Swing Blocking, by Carl McGown

It was in 1985 that what is now Gold Medal Squared was founded. We called ourselves Canyon Volleyball then (we lived in Provo Canyon), and we sent out brochures to all the schools in Utah, and most of the schools that border Utah in Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, and Nevada.

Our very first customers were Dubois, Idaho; Cortez Colorado; and Mountain Crest, Rich County, and Spanish Fork, Utah. Two of those five won State Championships the following season (Dubois and Spanish Fork). Mountain Crest won in 1986, and soon (1988) Rich County (and Cindy Stuart) dominated their division and they have won 16 titles (and counting).

When I look back on the curriculum that was in place in 1985 I am delighted to see that the way we wanted to teach volleyball then is not so far away from the way we want to teach volleyball now (I take this as good news, because it means that we actually knew what we were doing even back then).

Of course there have been refinements, modifications, and changes. Probably the greatest change is in the way we now teach individual blocking.

BYU Men’s Volleyball – The Blocking Factory

In 1999 I decided that the BYU men’s team I was coaching should learn how to swing block. We did our best to put it in place and it helped us to a 30-1 season and the NCAA championship. Because it was such an effective technique for the BYU boys we started teaching swing blocking in our camps in the summer of 1999 and we have been doing it ever since.

Swing blocking raises some issues. One issue is that blocking is not the most important skill in high school volleyball, and swing blocking takes time to learn and is not easy to teach. If you are working on blocking you are not working on serving and receiving, and if you are working on swing blocking (as opposed to regular blocking) it takes even more time to learn and there is even less time to work on serving and receiving. Nevertheless, swing blocking has been in our curriculum for over 10 years because we think the time spent pays off in the long run in making teams better at blocking (and probably defense).

Is Swing Blocking More Effective?

There is also a results issue. Are teams better at blocking if they use swing blocking? Check out the table from the 2005 NCAA season that lists the top blocking teams in Division 1. We know that at least four of these teams—St. Mary’s, Utah, Cal Poly, and NCAA champion Washington—are swing blocking because we helped train them. The results are impressive. Four of the top blocking teams in the country were swing blocking and Washington, while ranked only number 16, was the best defensive team in the PAC 10 (swing blocking is not only about blocking it is also about total team defense) and was able to win the national championship.

School Games Solo Blocks Block Assists Blocks Per Game

1. Nebraska 116 66 823 4.12
2. St. Mary’s (Cal.) 110 51 706 3.67
3. Utah 123 61 765 3.61
4. Louisville 122 97 679 3.58
5. Penn State 111 106 582 3.58
6. Notre Dame 124 174 534 3.56
7. Wisconsin 115 76 663 3.54
8. Washington State 113 94 604 3.5
9. Colorado State 108 79 575 3.39
10. Hawaii 117 59 676 3.39
11. UNI 117 55 662 3.3
12. Arkansas 127 55 724 3.28
13. Maryland 122 71 646 3.23
14. Pepperdine 108 98 492 3.19
15. Cal Poly 91 30 509 3.13
16. Washington 108 43 589 3.13

The Biomechanics of Swing Blocking

The results seem to be there. But why is swing blocking good? Perhaps the final issue is biomechanics. Consider the results of a recent thesis by Kevin Ulmer (you can read his thesis here: arm_swing_blocking_Div_1.pdf)

His thesis was designed to examine:
THE EFFECT OF ARM SWING ON THE BLOCKING PERFORMANCES OF DIVISION I VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS

His major purpose was:
The purpose of this study was to compare the use of a swing vs. crossover blocking technique in blocking performances.

His major findings were:
Swing blocking is recommended as it produces a greater block height and longer block time, but does not take longer to perform than the traditional crossover technique.

There you have it.

More and more club, high school, and college teams are using it. If you watched the NCAA championship match both UCLA and Illinois were in a bunch read and were swing blocking. Our USA women (currently ranked number ONE in the world) are in a bunch read and are swing blocking.

You should be swing blocking (if you would like a handout on what we think you should teach, email us – info@goldmedalsquared.com and we will send one to you).

Swing blocking (since 1999) in our gym and since 2012 in your gym.

Carl McGown
Gold Medal Squared