How Coaches Pick Between Players

coaching volleyball

How Coaches Choose One Player Over Another

Hola! Today we’re going to talk about one of the trickiest aspects to any team sport. Before we start, let me just say that no one wants to make cuts & no one wants to limit playing time. On the flip side, no one wants to be cut, and no one wants to sit the bench. I think we can both agree on that.

With that being said, of course those decisions have to be made. So how are they made? How does your coach reach those decisions?


The Mental Side vs The Physical Side

There are two aspects that are always considered when it comes to this topic. The mental side of a player, and the physical side of a player.


The Mental Side:

These are the traits that you are in control of. How hard you work. How pleasant you are. Your drive. Your spirit. Your communication. What you’re like as a teammate. These are the intangibles.

As coaches, we aren’t measuring this with numbers, we don’t have a stat called “pleasantness on a scale of 0-3”. (Although maybe we should… humm..) Every coach is going to have a little different take on what the mental side of the game should look like, but usually it is some combination of the above points. Some coaches might value a hard charging type player over a vocal player, and some coaches might be looking for loud leaders who can bring a lot of energy to the game. Because this isn’t an area we take stats on, this isn’t a black and white answer. It’s gray.


The Physical Side

The physical side basically sums up how good you are, and compares it to how good the rest of the team is.

 For this we can look at numbers on all aspects of the game to come to a conclusion. What is your hitting percentage? What is your serving percentage? How many aces do you get? How many digs do you get? How many times did you get aced in serve receive?

These are all numbers. There is still a little bit of gray area here, but not nearly as much. For instance, you can have a player who serves 100%, but the serve is too easy and the other team has no trouble passing it. The coach might look past the statistics in this scenario and let someone who could serve tougher, serve.

Mostly though, stat’s don’t like to lie. Who get’s more kills? Who get’s more aces? These are the type of questions that coaches are stressing over.


Making The Team

At tryouts, all too often coaches are left with 1-2 players that they have to decide between. I promise, as a coach, this part sucks. We will look at who is the better player, physically. We also look at who is the better player mentally.

Finally we look at what the team is still missing. Now, I will tell you that most coaches don’t see this the same way. Some value physical more, some value mental more, and the percent of split is different for most coaches. Some coaches will value physical traits at 80%, mental traits at 20%. Some coaches will value mental traits at 60% and physical at 40%. That can be confusing, and hard to understand, but it’s all a personal preference of the coach.

Alright, now that I confused you (or maybe I didn’t?) let me break it down just a little more. Because it’s not all about you. It’s actually more than likely about everyone who is already on the team. Consider this: If two players are similar in skill, and both hard working nice people, then you’ve done your part. It’s out of your hands.

Now the coach is going to start looking at team and how you would fit in. If the team has 4 setters already, and you are primarily a setter, you may lose the advantage. If that other person is an outside hitter, and the team only has 2 outsides, well they gain and advantage.

The same can be said for how much of a utility player you can be. If you are capable of playing anywhere (or just about anywhere) you give yourself an advantage in the coach’s mind. If the other player is only capable of playing libero (or DS) then she would lose some advantage because you are going to be more versatile in practice, and if someone gets hurt, you’d be able to step in and play anywhere.

The last thing I’ll mention about making the team, is the mental side of the team. Each team has it’s own personality. If the team is feisty and crazy and needs someone to tone them down, then the coach may look for a calming influence. Or maybe they are looking for a fearless individual who can keep up. Again, I can’t predict what your coach will do, but I can tell you that it might not be something you could have predicted.

Playing Time

Many of the same things apply here. The number one reason a person gets playing time though, is because they are good. Most of the time, it’s a choice based on numbers and physical traits.

If you’re pretty equal when it comes to the physical side of the game, the coach may factor in your opponent. You may be a better line hitter, and the coach believes a line shot will be beneficial in the game. Or maybe your teammate is better at serve receive, and you’re playing someone with a wicked serve.

 As for mental stuff that can get you playing time, some people are more competitive than others. I’ve seen players get playing time when they weren’t as skilled, yet they found a way to win just because the passion and desire for winning was so strong in them. You may know someone off the top of your head who seems to always be “lucky” or they tend to win a lot. People like this have an advantage with playing time.  Finding a way to win, is a positive trait in sports.

Sometimes people get playing time because they can make the rest of their team better. Whether that is talking a lot, or doing simple things to make plays easier on their teammates, it goes unnoticed most the time, but coaches favor this stuff.

Players could also lose playing time because of the exact opposite reasons as I just mentioned. Maybe your teammate can make plays, but for some reason things just go wrong near her. The ball dies in her area and even if it isn’t statistically her fault, those points start to add up and can coaches notice these things, even if they aren’t written down. It’s more of a feel the get about the match.


Last Thing

I believe you’re in control of soooo much of your life. I really do.  This too, you start in control of. You can determine what you want to bring to the game mentality. That’s all you.

Physically, you can decide how much practice you’re willing to put in to get yourself prepared.

After that though, if you’ve done everything you can, it does come down to the coach and their decision. That’s tough to swallow. And yeah, I know that if you don’t end up making the team, that sucks too.

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