You gave us feedback! Here's the result! Several people reached out and requested a blog post on how they can improve their defense. Some common questions were: What are some basic tips? How do the best players conceptualize defense? How can I improve?
We took this feedback and generated four questions to ask 'Pros' what they thought... These questions were:
- How do you think about defense when you play roundnet?
- Basic tips to improve?
- ‘Pro tips’?
- Anything else you want to add about defensive positioning/awareness?
Without further ado let's meet the 'pros' we interviewed...
#1- Chico Spikes: The OG's of Spikeball. Skyler Boles and Shaun Boyer combined to form an unstoppable tandem that has a record of 200-6. They won the National Championship in 2014, and 2015. They finished as the runner-up in 2016 (Insert pun about Two Guys). They combined to win 33 Tournament Titles. Safe to say they were a dynasty. Why did the win so often? Many hypothesize it's because they were arguably the best defensive team when they played together. They understood the game, had insane chemistry, and did the little things which ended up earning them 200 victories. For these reasons, they needed to part of the discussion when we talk about defensive strategy in roundnet.
#2- Cisek_Showalter: Peter Jon Showalter and Tyler Cisek, The 2017 National Champions... All they do is win... (except for Boston and a team we'll mention next). Here is their resume from 2017: 1st at 2017 Spikeball™ Roundnet Association Nationals, 1st at Midwest Regionals,1st at Midwest Grand Slam: Chicago, 3rd at East Grand Slam: Boston, 1st at Midwest Tour Stop: Columbus, 1st at East Tour Stop: SummerSpike, 1st at East Tour Stop: Philadelphia, 1st at East Tour Stop: Baltimore, 1st at West Tour Stop: San Francisco, 1st at Pitt March Madness. Anything else I can add would be redundant.
#3- Anchored LI: Ryan Fitzgerald and Anthony Alvino. This was the team that beat C_S at the Boston Grand Slam. This is also the team which most consider the best defensive team of 2017. Of the 6 players that were interviewed, several of them went out of their way to mention that they consider Ryan the best defensive player in the game right now. Worth noting, Anthony may be one of the best defenders near the net. The way he is able to read the set and orient his body leads to a lot of bodies which sends the ball high in the air which allows Ryan to sprint and hit a diving set, which translates to Anthony putting the ball away. This was a seemingly routine play for Anchored in 2017.
Let the interviewing begin!
1. How do you think about defense when you play roundnet?
Skyler- The Spike School defense video is definitely a good base. I think about defense a lot like a goalie in soccer. Depending on how far the ball is off of the net when the other team sets it tells me how close to the net to play on defense. I pay extremely close attention to their body and arm positions. I am always looking at what options they have, which is the most likely they will hit and try to be there before they spike the ball. Sometimes I like to "over-react" and move early on defense so the offender changes their mind and their shot. This can lead to more mistakes by the other team and easier to get to balls.
Shaun- Defense is everything. There are so many attributes and traits that make up a good roundnet player but defense is at the top of my list. To me, defense is about positioning yourself (in tandem with your partner) in a way that gives your team an opportunity to make a play on the opponents hit. Since there are, theoretically, 360 degrees to cover it is vital to have good chemistry with your partner. Knowing where they will be and where you should be in any given circumstance will set you apart from most teams.
PJ- Consistent defense is all about working with your partner. I think that there are very few good defensive gets or touches where the partner who never touches the ball isn't half responsible. While defense is so much about anticipation and quickness, it's also about moving off of your teammate in a way that sets you up best for success, especially at higher levels of play.
Tyler- When I play defense in Roundnet I think of it as a chance to steal a point that really should not be yours. In a time where offense is so good, getting a defensive play is very rewarding. My goal is to try and read the set and then run to or put my body where I best think the ball will go. Obviously people are adjusting to where the defense is all the time so that is why I like to throw in some fakes to kind of get them thinking more than they really need to. Not going to lie, defense is a very hard game to play. There are many times in the game where the ball will fly past you but that cannot discourage you. There are always plays to be made and you need to be ready to make them when they come along. A lot of it has to do with hand eye coordination and reactions because you need to be able to make fast decisions and quick touches when the ball comes off that net. Some of the defensive touches could just be from reading the players arm motion as he/she is coming down towards the net. There are so many ways and little tricks you can do to make defensive plays, but it still will not be easy.
