this term I have been very motivated towards improving my Volleyball skills. I enjoy the game and the fact that we play indoors, out of the sun seems to have improved class participation from last term. This has meant that there has been more competition and for me that is a big motivator.

In order for maximal learning and skill acquisition to occur on a given motor task it is essential that the learner(s) be highly motivated. (p93 Better Coaching)

Another factor is the participation of Mr Wilson who has acted as a coach and has provided great feedback to all students. In previous units my arousal level has been usually too low to learn skills effectively, but this term, because I enjoy Volleyball, my arousal levels have been much closer to optimum learning levels. I believe that all of these factors have made my skill learning times much faster then in previous terms.

This term has seen much less whinging from the girls then in previous terms, in which it seemed most lessons they claimed they were being discriminated against. Only one lesson this term has such an incident occurred in which they complained that no one set to them to spike. However they are one of the first to admit that they are not good at it. It seems to me that if I have, for instance, Simon and Alicia both calling for a set, we are much more likely to win the point if I set it to Simon and therefore that is where I would more likely set it. To the girls they see it as a gender bias but to me its just common sense to set it to a more able person. It would be just the same if I replaced Alicia with a similarly skilled male. During the lesson of the incident our game fell to pieces as we all got grumpy with each other. Thankfully this has only happened once this term.

In general the entire class has participated and achieved much better this term which seems to be linked to the higher turn up rates every lesson, especially for the football boys. The high amount of motivation the class has shown has provided a catalyst for learning and has made for some exciting games of Volleyball and a great finish to the year, however I still have a long way to go to become an ideal performer.

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