Statistics: Are they helping or hurting your players?
“That would have been a great dig if I had ‘Sarah’ as a setter and not ‘Jessica’. “You never stat when I play well!”. “My hitting percentage is low because my setters can’t set an accurate ball”. “The stat guy has no idea what a ‘good’ pass is!”. “ I don’t stat well when I do that technique”.
Recognize these complaints? I do. As a coach and as an athlete, when it comes to statistics, I have heard all the complaints and excuses in the world. In fact, I have even caught myself falling victim to complaining that MY own performance was altered on statistics. But, it has taken me years and years of experiencing the highs and lows of volleyball…moments of defeat, seasons of frustration, and far too many selfish thoughts to realize that we all spend too much time worrying about the numbers and not enough time about actually playing and learning about the game.
Believe me, I know how hard it is to keep your mind from being consumed by the ‘numbers’. I mean think about it…with the implementation of new technologies, it has never been easier to document an athletes’ performance and post it to the world. We can no longer just play a match without knowing that our performance is immediately judged and recorded to the internet/tv for millions to see. So sure, it is understandable that athletes and coaches are now, more so than ever, obsessed with their performance on paper.
Statistics aren’t always negative, but they do add pressure…and not every athlete loves performing under pressure. So, what can we do as coaches to help alleviate some of the unnecessary anxieties brought about by statistical standards? Here are a few things:
Ask Yourself Why:
Before even starting the process of taking and sharing numbers, it is important to ask yourself why. What is the strategy behind the decisions you are making and what is your plan? If you don’t have one, then I can confidently state that the stress involved with being stated, will hurt your players development and performance more than benefit it.
Once you have identified a reasoning, it may be in your best interest to explain to your athletes the logic behind your decisions.
Explain the System & Be Fair:
Once you have established a plan, it is important for players to understand the what, the why and the how. What is the statistical standard? Why are we being stated? How do the numbers work?
There is nothing more frustrating as an athlete than not knowing. So, sit down with your team and thoroughly explain the system that you will be implementing. It is important for there to be a clear and concise formula for computing numbers within that system and EVERY athlete/coach should be on the same page.
Think about answering some of the following questions:
- What is a “good” set?
- 1 ft off the net? 2 ft off the net?
- 5 ft inside the antenna?
- With the height of the second red mark on the antenna?
- What if there is a bad pass? How are my sets stated? What should I aim for?
- When is my serve receive pass too far off the net to be considered good?
- At the 10 foot line?
- At the 5 foot line?
- Does it depend on the serve?
- Does the tightness of my pass depend on the height of the setter?
- What if I have a 5 ft tall setter? Does a perfect pass change or stay the same?
- What is an ace?
- One touch from the other team?
- Two touches from the other team?
Know When to Take Statistics:
There are certain times when taking statistics is more appropriate than others. If you are trying to teach your team a new technique or system, stating their touches during that initial learning process probably isn’t the most effective strategy.
In general, we are our best learners when we can buy into the system and are okay with being vulnerable…when we are comfortable being uncomfortable…when we aren’t afraid of failure. We need to be pushed, we need to fail, we need to make mistakes and need thousands of reps correcting those mistakes in order to truly learn. The second we start worrying or even thinking about quality of performance or outcome, is when we revert back to old habits and go with what is comfortable. Encourage change and improvement by identifying and learning from mistakes, not punishing them.
If stats are something you truly want to incorporate into your gym culture, then I would suggest allotting a certain amount of time towards the end of practice for live play or stat taking. This way, athletes can take the lessons they learned throughout the practice and implement them into a game-like situation. Rather than stating outcome during this initial learning process, try stating the percentage of times that an athlete was able to implement the new technique!
BE consistent with statistics. If you like to take stats during scrimmages, then you should make an effort to take stats every scrimmage. The same applies for practices and matches. This strategy of consistency will help eliminate the unnecessary drama related to allegations of statistical bias. You will never again have to hear, “I played so well in today’s scrimmage and you didn’t even take stats”!
Consistency is key, but if for any reason that consistency changes, be honest and upfront about why. For example, “We aren’t stating today’s practice 6v6, because I want you ALL focusing on what we just learned and less about the outcome of your touches”.
Keep Statistics Behind the Scene:
I am a firm believer in statistics. I believe that there is power in using numbers and data as a form of learning and improvement. However, I also believe that we, as both coaches and players have placed too much emphasis on meeting these statistical standards, especially for the purpose of show and self-glory.
Although showing statistics at some point may be beneficial, try keeping stats “within” the coaches office. As coaches…analyze as much as you want. Use the findings from your analysis to come up with focal points and new drills…to coach and to improve, not just to show.
Know and Understand Your Players or Teammates:
The most important part about being a great coach is knowing and understanding that every athlete is different. We can’t treat every athlete the same, because every athlete responds differently to pressure and criticism. Understand that you may have some athletes who thrive under the pressure of being stated and others who don’t! It is your responsibility to know your players and to be conscious about when you take their stats and how often you present them.
Show Just as Much (if not more) Good Than Bad:
As athletes, we can learn a lot from understanding our weaknesses…especially understanding why we struggle with certain skills and how we can make improvements in those areas. Statistics are a great tool for analyzing and understanding that.
However, being a great volleyball player goes far beyond just physical skill. There is so much more to the game of volleyball than a statistic can show. More important than analyzing our weaknesses, statistics have the power to glorify our strengths…to validate the attributes that contribute to our successes…to capture the improvements we’ve worked hard to make. Seeing is believing, and believing is what separates the ‘goods’ from the ‘greats’. Embrace your athletes! Show them that they are studs and highlight their improvements or areas of expertise. Statistics, if used correctly, have the power to help individuals and teams become the best versions of themselves…embrace that!