To learn the game of volleyball, a player has to develop a multitude of skills. Passing, digging, setting, attacking, serving –– and then there is blocking.
Blocking is not only the hardest skill to learn, but the skill that takes the longest to perfect. It’s one of the most crucial components for a complete player to develop, but also comes with one of the steepest learning curves in the sport. Let’s break down why that is.
1. Blocking is the most difficult skill to learn in terms of technique. There are so many variables that go into a block –– your footwork, your timing, your hands, your communication, if you have someone blocking with you, if you don’t, if you are swing blocking and the list goes on. Executing a successful block at the college level requires first identifying the technique needed and then executing what can be a pretty complicated combination of movements. It’s a mental and physical puzzle, and it often takes time and training for a player to know how to assemble it correctly every time.
2. Part of the reason for that is because blocking is the least-taught skill among high school and club coaches. At the high school level attackers tend to be smaller, blockers are smaller and it makes more sense for prep coaches to focus less on blocking and more on digging. But that makes those first few college practices something of a crash course for freshmen trying to learn what it takes to block at the college level. Most players don’t have the necessary training to be fundamentally sound when blocking right away.
3. Timing is everything when it comes to blocking. You have to know when to start your footwork and when to jump based off of the set that comes from the opposing setter. A blocker also has to know where the opposing attacker is in her attacking progression. Blocking is a combination of the mental and physical in this way, too. The blocker is watching the opposing players while trying to complete her blocking movement. If you are too early or if you are too late, then you will likely get tooled.
Coach Cook mentioned after the Huskers’ 1-1 opening weekend against Florida and Oregon that, “Nicklin [Hames] needs to improve her blocking, but it’s the slowest skill to develop so it will take some time.”
He said this for the specific reasons listed above. Some skills are more difficult to pick up than others and some skills need more practice than others. Blocking is one of those that is not only difficult to learn, because it is so complex, but it also requires years and years of practice.