Ryan- Defense in Roundnet separates some of the best players from good ones. When bodies get tired as a tournament goes on, swings get slower, minds get tired and serving has less of an impact. That is when you really see the best defensive players shine. Personally, I think about defense on certain players/teams before the game even starts and adapt the strategy as the game continues based on what my partner and I see.
Anthony- In my opinion there is nothing better then making a defensive play! My mindset going into a play is DO NOT LET THE BALL HIT THE GROUND!!! If you watch our games, there is no ball that isn't worth leaving your feet for. You'll see us diving or at least hitting the ground in almost every single defensive possession. I am pretty spoiled playing with Ryan! ;) In my opinion, he is the best defender in Roundnet, no question! So my job on defense is to get the person to hit it his way! haha Sounds pretty simple minded but works like a charm! This actually is part of the reason I like playing defense close to the net, to try and take away any other hit besides in his general direction. This is also why you'll see a lot of bodies from me, because if you don't wanna hit it at Ryan, you'll have to hit it into me! But overall, LOVEEEEEEE DEFENSE! (p.s. love the enthusiasm here! So easy to picture that New York accent yelling LOVEEEEEEE DEFENSE! lol)
2. Basic tips to improve?
Skyler- Have someone just rip balls at you. Make it so they have to hit to a certain area, learn to cover that and as you get better, make that area bigger. Reps will make you immensely better.
Shaun- I’m not going to sit here and tell you to get “more athletic”. Instead I’ll share what Skyler and I did to get better. First and foremost, watch film of your games with your partner. Talk through what is going through your minds on each play and how you could have done better. Take what you’ve learned and put it in practice when you play. Communicate after each play about what’s working and not working. The goal is to be so in tune with each others movements that they happen instantaneously and effectively.
PJ- The easiest way to move from a decent defender to one who is ready for anything is by moving before the play happens. If you split from your partner as soon as the serve is hit and take away the easiest shot from the get go, you're automatically in better position to make a play on the rest of the possible hits. If you both stay in the spots you started in until the ball is being hit, you leave the majority of the net to be used to hit away from you.
Tyler- The biggest thing to improve on is just your overall thought process on positioning when people are hitting. Everyone likes to pull the ball so that would be the first thing I would cover. Make them make the hardest shot. A good trick would be the person to the right of the server goes for the pull and then the other person goes for the push/short. A good trick that kinda works is just to always be moving. The more you move, the more the hitter has to think about where to hit it and the less focused they are about how they are hitting the ball. This could lead to pockets or rims which is Christmas for a defender.
Ryan- One necessary thing that has to be there is quick reaction and stellar hand-eye coordination and body control. Another tip is to have a gameplan. I see so many good players run around the net honestly just hoping the ball is hit their way. Not the best way to get an 'up'. Adjust that gameplan as the game goes on if it isn't working. A gameplan could be to take away a certain players righty pull if you think that is their best shot. Usually a gameplan starts with trying to take away a players favorite or best option. Third, watch film and play a ton of Roundnet. Defense can't be legitimately practiced alone. The more you play and try new things on defense will you learn.
Anthony- Reading the opponents set (which side of the net its set on, how far off the net), Opponents tendencies (if they only use one hand, hit high, low, far, short), Improve your hand eye coordination and reactions.
This concludes Part 1 of 'Learning from the Pro's: How to Improve Your Defense'. Part 2 will cover ‘Pro tips’? and 'Anything else you want to add about defensive positioning/awareness?' As always we appreciate your feedback! Let us know what you think of this blog post and if you want more posts in the future following this format! We plan on turning 'Learning from the Pro's' into a series. The next topic will likely cover some aspect of offense- let us know which teams we should interview and we'll ask the teams you most frequently request!