Volleyball Building Blocks

As coaches we know thousands of cues and keywords and drills. All are tools to help players change their behaviour (something humans find inherently uncomfortable). Sometimes our keys evolve and expand so that the origins are hard to identify. At which point it is useful to go back to first principles.

About 10 years ago I started putting together of list based on the idea of the fewest relevant cues and keys to ensure an athlete develops AND is not limited in the future. I used the concept of 'Rule of Three' as a guide, based on the coaching philosophy of the legendary sailing coach Victor Kovalenko.

To be clear, this is a minimum list, not an exhaustive list. The question being answered is: what are the fewest things I can focus on (as a coach) which will improve an athlete and ensure they are not limited in the future?


  • this is the most concise list possible to develop a player so that they are not limited in their future development
  • every element is relevant for all disciplines, genders and ages (indoor, beach, male and female, adults and juniors)
  • the long term outcome is Olympic Medal. That is, any development has to be aimed at elite success, not be capped at high school, club or college
  • the focus is on elements that can be coached. That is, factors such as height, speed and limb length are not included


  • technical keys for each skill, 
  • the limitations listed reflect the roles that a player who is not competent in the skill will not be able to perform


  • as well as removing technical limitations it is important to remove physical limitations
  • the benefits are functional use of these elements, the limitations are dysfunction, and some basic exercises are included to develop these elements


  • research indicates athletes who are good at self reflection and goal setting have a higher chance of success at elite levels
  • the benefits and tools to develop these elements are listed


  • I've bounced these ideas around with a number of people over the years, whose suggestions have all added to the final version. Particular thanks to Martin Suan, Sue Woodstra, Mark Lebedew, BJ LeRoy, Hugh Nguyen, Edwina McCarron, Adriano De Souza.


  • you can download a pdf of the chart here


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