I recently attended the USA volleyball high-performance clinic in Colorado Springs. One of the guest presenters was Julio Velasco, current men’s national team coach in Argentina and former national team coach of Iran, Czech Republic, Spain, and, most notably, Italy in the 1990s.

In one of his presentations coach Velasco talked about achieving “leaps of progress” for individual players and the entire team.

He compared this to boiling water. When it reaches the boiling point it makes a transformation from water to steam–a transformation from water to steam. However, if you try to cook a lot of pasta by boiling a giant vat of water, in his words “you will not be eating today”. The way to make lots of pasta quickly is to boil several smaller pots of water. You can make large quantities of pasta in a much shorter time.

Coach Velasco then related this to our practice gym by saying that if we want to see significant noticeable change in our players and in our team we need to focus on one specific aspect of an individual’s (or the team’s) game.

He told us a story of when he was coaching in Italy he sat down with one of his players and asked him what he wanted to get better at. The player first mention something about passing, then something about hitting, then blocking, digging, serving, etc. Coach Velasco looked at his player and said, “then you’re just like everyone else. If we try to change all those things at the same time you will make very little progress in each of those areas.”

He helped the player focus on one specific thing that would be the highest priority for him to change. If we prioritize and focus on a specific detail we will see dramatic change in a short period of time. If we do that with every player on our team and make it a goal for them to see that change become a reality as quickly as possible, the cumulative effect is our entire team makes a leap in progress and we are noticeably better.

This concept is not entirely new to any of us–focusing on a specific goal–but the analogy made an impact on me. I went back to our gym and helped our players focus on one specific thing that they were going to change. The results were dramatic! Each player got significantly better in that specific area.

There were unexpected positive results also. Because they were so focused they were much more relaxed in general and played better and improved in other areas that weren’t even a part of their focus.

Let’s stop trying to boil giant vats of water. We will see results much sooner if we focus our efforts in specific areas. Change will happen before our very eyes.

Rob Browning