In praise of being quiet

“I need to talk more.”

“Talk!”

“We need to talk.”

Verbal loquaciousness is almost universally valued on the beach volleyball court. Coaches punish juniors for being too quiet on the court. Players proudly declare how verbal they are in a game. In the event of a miscommunication, the blame is almost always squarely put on insufficient talking. But is that really the issue? If one observes how verbal cues are given, usually in anticipation of contact with a ball, it happens just before the action. The timing from a call of “mine” to the act of contacting the ball is usually less than a second – far less time that the partner would have to process the information and act accordingly. I’ll venture that the visual cues are far more useful.

Talking serves a greater purpose for the talker than the partner – like the yell in karate, it’s the culmination of focus, but also an elimination of external stimuli. Including the status of the partner. And in the intensely team oriented nature of beach volleyball, observation of one’s partner is key to controlling the ball on one side. I find that building the ability to listen, to observe, is what improves teamwork. In fact, focusing on talking gets in the way of observation. In general, I found relying on verbals during game play may actually be detrimental. It’s a crutch that gets instilled into some young players, who take it as cultural canon. If talking were so essential, deaf people would be unable to play – but they do.

 

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