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Coaches corner by Alexis #7

Long Term Thinking About Lineups

Before every match a coach needs to plan out what the team’s lineup is. They need to have plans for how substitution patterns might work. Some plan ahead and have 2 or 3 sets set up before a game. Some work it out when the lineup sheet is in their hand. Regardless, every lineup requires that the team be able to do the following, to the best of their ability:

  • The team has to be able to sideout.
  • The team has to be able to counter attack from defense.
  • There can only be 6 players on the court at one time.
  • By the time finals comes around, the team has to be able to handle anything their opponent throws at them.

Now, all teams have strengths and weaknesses and all players have strengths and weaknesses, and this needs to be taken into account when working out the lineup.

The short term solution is to work out a lineup, including substitution patterns and libero, which optimises the strengths and hides the weaknesses in the team. This will help in the short term, but will limit your team’s development. You will tend to run practices where you play people in the roles they have for the matches, which makes sense, but it means players will end up never working on their limitations.

The long term solution is to, over the course of the season, develop the strengths of all players so they can become point scoring weapons, AND develop the weaknesses of all players so they are no longer limitations.

For example, if you have a player who can pass well but not hit effectively, the solution is not to limit their hitting in practice because they won’t have to do it in a game, but to teach them to hit and give them confidence to hit. Then, in games, put them in gradually expanding situations to give them confidence hitting in competition. Once you have done this you have much more flexibility in your lineup as this player can now play multiple positions.

A team that is flexible has many more options than a team with players who can only play one role. It is in the interest of every coach to increase the flexibility of the team, which means working hard to improve any skill limitations the players have.


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