PERFORMANCE VOLLEYBALL CONDITIONING
A NEWSLETTER DEDICATED TO IMPROVING VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS
NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS A REPOST FROM 2015
Round Table Discussion:
Testing Lessons from Football Combines Testing: Do They Apply to Volleyball?
With Mike Weinstein, President, Zybek Sports
Robert Brown, Volleyball Master Instructor; USA Volleyball VCAP; Owner,
Robert Brown Sports Performance in Arlington, Texas
Robert Brown Sports Performance in Arlington, Texas, specializes in volleyball-specific conditioning. Robert works with
high school and collegiate volleyball conditioning programs in the Dallas area and beyond.
PC: Mike, how did you get involved with testing athletes?
MW: I started with the football combines and the tests done by the NFL to measure athletic
ability. We have tested thousands of athletes from the NFL down to the high school level. I
also have two daughters who were actively involved in volleyball for a number of years and
felt what I learned in football testing can be applied to volleyball. I think there is a parallel
between what is done with the combined testing and what is done in the volleyball community.
I have talked to college volleyball coaches about what they do for testing—they all test
in one form or another. Can we take the football tests and modify them so that the results
are meaningful to both the volleyball player and coach?
PC: Robert, what tests would you recommend to measure physical performance of the
RB: I am familiar with each sport because I am a club volleyball coach and played collegiate football. Football has the 40-yard dash, 225-pound max bench, agility and vertical jumps as their tests. College volleyball coaches ask me what their vertical jump should be in the approach touch. The results vary from what is reported and the actual height. I would like to see normative data that is consistent with the way volleyball is played today. We have some data from 1995, but it is time to reconsider because the way the game is played and the training athletes do now is so different. In order to compare normative data, the first step is the vertical jump with a limitation from how far the athlete jumps. It is three meters for me. The second is the static block jump. We need to measure how high from a static position. I personally do not like horizontal jumping (long and triple jumps). Juniors do not have the required strength to do these movements because they do not do them in game situations and there is a time factor in how many tests you can do.
MW: How much difference do you see between the static block jump and the approach jump?
RB: I see big variances in some athletes and I think it is position specific. I see middle blockers with good static jump results but
who are not significantly better in the approach. However, outside hitters have much bigger numbers in the approach than static
PC: Since approach jumping is a more skilled test, how does this fit into the testing process?
RB:When you look at the outside hitters touch point, their attack is from a deep position and can generate a great deal of force from the approach. If we look at the middle position, it is a step or two with a quick jump followed by getting into position as swiftly as possible. The jump requirements are different.
MW: What I find interesting is that we tested almost 1,000 volleyball players at the Colorado Crossroads. We did the standard vertical jump and an approach, or maximal jump, with no distance restraints. There was much less distance variance in this jump than I would have expected.
The running jump was higher but only by inches… (sees Table 1 for a sample of the data).
The data is in inches sorted by the top vertical jump. The data is in inches sorted by the top vertical jump. For
example, the first athlete had a 28” vertical. This is a true vertical jump distance in inches measured from the top of her fingers when reaching vertically to the maximum distance flag height reached
when jumping (note: the athlete’s height does not matter). Her maximal jump was 115 inches (9’7”). So she would be
five inches short of touching the bottom of a basketball hoop. The maximal jump was her maximum jump where the height is a linear factor. If we only had a number on the athlete’s vertical reach, we could have had a complete data set something we are working on.
Vertical Jump (inches) Maximal Jump (inches) Vertical Jump (inches) Maximal Jump (inches) Vertical Jump (inches) Maximal Jump (inches) 28 115 21.5 112 20 104.5 28 111.5 21.5 112 20 104 27.5 114.5 21.5 111 20 104 27 113 21.5 109 20 103.5 26.5 117 21.5 108.5 20 103 26 113 21.5 108 20 103 25.5 114.5 21.5 107.5 20 102.5 25 117.5 21.5 106.6 20 102.5 25 107.5 21.5 103.5 20 99 24.5 115 21.5 103 20 98 24.5 114 21.5 103 19.5 115.5 24.5 111.5 21.5 101.5 19.5 112.5 24.5 103 21 116.5 19.5 110.5 24 115.5 21 113 19.5 109 24 115.5 21 112.5 19.5 109 24 115 21 112 19.5 109 24 114 21 111 19.5 108.5 24 108.5 21 110.5 19.5 108.5 24 107 21 109 19.5 107 24 106.5 21 109 19.5 107 24 105 21 108 19.5 107 23.5 113.5 21 108 19.5 104 23.5 113 21 108 19.5 103.5 23.5 111 21 107.5 19.5 103.5 23.5 108 21 106.5 19.5 103.5 23.5 100.5 21 106.5 19.5 103 23 113.5 21 104 19.5 102.5 23 112.5 21 104 19.5 102 23 111.5 21 104 19.5 102 23 107.5 21 103.5 19.5 101.5 23 106 21 102.5 19.5 100.5 23 106 21 102.5 19.5 99 23 105 21 100.5 19.5 95.5 22.5 118.5 20.5 118.5 19 110.5 22.5 109.5 20.5 114 19 110 22.5 108.5 20.5 111.5 19 109.5 22.5 107.5 20.5 109.5 19 109.5 22.5 107.5 20.5 108.5 19 109 22.5 107.5 20.5 107.5 19 109 22.5 107 20.5 106.5 19 108.5 22.5 104.5 20.5 106 19 108.5 22.5 99 20.5 104.5 19 108.5 22 113.5 20.5 103.5 19 108 22 113 20.5 103 19 107.5 22 112.5 20.5 102.5 19 107 22 112 20.5 102 19 107 22 111.5 20.5 99.5 19 106.5 22 111 20 112.5 19 106 22 108.5 20 112 19 106 22 108 20 112 19 105 22 107 20 110 19 105 22 105 20 110 19 105 22 104.5 20 109.5 19 105 22 104 20 109.5 19 104.5 21.7 107.1 20 109 19 104 21.5 113.5 20 106 19 104 21.5 113 20 105.5 19 104 O
We found that the vertical jump was the best indicator of explosive power in our football collection data. We did not see much difference from standing jump to running jump. When measuring maximal jump, does it matter if you start from three or 30 meters?
