Plus, Minus, and Equals Training System for Club Volleyball

Frank Shamrock was the first mixed martial arts fighter to hold the UFC Middleweight Champion title and retired as a four-time undefeated champion. During his reign as the UFC Middleweight Champion, Shamrock was the world’s No. 1 ranked pound-for-pound UFC fighter.

Frank Shamrock

Shamrock now trains fighters and has a routine for all his fighters that volleyball club directors and coaches might consider for their teams. Shamrock organizes his training into a “Plus, Minus, Equals Training System.” At the “Plus” level, all of Shamrock’s fighters must train with more experienced and skilled fighters. Second, at the “Minus” level, all fighters must spend time teaching less skilled or inexperienced fighters. Lastly, at the “Equal” level, fighters will train with other fighters of equal ability.

A quick explanation of this training routine and its possible use inside a club environment is in order.

John Calipari

The Plus
Hall of Fame basketball coach John Calipari, the head coach at Kentucky, once said, “If you’re the best player in the gym, you’re in the wrong gym.” Players must train with other players or teams possessing better skills to maximize their improvement. Players who are a step above you relative to skill development will expose the weak areas in your game and give you the incentive to work on them. Not all weaknesses are skill-related. The superior player or team may have a more competitive mentality, a superior fitness level, or a more conscientious approach to the game that lesser-skilled players can observe and put into their games.

Coaches can facilitate this approach by aggressively pursuing training or competitive opportunities against teams currently superior to yours. I’ve always wished for top clubs to incorporate practice together over multiple days. This format of a training concept would cost less than sanctioned tournaments, allow more playing time for non-starters, and prioritize improvement over competitive results. A club director can schedule the same concept inside the club. Having the 17s compete and train with the 15s can benefit the younger players while allowing the older players to help the “next generation” inside the club.

I can attest to the benefit of practicing against better players. As an up-and-coming 10th-grade basketball player, my father would drop me off at an inner-city gym where all the good players would play all day in the hot and humid Michigan summers. I was placed out of my comfort zone on many levels. The competitive environment of having to win to stay on the court forced me to get better or never get picked to play.

There are so many positives to enlarging players’ comfort zones. To do so, you must place players in an environment of stress. That stress can come in many forms, but one of the best ways to stress a player is by putting them on the court with superior players.

The Minus

“While we teach, we learn” ~ Seneca

Multiple studies indicate that a player with superior skills who teaches a lesser-skilled player enhances the skill development of the one teaching and the player learning. “Researchers have found that students enlisted to tutor others work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately, and apply it more effectively. In what scientists have dubbed “the protégé effect,” student teachers score higher on tests than pupils learning only for their own sake.” Learn More About the Protege Effect

There are potential benefits of this practice inside the club environment. First, as already stated, there is significant evidence that teaching the less skilled player will also improve the older or more skilled player’s skill set. In addition, fostering interaction between players of varying ages and skill levels leads to a more positive and unified club environment.

The Equal

Training with other players and teams considered equal to your abilities will provide a good measuring stick to monitor your improvement. Practicing against “equals” provides an ideal statistical and video performance evaluation opportunity. Both teams and individuals can enjoy the competitive component of playing against an opponent of equal talents. The gym atmosphere will improve as both parties work hard in a positive, competitive environment.


In a typical club scene, it is common for an atmosphere to be where every team or player focuses on individual or single-team improvement. There is a vibe of “every man or team for themselves.” Organizing a club format that fosters the training concept of Plus, Minus, and Equals offers a climate for advancing skills and knowledge of the game while, at the same time, fostering increased interaction between players from the various age groups inside the club.