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Blocking Schemes
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BLOCKING

  One of the most neglected areas in junior volleyball is blocking tactics. Many times I will walk around the gym at a tournament and watch as team after team lines up their blockers -- outside blocker one arm's length in from the antenna and, middle blocker right in front of the opposition's setter. This is fine as long as your opponents all run the same offense, have players of equal ability, and have the same tendencies in all rotations. Since this is obviously not the case, we can benefit from the use of different blocking schemes for different situations.

  My teams use four different blocking schemes during matches. Since our players are also trained to block in all three positions at the net, this gives us 12 different possibilities to use in any blocking situation. These different looks allow us to adjust to our opponent's tendencies in every rotation and also to hide a weak blocker on our side. I do not understand teams which stand their 5'4" setter in right front every time and let the opposition's best hitter bomb the ball over her every time! I have two thoughts for you:

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 If you block the ball you don't need to worry about setting it. 

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If the other team's best player is hitting over your short blocker you aren't going to dig many balls to be set. 

Blocking is the quickest, surest way to score points. I don't worry about what will happen if the ball gets by the block until I have aligned the blockers in order to give us the best chance to block the ball. 

I will discuss our four blocking schemes (bunch, spread, load, and shade) and when we use them. Along the way I will also discuss some thoughts on team blocking strategy and training players to block in all positions.   

Spread Blocking

  Spread blocking is the basic scheme used by most teams. The deployment of the blockers is listed at the beginning of this page. We use this scheme about 35% of the time and chiefly against teams with the following characteristics:

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  Basic 4-1-5 offense

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  No dominant player

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  Ineffective quick attack

  This scheme should allow us to have one blocker up in the middle all the time and hopefully a double block on the outside, though we all have experience with teams that don't close the block on the outside. A team can be effective with this strategy until you run into a team with a more sophisticated offense or one with one or two dominant players. 

Bunch Blocking 

Bunch blocking is the next most popular scheme in our blocking strategies. We also use this scheme about 35% of the time. The deployment of the blockers is as follows:

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    Outside Hitter: Fronts the opponent's back one set.

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    Middle Blocker: Fronts the opponent's front one set.

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    Rightside Hitter: Fronts the opponent's 31 (shoot) set.

  This scheme is very effective against teams that set a variety of quick sets, run combination plays, or hit two's or 32's frequently. In bunch blocking we know we will have a blocker waiting for any quick set as well as the ability to get two or three blockers up on any play set. We accomplish this without giving up the ability to put up a double block on the outside. 

Load Blocking

  Load blocking is an extremely useful scheme against any team that runs a 5-1 offense or has a weak attack on the right side. This scheme can be used anywhere between 10-25% of the time. Anytime a team has only two front row hitters who are hitting in front of the setter or has a weak attacker behind the setter we shift into load blocking (you would probably be surprised at how many teams have two or three rotations like this).

  The deployment of blockers is as follows:

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    Rightside Hitter: Starts at the antenna

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    Middle Blocker: Fronts the opponent's 31 set

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    Outside Hitter: Fronts the opponent's front one set

  This scheme allows us to always have one blocker up on the quick set and reduce the amount of movement necessary to form a solid block on the outside. When we are in this scheme, the back row players know they have total responsibility for the setter's attacks. I have found this scheme to be capable of shutting down most teams in their front row setter rotations. 

Shade Blocking

  Shade blocking is used most of the time against some teams and not at all against others. This scheme is used against teams that run a very effective front one set. The deployment of blockers is as follows:

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    Outside Hitter: Starts one arm's length in from the antenna

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    Middle Blocker: Starts three feet in front of the opposition's setter

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   Rightside Hitter: Starts next to the middle blocker in front of the opponent's setter

  This scheme allows us to put two blockers up on the opponent's middle (who is hitting 1's). We use this to control a hot hitter  who is putting away the one set consistently.   

Mix and Match

  We frequently will give each blocker a scheme in which to line up. A common example of this is the following: 

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    Outside Hitter: Spread

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    Middle Blocker: Bunch

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    Rightside Hitter: Bunch 

This allows us to protect against the one, the back one, and play sets while leaving a strong right side blocker waiting for the four set. 

It is important to define your blocker's responsibilities within each scheme. For example, when we are in bunch all three blockers are expected to be up blocking any second tempo set. When we are in load we might tell our left side blocker to go and triple block the four set. 

All our players are prepared to block in any position. We frequently leave our outsides on the right and our opposites on the left. I believe that our use of various schemes has had a psychological benefit on our team as well. Our players know they are expected to call out the oppositions hitters and tendencies each time we serve. They also receive the scheme from the bench before each serve. This ensures the players are completely focused on the task at hand. I also feel that all the attention we pay to blocking tactics creates an atmosphere in which our players expect to be in the right place at the right time. This in turn fosters a very aggressive attitude towards blocking. 

I have also seen other teams greatly affected by the effective use of blocking strategies. When a middle blocker is faced with a double block while hitting the one or the outside hitter looks at two blockers waiting outside for her in her team's two hitter rotations, their confidence can be drastically reduced.

     

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