With an NCAA record-tying 17 straight [and counting] SEC Championship banners hanging in their rafters, it's clear that the University of Florida volleyballers know something about "defending."
"The game is moving toward the net," says Florida assistant volleyball coach Nick Cheronis. "And even though serving and passing will always be fundamental to winning, players need to learn how to be effective blockers."
On their way to a 29-3 mark last season, the Gator D stymied opponents' offensive attacks with 3.05 blocks per game. Below, Cheronis offers four insightful blocking tips to help stifle your opponents' kills.
1. Stalk the attacker. Take your eyes off the ball as you jump, and look at the attacker. The attacker will tell you where and how hard she plans to strike the ball. Anticipate where the ball is going to cross the net and quickly get in position. Essentially, you block the attacker, not the ball.
2. Swamp swarm. If the outside and middle blockers are properly performing Tip 1, then mirroring the attacker will allow both players to jump simultaneously. The hidden key to blocking is getting both blockers to time their jumps and send back an attack with strength in numbers.
3. Stifling D. With the attacker's every swing, players should always think, "How am I going to touch that ball?" Even the best collegiate-level blockers average only 1.5 blocks per game—and in most matches, you won't block the ball with positive results every time. However, when blocking, your priorities should be the following: block for a point; create a hitting error; block so the opponent has to cover the ball; block so your team can transition the attack for a point; or block to funnel the attack to your team's best digger.
4. Shorten the net. To boost your blocking skills, lower the net during practice. The lower net will allow you to concentrate strictly on blocking and crossing over the net, without concern about timing your jump.
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