Is Volleyball Easy or Hard to Learn? (AVOID Doing This!)

As a volleyball coach, I get the same question over and over again. Is volleyball easy or difficult to learn? My answer is always the same. Everyone can learn how to play volleyball as the basic rules are quite simple. You can play it quite slowly so even beginners can have fun with it. However, if you want to play with experienced players, it can be a difficult sport as these players are able to pass and smash very fast.

If you don’t know what is going on in that instance, you will have a hard time learning the sport. Therefore I would suggest that you ask other players to play slower if it is the first time that you play it. This will allow you to see how you have to move, where you have to run to, and so on. 

Why is volleyball easy to learn but hard to master?

As with a lot of things in life, volleyball follows a learning curve. You will start out clueless where you don’t know what the goal of the game is, the role of each player is and what you have to do. After one training, you will start to see the patterns emerge and start to grasp how the game is played.

After a few training sessions, you will have the feeling that you know what is going on and how the game is played. At that point in time, you will be overly confident and think that you know everything that there is to know about volleyball. Soon, however, you will realize that there is a lot more to volleyball than you originally thought.

There are other passes, other tactics and so on that, you didn’t think about. This might be quite discouraging as you thought that you knew a lot already while you suddenly have the feeling that is not the case. Fear not, if you stick to it and keep training, you will achieve mastery. 

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

How long does this process take? Well it can be years before you finally start to achieve mastery and understand all the drills and tactics. Volleyball can be a very tactical sport where unexpected maneuvers are used to confuse the opponent. 

During this process, you will experience a lot of fun but also a lot of frustration. This is part of learning a new skill. In the end, you will be happy that you have stuck with it. About 60% of volleyball players play the sport for more than 5 years. I would say that is the moment that you start to understand how the game is played and what different ways to play are there.

Volleyball might be simple at the outset but there are a lot of layers to the game that keeps it exciting and fun even after playing it for a long time. 

A lot of players start out in their teens and their body is still evolving during that period of time. This will allow them to jump higher and run faster after a while. Combine this with an added understanding of how the game is being played and you start to see why volleyball never bores and remains a fresh challenge. 

The learning curve. Source: https://medium.com/trafficandcopy/the-learning-curve-is-killer-be-aware-of-it-31404ce0d398

You will encounter this learning curve in a lot of things in life. Once you have gone through it once, will be a lot easier to do it again since you have had to deal with a lot of these setbacks already.

I would say that volleyball is one of the easiest sports to learn as there are not a ton of rules and you can pick it up quite fast if other players help you out. It is also one of the hardest sports to master as there are a lot of nuances and your ball handling has to be great if you want to play on a high level. Developing your ball handling can take a lot of time and understanding the tactics that are being used can also take a lot of time.

This is why volleyball is so much fun as you constantly feel that you progress and improve. If you feel that you have hit a plateau and don’t improve anymore, it might be time to talk to your coach. He or she can suggest new drills or new ways to approach the game. Often one new exercise can improve your game a lot as it will help you in defense or offense.

In beach volleyball, they even have a system to rank players based on levels to balance teams out.

Do you have a good coach?

A great coach can help you to find your own blind spots. This will make sure that you grow and avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again. You will still have to put in the work and repeat the same drills over and over again. Your coach can’t do the work for you.

A lot of players get lazy and entitled. They think that their coach has magic skills and can improve their game without effort on their part. You still have to be willing to put in the work. If you don’t train every week, don’t expect to improve over time. It is often small and gradual improvements that will result in your next big leap forward. You can’t expect to improve in a short period of time or without putting in the time.

Some days you probably don’t want to train or don’t want to perform that exercise that is pushing you to your limit. You still have to show up these days and give your best. It is only after doing this consistently that you will see progress. A great coach will make sure that you don’t slack off and perform the exercises to the best of your ability. Small differences in posture or hand position can have a big impact on how the ball lands or flies.

The best coaches can explain what you need to do in a crystal clear manner. Let’s take a look at how the following coach works:

Therefore your coach should monitor how you perform the exercises and provide feedback if needed. If you feel that you don’t get good feedback from your coach, you can always ask another player on your team to help you out. Sometimes you don’t get along with your coach and it is time to find another one. Before you do this, be sure that your coach is really terrible. Sometimes it is just an excuse that you have because you don’t want to put in the work.

Your mind will come up with a lot of excuses if you are tired so be sure to ignore these and still perform the task at hand. It is often estimated that mastery takes 10.000 hours so you will have to practice a lot if you want to become really great. Ask yourself why you started and what you want to accomplish if you are in a funk. This will help you to push through a hard time. 

The team aspect of playing volleyball

What makes volleyball even more complex is that it is a team sport. You have to be able to get along with other people and understand how people can work together. Often there is some unspoken tension between some players. This can affect their game.

For example, if players don’t trust each other or they are mad at each other, they might pass to someone else. A good coach should be able to pick up on this. The captain of the team should understand these dynamics as well. From time to time it is necessary to have a talk between players to see what is going on.

Sometimes small misunderstandings can lead to problems. Therefore it is important to have open communication with other players and talk about what is going on. If you don’t discuss these things, they will fester and there will be issues over time. I have seen it happen time and time again where small issues lead to big conflicts over time.

When I coach volleyball players, I plan a session every month during which we talk about what bothers players. In that, we have a talk about what they think. We keep it civil and try to be friendly with each other. Players have often told me that this helped them express their feelings and resolved a lot of problems without a lot of drama. 

The coach and captain of the team are responsible to create a great vibe in the team. There are drills to work on this, as discussed below:

You might not get along with another player but if you can discuss your feelings and understand their point of view, it might be possible to play with each other. I have had to play with people with completely different personalities. I am always calm and silent. Other players often panic and scream and shout. At first, I didn’t understand this and it annoyed me.

I was showing signs of disgust and they picked this up. It was only after talking to them that I understood that they have another personality. Having multiple player types on the field makes the team more unpredictable. It was only after my coach pointed this out, that I understood the value of this other player. Now we get along great as we appreciate the value that we bring to the field. Everyone has their own style and this makes our team more complete. 

Is volleyball tiring? A very intense game

Yes, you have to run and jump a lot during volleyball training or game. However, if you train every week it will get easier and easier. Some training sessions consist more of talking about strategies and tactics and will be less exhausting. Other training sessions will focus on running and this will be really tiring as your arms and legs will feel heavy from all the running and passing.

A good coach will find a balance between several types of exercise to make sure that you can grow gradually. You will still feel exhausted after training but it should be manageable. Playing a volleyball match is very intense as you have to focus on where the ball is going, and where you have to move. You also have to run, jump and anticipate how other players will react and move. This combination of mental and physical focus can be draining and result in fatigue.

Photo by Josh Duke on Unsplash

Make sure to have good shoes if you have to play volleyball. This will make it easier to perform the exercises. I always try to be well-rested before going to a training or volleyball match as I will have to spend a lot of time and energy on it. Therefore I also make sure that I didn’t snack. You have to find out what routine works for you and stick with it. Being prepared for training can help a lot as you don’t have to deal with things that take your energy away before the training even starts. 

To conclude, we can state that volleyball is an easy sport to learn but hard to get really good at it. It can take years of practice to excel.