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Keeping stats and knowing how to use them

This is an excerpt from Volleyball Coaching Bible, Volume II, The by American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) & Cecile Reynaud.

Issues With Using Statistics

Coaches should be coaching; they need to spend as much time as possible in the moment and not with their heads down writing on paper. One of the greatest issues with keeping statistics is that the process of recording them can keep coaches from doing their primary job - coaching. But if the coach isn’t recording statistics, who should be? As the head coach on the bench, I have a sheet of paper on which I keep track of only the one or two statistics I believe are important to win the current match. These often change from opponent to opponent. Everything else is delegated to someone else who can quickly give me information as needed.


Statistics are only as valid and reliable as those recording them. It’s often a challenge to find a reliable bench player, parent, or team manager who can keep accurate statistics. I love to have the backup setter keeping track of my team’s passing and attacking statistics. It keeps her mind in the game, and it helps her understand what is working out there on the court. The same could be said for other players such as backup middles, outsides, and defensive players.


One of the greatest weaknesses of statistics is what many people call paralysis by analysis. A coach could easily make the mistake of taking numbers at face value and not using them to ask deeper questions. Some coaches spend too much time diving into the numbers and ultimately lose their coaching instincts. A coach who makes decisions completely based on numbers is just as susceptible to coaching mistakes as a coach who depends completely on instinct and subjective evaluation. The ideal situation is somewhere in the middle.


Statistical programs can be very expensive, or their complexity can make them very time-consuming. However, the recent development of tablet and iPad applications is making it very easy and inexpensive to track basic statistics. Several current programs include iVolleyStats, Volleyball Ace, and Rotate 123. The devices and applications will continue to change, so pay attention to new developments and use the right one for your program.


Tracking Statistics

It’s really easy to say that detailed statistics should be taken during every practice and every competition. At the NCAA Division I level, a full staff and coaches are dedicated exclusively to the Data Volley statistical program. More often than not, recording statistics is the job of an assistant coach, bench player, or parent. I firmly believe that coaches should put coaching as their first priority. Coaches who have difficulty taking statistics and providing real-time feedback to their athletes should delegate the statistics to someone else. Those with limited options for statisticians are better off video-recording the match or practice and recording statistics from the video later.


The summer USA Volleyball High Performance teams often have a limited number of staff members. Obviously, the Olympic pipeline for USA Volleyball is extremely important, so recording quality statistics is as well. Following are some methods that can be used with a pen and paper and a limited staff.


Box Chart

Using a box chart, a coach can record multiple statistics at one time. The following box chart (table 17.1) shows who executed the serve receive, the rating of the pass, and what happened after the pass was set.


We can gather a great deal of information from this chart. First, Jocelyn had 25 total passes for 43 total passing points. That means that her passing efficiency was 1.72 (43 passing points divided by 25 passes). We also know that 6 of her passes resulted in a first-ball kill, 10 passes resulted in a ball kept in play, 4 passes resulted in a first-ball error, and she was aced 5 times. We also can determine that 9 of her 25 passes were perfect (36 percent). This box chart can be used to track multiple stats for several players. The data can also be used to extrapolate areas of strength and weakness in a particular skill.


Stat Line

Using a stat line also works very well when a coach doesn’t have enough time to chart events. With this method it’s quite simple to keep track of many statistics at once. Following is a stat line chart for attacking, passing, and defense.


Luc: K 3 3 D 0 B A 3 2 D A B K E E


The translation of Luc’s stat line would read like this from the first stat entry: kill, three pass, three pass, dig, zero pass, block, attack attempt, three pass, two pass, dig, attack attempt, block, kill, attack error, attack error. From this stat line we can determine the following about Luc’s performance:

  • 2 kills + 2 attack errors + 2 other attack attempts = 6 attempts
  • 2 kills out of 6 attempts = 33% (kill percentage)
  • 2 kills - 2 errors out of 6 attempts = .000 (kill efficiency)
  • 5 serve-receive attempts for a total of 11 passing points = 2.20 (passing efficiency)
  • 2 digs and 2 blocks


Most Important Statistics to Track

This subject is up for a great debate. The answer may lie in the type of team you have. If you have a team that scores at a very high level, then you are likely tracking the major offensive statistics. If your team depends on defensive skills to equalize matches, then you should be focusing more on serving, blocking, and defensive strategies. Let’s have a quick refresher on the basic statistics in volleyball.


Basic Offensive Statistics

  • Kill: When an attack attempt leads directly to a point
  • Attack attempt: When an attack attempt results in neither a kill nor an error
  • Error: When an attack attempt is blocked for a point, hit in the net, or hit out of bounds. Balls that are blocked are considered forced errors, whereas balls hit in the net or out of bounds are considered unforced errors.


Basic Defensive Statistics

  • Block:A block is awarded to a player or players who score a point for their team by blocking an opponent attack. As many as three players may receive a block if they are all part of an attempt to block an attack.
  • Block solo:When a player is the only one blocking a shot
  • Block assist: When more than one player blocks an attack, all players receive a block assist regardless of whether they were the player who blocked the ball
  • Block error: When a referee determines that a blocker has made illegal contact with the net
  • Dig: When a player stops an opponent’s attack attempt from being a kill
  • Cover: When a player digs a teammate’s attack after it has been blocked by an opponent


Basic Setting Statistics

  • Set attempt: When a player attempts to set to a teammate for a kill
  • Assist: When a player sets to a teammate and the attack is a kill
  • Ball handling error: When a referee calls a player setting the ball for a lift or double contact


Basic Serving Statistics

  • Serve attempt: When a player attempts a serve
  • Ace: When a server’s attempt is not passed and directly results in a point
  • Serve error: When a player’s attempt is served in the net or out of bounds, or a player commits a service line fault


Basic Serve-Receive Statistics

  • Reception: When a player attempts a serve receive
  • Reception error: When a player’s poor serve receive leads to a direct point for the serving team


The following table 17.2 illustrates the two primary measurements of team system success, how those statistical measurements are determined, the best way to track the systems, and some goals your team might try to achieve.



Serve-Receive Statistics

One of the most common ways to determine the success of your serve-receive game is to grade each serve reception.


Passing Average (3-Point Scale)

How to most accurately rate this statistic is up for great debate. Many coaches use a traditional 3-point scale ranging from 0 for an ace or overpass to 3 for a perfect pass. Figure 17.1 represents the value of each pass based on where the ball would have landed on the court.The team goal is to achieve a 2.30, or a 60 percent 3 pass.



Passing average, 3-point scale.


Passing Average (4-Point Scale)

There is a statistical problem with the 3-point passing scale. Statisticians will tell you that anything with an odd number of data points is not statistically valid or reliable. Therefore, many higher-level programs use a 4-point scale ranging from 0 for an ace or overpass to 4 for a perfect-perfect pass (see figure 17.2). The team goal is to achieve 2.70, or a 60 percent 3 and 4 pass.



Passing average, 4-point scale.


Passing Average (Weighted Scale)

Recently, I had a conversation with Jim Dietz, who is the very numbers-savvy head coach for Lincoln Land Community College in Illinois. He has been working with a passing scale that is weighted to include an expected success outcome based on the quality of a pass (see figure 17.3). It’s fair to say that a 2 pass is twice as likely to yield a point as a 1 pass. A 5 pass is 5 times as likely to yield a point as a 1 pass. The team goal is to achieve 3.30, or a 60 percent 5 pass.



Passing average, weighted scale.

Learn more about The Volleyball Coaching Bible, Volume II.