Considerations for an Effective Offense

Any successful venture will possess core values. Decisions are made, daily activities are designed, and time is allocated based on the pillars deemed the backbone of a company, team, or collective group. All coaches should have core values that impact daily activities and decisions. These values must be visible to all team members with an accompanying “buy-in” by all.

Core values are also essential to various aspects of the game. This article focuses on my core values for the offensive component of the game. What a coach values for an offensive system will provide a direction and structure that impact daily practice sessions. Without this structure, you’ll be like Alice asking the Cheshire cat for directions. “If you don’t know where you want get to, it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

You Need a Direction Before You Know Which Way to Go

The coach’s daily practice activities should reflect what you want the end product to resemble. Your core offensive philosophy will be the roadmap to the end product.

A component of my offensive core values is based upon the simple goal of getting to 25 points most efficiently.

How to Get to 25 Points

  • Kill 15-16 points per set
  • Block 1-2 points per set
  • Serve 1-2 aces per set
  • A good opponent will only give you 6-7 points per set.

Total up the above, and you’re at 25 points. 

  • If you do not accrue 15-16 attack kills per set, you must make up the difference from other areas. That might be a challenge, especially against a good opponent that is stingy with giving up points on errors!
  • If your team gives up more than 6-7 points per set, you reduce the points your opponent must earn. You will probably lose any set if your team gives away ten or more points via errors.

You will score more points by killing the ball than any other skill. Teams that are ineffective when attacking will also struggle to win sets. The ability to kill the ball and possess an effective offensive system should be a priority in your practice sessions. Specific pillars impacting how you teach your offense are essential to being a successful team.

I have developed my offensive pillars over the years. They are not listed in any order of priority. All have equal importance because one pillar will impact another.

OSU Men- Five Attackers to Defend

Core Value #1
Have More Hitters Than Blockers – If there are three hitters vs. three blockers, the defense has a fighting chance to defend successfully. The odds go up for the defense if there is a front-row setter, and now the offense has two hitters vs. three blockers. If the offense can effectively implement a backrow attack, now there are four or five attackers vs. three blockers. The odds of the offense scoring are increased dramatically. I encourage coaches to leave point-scoring attackers on the court in the backrow. However, just having quality attackers on the floor doesn’t guarantee success. The backrow attack must be implemented strategically, with effective timing and precision.

Core Value #2
There Must Be Attackers at Both Antennas – The offense must force the blockers to defend the entire net. Generally, the offense has no problem attacking from the left front position (position 4). However, it is common in two-hitter rotations for the right front (position 2) to be ignored. When this occurs, the blockers will shift and only need to defend one-half the court. The advantage goes to the block. Some coaches address this by running a 6-2 offense. There are advantages and disadvantages to the 6-2 system; however, it will address attacks from both antennas. If running a system with a front-row setter, the middle attack must be comfortable attacking from behind the setter with either one-foot (slide) or a two-foot approach. The other option is to attack from right-back (position 1). Attacking from the right-back is an essential component of the men’s game but not as much in the collegiate game.

Core Value #3

Spiker Decision-Making – The attacker must make a hierarchy of choices when spiking. 

  • Kill the ball- the primary duty of the attacker is to score a point. If they are not scoring, they are either costing your side a point (attack error) or providing the opportunity for the opponent to score.
  • Recycle- if the attacker cannot score, they can recycle the attacker by placing the ball into the hands of the block, covering the blocked attack, then attacking again. As long as the offense has the ball, the defense cannot score. 
  • Attack to the Setter- generally, teams are less effective when a non-setter sets the second ball. If the hitter cannot score or recycle, attacking the opponent’s setter is the next priority.
  • Attacking the Best Hitter – If the setter is blocking and the attacker cannot score or recycle, placing the ball to the opponent’s best attacker is the next priority. 
  • Keep the Ball in Play – Although attack errors are part of the game, players should be aware of their responsibility to keep the ball in play. If all the above options are not available, keep the ball in play and attempt to win the rally.

Core Value #4
Use If/Then to Gather Information – A concept that I encourage coaches to instill in their players is using If/Then when attacking (or other aspects of the game, as well). The “IF” gathers visual information, and the “THEN” is the fix. For example, “IF” the outside blocker is late, “THEN” I will attack the line. Or, “IF” there is a small outside blocker, “THEN” I will hit over the smaller block. The use of visual cues when attacking needs to be more utilized.

Core Value #5
Attack the Gaps – Both attackers and setters should be aware of the starting position of the blockers and aggressively move to open space to attack. A hitter approaching a stationary blocker is making a poor tactical choice.

Core Value #6
Attackers Must Have Efficient Situational Footwork – Every skill in the game is situational. All attackers should have a foundation of a four-step spike approach. However, time must be spent perfecting various approach angles (inside-out, outside-in) along with three-step and two-step attack approaches. An item I emphasize relative to attack footwork is “off before out.” Getting off the net in a transition play is essential to a dynamic four-step approach.

Core Value #7
The Set Tempo is the Foundation of the Offense – An effective offense is rhythmical. The sets are consistent in trajectory and tempo, allowing the hitters to attack smoothly and rhythmically. The tempo of an offense is up to the coach. Lower sets are generally easier to attack than sets that drop vertically into the attack zone. However, that is my personal bias. Establishing the rhythm of an offense should be done objectively. For example, the hitter is on their first step (right foot) when the setter contacts the ball. Or, a faster tempo would be the hitter is on their second step (left foot) when the setter contacts the ball. A quick hitter might be on their last step.

Core Value #8
Practice Attacking Off The Hands of the Block – The blockers are tall and talented at higher levels of play. Blockers of this size will reduce the court area for the hitter to attack. To increase the area to be defended, the attacker must become adept at attacking off the hands of the blocker. Practicing this skill daily is recommended.

Core Value #9
Sideout Offense is Part of Every Practice – A team that sides out more efficiently than the opponent will win that set. The same statement is not valid relative to the team with the most blocks or the team digging the most balls, etc. If siding out is this important to the set or match results, practicing this game component daily is recommended.

There are additional important aspects of the offense of a team. However, I have found that these nine core values are the most impactful in developing offensive efficiency. The challenge is placing players into an environment in practice that allows them to become proficient in these items.

Some of these values are age dependent. However, as younger players mature in their skills and athleticism, working these skills into your daily practice routine will benefit the offensive potential of your team.