From a Coach:

How do you teach the middle and other players to block the bic? High level high school boys teams run it, is it a baby jump big jump, and do you try and triple it? How can I teach my boys?

Our Reply:

(A definition of terms – a BIC is a set to a backrow attacker that goes just over the top of the quick hitter. On good teams this is a second-step set, and on really good teams it gets to be a third-step set. See video of Brazil running this play here)

When run well, the bic is a VERY hard play to defend. Watch any of the film from the Olympics and you’ll see that nobody from any team stopped that play with regularity. In fact, they almost never stopped it when teams were in-system.

So there isn’t much to tell you that you probably don’t already know. A lot of how you defend that play starts becoming more about tactics within the basic blocking keys. You know we don’t want our players to “guess” about where the ball is going to be set – we want them to read and react. But you can get your players in position to have their reactions be faster: load on med/bad passes, load when there is no quick in your zone, dedicate on middles that are hurting you, etc. But we still want players reading and reacting from those spots.

As for “baby jump” and “big jump”, I am not familiar with those terms. I assume it means you only jump a little on the quick hitter so as to be able to jump again on the bic. My thought is that you can’t try to baby jump the quick all the time or you’ll get hammered there. If you read quick, jump on the quick completely and if you get fooled see what you can do to try and jump again. It’s a tough play, no doubt about it.

As for trying to triple the bic, it becomes a question of where your block is deployed, but one of our principles is that at some levels, more blockers are better than fewer blockers – at the HS Boys level that is probably the case. The trouble with keeping your wing blockers in to help on the quick/bic is that you make it hard for them to get to the pins if the offense is that fast. My sense from the matches I have seen is that HS offensives aren’t going to be good enough to go that fast, so I’d like to see us get three up if we read it right.

So on a perfect pass, it becomes some kind of math – what is hurting us more, the bics or the MB? If only a few balls are getting killed via the bic every match but a lot of sets are going to the quick, I am happy to have my middle jump on balls that he thinks are set to the quick (but actually go to the bic) a little more often. The other thing to really try to get a sense of is any kind of “tell” the setter has (most HS setters will set the bic a little differently than the quick), and what patterns he might have (likes to go bic in a certain rotation, likes to go bic in transition, likes to go bic on a perfect pass, etc). If you can chart a setter for a match, you can start to see some of these patterns.

Finally, we also need to worry about our RS blocker and decide where he is going to help. There are a few questions here as well – how fast are the outside sets? Do I have time to really help on the quick/bic and still get outside effectively? Once again it turns into a probability equation – let’s put our blockers in the spots that see the most action, and in spots that allow them to defend the most likely attack the best.

The biggest thing I can tell you in all of this is that your blockers have to have great footwork and even better eyework. Get them moving well and seeing the right things early and you’ll be in pretty good shape.

Finally, one last thing: if you can chart the bic hitters to see where they like to hit the ball and get your back row defenders in those spots, that is another HUGE help. If you can’t block the bic, you can dig it (especially HS kids out of the back row – not too many of them are crushing back row swings).