What’s the Difference?

I was recently reading through a Facebook post about the importance (or not) of timeouts in professional men’s volleyball. Many of the comments would say that they are sure the data is accurate for men’s professional volleyball in Italy and Poland, but that the data wouldn’t hold up in their level (whatever their level was). This reminded me of a few other similar conversations I’ve had over the years………

In a previous job I was working with elite level beach volleyball players. A friend who worked with college division 1 players commented that it must have been great working at that level, because the athletes must have been so focussed, so great at learning skills, so supportive of each other. Basically, they must have been great in every facet because they were better at playing volleyball than the players she coached. I explained that, in any group of 12 players, there are all the same positives and negatives of a group. Some were great athletes, some were hard workers, some were intuitive, some thoughtful. Its just that at a higher level they are better at playing volleyball.

My current and previous jobs have been working with development athletes with high performance goals. Specifically, with volleyball and with gymnastics. People often chuckle when I tell them, as they think of the differences between the two sports, but what constantly gets reinforced to me is that the only real difference is the height of the athletes.

I once wrote a paper about setting statistics in volleyball and beach volleyball. It was focussed on high level athletes/teams. I received feedback from one of the top indoor coaches in the world, that he loved the article but thought it was more relevant for beach volleyball than indoor. I also received feedback from one of the top beach volleyball coaches in the world that he really liked the article but thought it was probably more useful for indoor than beach.

My point? We always assume that we are different, even when there are far more similarities than differences. And when our opinions are challenged, it is difficult not to just dismiss them as too foreign to our environment.

So - instead of holding on to how great and unique our own sport/discipline/age level is, lets start with the similarities. And in my experience they are:

  • good quality fundamental skills from a beginner level
  • good quality physical literacy (movement and strength) from a beginner level
  • good quality coaching (with a clear idea of future needs) throughout the athlete’s journey.
(Photo Credit - Volleyball and Gymnastics developmental athletes)


  1. Good points Alexis. So good I wrote about them myself nearly 2 years ago. :-)


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