Near the start of my second year in England I ran a small training session. It ended up being a trio of players from the Devon team that won South West Championships that year and a quartet of junior aged girls. The skill levels are obviously quite widely separated in a situation like that. As a result, there are limits to what you can do in terms of drills.
We did some fundamental work on ball-handing and serving and passing. Then I moved it to game play. I had the Devon players go against the four girls, playing on half a court to encourage rallies.
Obviously, we’re talking about teams which were quite imbalanced. In order to make things more competitive, I introduced a scoring twist. The young team used standard rally scoring, but the Devon team could only score on kills. Aside from keeping the game more competitive, there were some interesting side effects to using this system.
- Devon quickly started serving easily because they could only score if the ball came back over the net. That allowed them to run a transition attack.
- Devon started hitting the ball harder. They also attacked the ball from positions they perhaps would not have done so otherwise.
- The girls realized quickly that they needed to adapt their defense to deal with more aggressive play. That got them putting up a much more effective block to slow the Devon attack down.
- The girls were also freed up to play more aggressively than they otherwise would. After all, they couldn’t lose points for making errors.
The girls ended up winning 25-23. One of the Devon players and I were commenting afterward that the 23 kills they got in that game were more than many teams get in multiple games (even matches at certain levels).
I didn’t have all the side effects in mind when I decided to do that split scoring game. I was just looking for a way to even things out a bit. As I watched the play, though, I could see what was developing and it definitely gave me ideas for how I could use it in other training session.
In particular, one of the issues we had with the Exeter University women’s team in the prior season was putting the ball away. We played very good defense. That let us compete with even the top teams, but we just didn’t get enough kills. I saw that using this kind of scoring system for scrimmage play in practice could be effective in working on more aggressive attacking since there are no consequences for making hitting errors.