Have you noticed that many club players wear their knee pads on their shins? I haven’t quite figured that one out because going to one or both knees is essential to expand both players’ range and ball control. Having the knee pads actually protecting the knees might be a good idea? I used to be one of those coaches that discouraged going to the knees and would always want players to move their feet to the ball. My perspective on going to a knee(s) has changed quite a bit. I still want players to move their feet, but some situations mandate that players go to their knees or a knee.
As coaches, we must teach players to be comfortable in various postures. The game is very random, and the ball will come to the players at various angles and trajectories. Players are reasonably comfortable with balls coming at waist level. There is not as much comfort with low balls or high balls. Let’s focus on the low ball coming to a passer or defender.
The ability to go to a knee or knees is essential in playing balls dropping short on serve-receive or being driven in front of or outside a defender’s feet. Dropping the hips and platform under the ball expands a passer/defender’s coverage area while also improving the ball control.
Three techniques facilitate this action. The first is the ” collapse dig,” and is used when receiving a hard-driven ball landing in front of the defender. The goal of a collapse dig is to drive the forearms under the ball to direct the ball up instead of back over the net. The player must bend the ankles and knees while driving the hips forward to accomplish this.
The second technique is the knee-drive. The knee-drive is used when receiving a short serve or off-speed attack. The knee-drive allows the passing platform to be under the ball and allows the player to get to their feet quickly.
The video below will focus on the collapse dig and the knee-drive techniques.
The last technique is similar to the collapse but used when receiving hard-driven attacks outside the defender’s feet. I call this technique the “shin drive” or “lateral collapse.” Too often, an attack outside the defender’s feet will result in the ball being dug off the court or over the net. By managing the hips and torso, the defender can bring the ball back to the middle of the court for a transition attack.
I would encourage coaches to spend time with all of these techniques to expand the court coverage abilities of players while producing better ball control. Of course, players will need to pull their knee pads up.
From my book “A Game Plan for Better Practices.”