The teams in the Men’s Junior World Championship 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil were of a high standard and attractive to watch. The Brazilian team did not reach the final four. Above all there were a lot of other activities in Rio at the same time; so the numbers of spectators attending the matches were lower than expected. During the final match between Russia and Argentina there were only 900 spectators in the sports hall Maracanazinho, where in 2016 the Olympic Games will be held.
Russia, Argentina and Serbia won gold, silver and bronze respectively. In an impressive final match against Argentina the Russian team was the best with a score of 15-12 in the fifth set, showing a quick, strong attack and an effective block. The USA lost the match against Serbia for the third place.
Coaches have to make choices of physical and mental aspects, when selecting players. In general the individual players in Rio performed well, due to the fact that they have a universal training background and well developed technical and tactical skills for the specialized functions. Nevertheless, in the top teams, the players’ height plays an important role. The average height of the first six in the top 4 teams is 198, 5 cm. and the Russian first six have an average height of 202 cm.
Depending on the opponent’s serve (jump spin, jump float or distance float) teams play in complex 1 a regular 3-player-reception formation resp. 2+1-players-formation and as an alternative 2+2-players-formation. The formation is flexibly adapted to the match situation, which takes into account the quality of the receivers. A good performing libero usually covers more ground and is the main player when receiving services. Complex 1 shows an increasing trend in “overhand service passing” and an emphasis on quickness. “Keep the ball flying” means that it is within the rules to have a double contact with the ball during the first hit. The teams play the first ball more aggressively. The ball is received with fingers spread, creating a wider surface and wrists a little stiff.
When the opponent (jump-) floats serves, the receivers start 3 till 4 meters from the net. In the case of the jump spin serve the starting position of the receivers is much deeper (7 meters or more from the net). When receiving the ball, underhand pass with impulse control or punch technique (side- and backwards) is often applied. The 3-point-reception technique and the sprawl are seldom used, while overhand reception and reception by jumping, falling or rolling backwards and sideways are on the increase.
The teams play quick and effective setting structures. Setting the ball by other players than the setter is avoided, except when the libero is responsible for setting. Various handsignals or visual cues are given before setting. The setters play with an effective set-distribution and very secure quick attacks, to the middle player as well as to the players in position 4 and 2 and back row attackers. It seems that coaches make informed choices. Some teams try to play the traditional net attack combinations systematically together with three meter combinations. Not all teams use back row combination attacks that are incorporated in reception. The players in outside positions score with regular smashing skills as well as with block outs (off speeds), tips and drive shots, etc. The new volleyball rules, such as touching the net and landing over the centre line, influence the technical performance of attacking and blocking.
The best ranked junior teams show a high level of performance in complex 2.
All the teams have an effective tactical and technical variation in their serve. On average 65% of the serves are jump floats, 25% jump spins and 10% (distance) floats. The technical execution of the serve is at a high level. Most teams have some technical and tactical variation and take more risk with a high percentage of jump spin serves. The landing in the court as well as the follow-through movement is not always optimal.
Taking less risk in serve in combination with more effective transition patterns lead to a better score in complex 2. During some of the matches there were hardly any free ball situations, because the transition from defense to attack was well structured: quick and precise sets from nearly all the positions in the court; application of secure underhand sets by all players.There is much tactical and technical improvement in the development of complex 2, resulting in more longer rallies. The tendency when blocking is to apply more rebound blocks and fewer kill blocks. The applied defensive skills are more aggressive. In defense the players show more “beach skills” and fewer techniques such as sprawl and pancake.
All the teams play a standard defense system with outside attackers as a defender in pos. 6 (starting position tends to be in the midfield), with the middle-attackers or libero in pos. 5 and setter or opposite in pos. 1. Players in pos. 1 or 5 are responsible for block coverage; now and then other players support. Depending on the situation on the court the teams play with or without close coverage and with a reinforced diagonal or long line defense (double defense).
Results in complex 1 and 2 are usually determined by effective setting, with a high percentage of attack from pos. 4, varied by 1st tempo in the middle from pos. 3, quick attacks from pos. 2 and back court attack (pos. 6 and 1).
Application of statistics and video analysis gives a high level in strategic-tactical performance of the teams.
In the analysis of the 4 top teams we present specific information on the technical-tactical features of these teams.