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Have you ever had a game where every shot you played got dug? Like the defender could read your mind. If you have, you probably felt like the defender knew something that you didn’t… and you were probably right.

Defence is a tricky business. Good defenders are like Hollywood Ninja’s. You never know where they are, and they seem to appear out of nowhere, just in time to make a dig. But they are not mind readers. They do their homework, they plan their traps and they have perfect timing.

Here are a few tips we use in the Hermosa Beach Volleyball Class, as well as with some of the pros we’ve trained over the years in the South Bay and all of the So Cal beaches.

Getting seen in all the right places and timing your defensive moves

Timing your defensive moves is 90% of the battle. Move too early, and the attacker will see you and drop the ball behind you. Move too late, and you’ll go the right way, but won’t make the dig.

I like to break it down like this:

  • Where do I want my opponent to think I am moving as he/she hits the ball
  • When does he/she make the final decision about where I am going?

With these two points in mind, you can plan exactly when to be seen doing what…

Let’s use a a simple cross over block as an example

Blocker starts line, then jumps in to block the cross court. Defender starts cross, and then runs to dig the line shot.

If you, the defender, move to early, then a half decent opponent will hit a rainbow or cut shot, and you’ll be left looking silly.

Question: So how do you move early enough to make the dig, but late enough not to be seen.

Answer: Set it up!

Before you run the cross over play, run two or three straight line block plays. This strengthens your cross over play in two ways.

Firstly; it gives your opponents a feeling that they know what you are doing, which hopefully makes them easier to trap with the cross over play.

Secondly; and more importantly, you have a chance to prepare for the trap. As a defender, you should be looking closely at the attackers eyes, and trying to work out when he/she stops seeing the defense. As a blocker, if the attacker hits one or two balls cross court, then you get to see the height and direction, and hopefully get a better idea of where your block needs to move to grab the ball.

As a back court defender, when you run this cross over play, you need to be very sure that the last thing the attacker sees before he/she hits is you sitting cross court, waiting for a hard driven ball. Against a good opponent this means you will have to be waiting so late, you will be diving for that line shot.

The most difficult thing about this is that timing is not something you can “learn” in training, because the timing will be different for every attacker. You need to learn to adjust your timing depending on your opponents ability to see you.

Hope this helps … we’ll post more helpful hints soon that will make you a VB stud!!

By Tristo

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