A question that frequently arises during the course of the women’s volleyball season is what strategy should the coaches use in preparing their game plan for each opponent. They review statistics, the strengths and weaknesses of each player of the opposing team and compare positional advantages or disadvantages of their players to their respective competitive counterparts. In order for this decision-making process to have a successful outcome, it is important to also consider strategies that will be needed if the game plan changes because of injury, illness or other circumstantial issues. Using a counterbalance or an “offsetting” approach occasionally is necessary to keep a winning outcome.
Mechanical compensatory strategies used by individual athletes regularly, or on an ongoing basis, to meet challenging sensory and motor requirements of a specific task, can lead to functional breakdown. Overuse of one muscle group to substitute for the weakness or lack of ability of another, lead only to a losing consequence of muscular pain, bone stress, ligamentous laxiety, joint swelling or tendon inflammation. An example of this can be seen with a volleyball player overusing her lower back muscles to extend in reaching to block a volleyball, when her hip extensors, the gluteus maximus and hamstrings, on the opposite side aren’t working hard enough. Eventually she will experience symptoms of back strain when the primary biomechanical issue is lack of hip extension.
When to facilitate normal mechanical or motor strategies versus compensatory strategies is not easy to determine for every volleyball player, and will vary from player to player. The guideline used to determine if the volleyball athlete is using biomechanical compensatory strategies, is symmetrical balance. John Cook and his assistant coaches recognize the need to minimize compensatory muscle strategies and thus injury, through careful consideration of each player’s functional ability to play non-compensatory volleyball in their respective position and occasionally compensatory volleyball if needed.
Compensating through the use of different muscles or different volleyball players, if done correctly and minimally can lead to a winning performance. Overusing this strategical muscle plan or game plan often leads to respective muscle or game breakdown and possible disaster.