RB: My only concern would be that everything put in the database is the same thing—consistent and reliable.
MW:This is important. I think test results are meaningful for the volleyball coach, whether it is from three meters for the maximal jump or whatever is decided.
PC: Which tests are important in volleyball?
RB: Let’s address the speed component. Here in the U.S. everything is the 40-yard dash—I have seen volleyball kids run forties.
But why would any kid run over 20 yards?
Twenty yards gives the coach information on acceleration from start to ten yards and from ten to 20, indicating how much space the athlete can cover. It is important for volleyball coaches to know the linear capabilities of each athlete. The game requires the ability to cover ten to 20 feet with quick acceleration to get to the right spot in order to make the play. The court length is 20 yards, which is more than enough to measure for volleyball. I am a fan of the 5-10-5 yard run for directional change (see Table 2).
This is a test that coaches are familiar with; the dimensions are similar to the volleyball court size.
This test indicates the volleyball athlete’s ability to redirect in short spaces. It also shows the three variables of direction change
specific to the sport.
MW: A ten- and 20-yard split time is possible for measurement capabilities. The vertical jump and 5-10-5 are already done in the football combines. This data is important for the volleyball player as an indicator of true athletic ability agnostic of sport, gender, and age.
PC: How can these tests be made reliable so that results can be measured consistently and what contribution does technology
MW: This is why we developed our system. Athletes have choices; one being the stopwatch which has variability in hand-eye coordination
with its manual start and stop. Choice two is manually starting the time and have an electronic stop; this is done by the NFL. The third choice is full automation in which the time is started and stopped by the athlete. We have developed our system of total automation which takes the variability out of the coaching influence.
PC: How is this system reliable for establishing normative data for comparison?
RB: I use testing to identify weaknesses in players as the season progresses. You should establish a reason for testing. This reliable information is also important for the coaches year after year. I can see one team’s performance numbers and compare to previous teams. This helps me determine why or why not we are performing up to expectations. With reliable testing, I know the kids entering my program are physically matched up to what the expectations are.
MW: I can remember my daughter trying out for her sophomore team. There were 120 candidates and I felt sorry for the coaches
since there were only ten open spots. If the decision came down to true athletic performance and the selection was uniform and fair, you take out some of the subjective pitfalls of the process. One kid selected had been playing volleyball for six months but she was an amazing athlete. Her athleticism really started to show as the season progressed and she received some good coaching. It is easier for coaches to develop athletic talent rather than to teach athletic talent. If a coach can subjectively rank the players according to athletic ability, the program is on a solid foundation.
RB: Coaches like control. Much of the process is based on what they have learned when they came up. As competitive as volleyball is, there must be some sort of system integration that establishes a way for a kid from a rural area to have the opportunity to get her education paid for. You might have a 10’2” jumping athlete not have the opportunity because her parents could not afford club volleyball.
A coach like John Cook will take a kid that can jump 10’2” and teach her how to play volleyball. Destiny Hooker was not an accomplished volleyball player in her first two years but became world-class by improving her play and relying on her amazing athletic ability. Doing the tests consistently and reliably gives kids a fair shot at getting noticed based on their athletic ability.
PC: How does presenting the normative data affect volleyball?
MW: We have a standardized spreadsheet that we use for combine testing and we can calculate based on numbers entered. For example, we can calculate power with vertical jump measurements and body weight. Power is force through distance, which is the essence of most sports. The important thing is to show it to coaches in a meaningful way.
PC: What use is this information to coaches?
RB: If I have a kid ranking lower in test scores, I must make a decision whether to have her do a program that makes her better in the tests or stay general and improve her all-around. It boils down
to what you do with the test data. Things are different if you look at it from a team perspective. If the data is low on the vertical jump, you will be able to address it as a team and work on it.
MW: In the combine situation, we tell the athlete that the tests were
done using the same electronic equipment. You get these scores in comparison to your level of participation—Division I play, for ex-ample. The player then knows that if they want to improve, they
have ways to do it. Look at a typical combine result of 150 kids.
You have a variation between 4.6 and 5.1 in the 40-yard dash. That’s a 5 hundredths of a millisecond for the first and last person in the test data. That gives the kid something to shoot for. It can set goals for a serious athlete.
RB:There are a lot of bogus claims online telling kids they can improve vertical jump three to six inches, so you must put it in perspective for the parents. If an athlete has been training and increased a half an inch to one inch, that is a good achievement.
This is especially true if the kid is playing year-round sports. I think that a 20% increase is a realistic improvement goal over the career of an athlete in something like the vertical jump.
Contact Robert at www.rbrownsports.com or e-mail him at
Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.