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Keep It Calm

by Jody Avirgan

Assuming there are other essays that discuss the importance of having one sideline voice using simple language, I'll take a slightly contrarian approach to the topic: there's not much you can really accomplish from the sideline during a game. Put more accurately, the best you can hope for from your sideline is to help remind the players on the field of what they already know. Defensive blocks are created by players executing the strategy they decided on before the point. Sideline information rarely generates a block and, much more often than not, can actually serve to undermine the preexisting strategy. There is little hope that someone on the sideline can "joystick" a player on the field into a block; but he/she can certainly joystick a teammate out of position. 

Take, for example, the mark, which is where communication from off the field is standard. As far as I could tell, 2010 was the year of the rotated mark. On Team USA we employed it all the time, shifting the sideline trap mark at stall 5 or so to take away the dump, then having the dump defender play the upline cut. On PoNY we saw this defense all season, and really only figured out how to beat it on Sunday at Regionals. It's a very effective strategy when everyone's on the same page. 

And when was it less effective? More often than not, when the mark would jump back out of position because someone on the sideline was giving them too much information. 

So, what did successful sideline communication look like in this case? 

Stall 1-5: "No break...No inside...No around"
Stall 5: "Rotate!" or "90!" or whatever term you have for the mark taking away the dump
Stall 6-10: (Calmly) "Hold it...steady...take a step foul"

The unsuccessful version? 

Stall 1-5: "No break...No inside...No around"
Stall 5: "Rotate!" or "90!" or whatever term you have for the mark taking away the dump
Stall 6-10: (Frantic) "NO LINE!!! NO INSIDE!!! EVERYONE FREAK OUT!!!!"

If the sideline starts to flood the player on the field with too much information, and information that's out of sync with the overall strategy, the mark gets jumpy, gives us a cheap foul, and all of a sudden the thrower or the cutter can find a bail-out for him or herself at the last second. 

The point is, trust your preexisting game plan, the one you developed when everyone was calmer and more reasoned. Don't expect a player to be able to process your information, stray from the strategy, and make a play all in real-time. If the wing in the zone's number one priority is to take away the line as it swings, just make sure that you're reminding them to do so. If you've decided to front a particular player on the other team, spend the point telling his defender "front...front...front". Keep it simple, and keep it consistent. It may not be the most enticing way to communicate from the sideline, but it'll pay dividends over the course of a long game.

huddle issue030 Using The Sideline Voice

Thursday, January 20th, 2011
Keep It Calm
by Jody Avirgan

Two Things Durings A Point
by Jeff Eastham-Anderson

Standardizing A Team Way Of Communicating
by Greg Husak

A Strong Sideline Voice
by Tyler Kinley

Tangible vs. Intangible
by Brett Matzuka

A Constant Stream Of Specific Information
by Colin McIntyre

Make It Useful
by Jim Parinella

Sharing The Work
by Logan Pendragon

Assisting The Visually Impaired
by Taylor Pope

It Takes Practice
by Moses Rifkin

Loud + Positive = Good
by Miranda Roth

Provide New Information and Reinforcement
by Shane Rubenfeld

The Zone
by Ben van Heuvelen




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