Archive for Volleyball Practice Planning

Dynamic volleyball practice planning

In an ideal world, we volleyball coaches would always know exactly which players we’ll have in training every single time. And while we’re asking for wishes, we’d always have perfectly divisible numbers.

Alas, the reality is often quite different. We need to adapt on the fly because we don’t have everyone in practice for whatever reason. This can significantly impact the drills and games we’re able to employ.

Rigid vs. Adaptive Planning

I come from a school of coaching thought which very much involves planning out practices. The first coach I worked under was a planning manager in her day job. Not surprisingly, she very much liked to work from a defined training outline. We generally scripted practices down to the minute. The coaches I worked under at the NCAA Division I level were not that precise. They definitely wrote down a sequence of drills and games to be used for that training, though. Practice was done when all the drills were completed.

As a head coach I have generally been in a situation where my available practice time slot is constrained and well-defined: 90 minutes, 2 hours, etc. That makes it hard to think in open-ended terms. The result is that while I tend to not use a rigid plan, I do still develop a list of drills, etc. with an eye toward how long they will take. I need to make sure I can fit in everything I want to do that session.

I know, however, there are coaches out there who favor a much more dynamic approach. This style of coaching can develop when you very rarely know what you’ll have in the gym for any given session. They don’t walk into the gym with a defined plan. If they do it right, however, they have a set of priorities for the day’s training.

Being a dynamic pre-planner coach

Even those of us who like to plan things out, though, have to be ready to change course. We may not have the players on-hand to do what we originally wanted. Alternatively, sometimes things don’t play out quite as expected. That means we have to be adaptable and able to do things on the fly.

Being a good dynamic coach requires having a fairly broad working selection of drills and games you can plug in as needed. Perhaps more importantly, though, it requires mental flexibility. You have to be able to answer the question, “What can I do with the players on-hand to focus on my priority here?” That may mean using a different drill, such as shifting from a serving & passing drill which requires a dozen players to one which can be done with fewer. It can mean modifying a drill to accommodate the absence of certain player, such as taking the transition from back row out of a drill which normally would have a starting setter in it but now will have to feature your opposite doing the setting. Alternatively, it could mean re-purposing a game by changing the scoring system to prioritize what you want.

If you’re not the sort of coach who can easily shift gears on the fly – which can be something that comes with experience – you can still be dynamic with your training by having a contingency plan. All that requires is thinking about what you would need to do if you have fewer players, are missing a certain key player, or whatever other hurdles your plan may face. This takes more time, obviously, but it will let you make adjustments at the start of training so you can run things smoothly.

Training Plan: Toughness, Passing, Court Work

Priorities: Start to identify best passers, work on mental and physical toughness and conditioning, court positional work

Training time: 2 hours

Space: 1 court

Players: 14

Notes: This session followed a hard one two nights prior, and a slower one the prior evening where the team worked on rotations positioning, and coverage.

– – – The Plan – – –

Warm-up: Started with a dynamic warm-up because of lingering stiffness and fatigue from the sessions the prior two nights.

Light Positioning Work: Used the Newcomb game to have players run through rotations, coverage, and base/defense positioning work as a light on-court warm-up continuation featuring court movement.

Serving warm-up: I had them partner up across the net. They started at about half-court just serving the ball back and forth with a focus on good mechanics. As they felt warm they backed up until they got to the point of doing full court serving.

Serving Game: Ran the Amoeba serving game two times through to work on directional serving.

Target serving: I had them do 5 good serves each to Zones 1 and 5 where they had to put the ball in the last 3 meters of the court, as well as 5 good serves in front of the 3-meter line. I gave them 5 minutes to complete the drill.

Serving and passing: Ran the Get-2 passing drill and recorded passing stats. Kept the drill going until there were 30 total 3-passes. About 6 balls hit the floor with no or insufficient player effort, resulting in 6 punishment runs (rather than going back to 0 as I wasn’t doing an out-loud count).

Hitting: Had the whole team run quick attacks to help reinforce the need for good passing.

Passing: Put the team through the Run Serve Receive drill with each player having to get 7 good passes to get out.

Serving: Ran the Run & Serve drill to put the players under physical and mental pressure (especially after all the running they’d had to do prior).

Game-play: To get them playing and to continue the process of mixing players up and giving them a chance to get to know each other on the court, I had them play Winners 3s.

Team play: I finished up with 6 v 6 play to reinforce the positional work from the prior day and the beginning of training, and to start evaluating players by position.

– – – Observations – – –

I actually tried doing a winners variation drill after the second bit of passing, but the players were missing too many serves so I had to drop it quickly and move on. The serving bit which followed was scheduled, but just moved up.

Practice Plan: Initial Mental and Physical Challenge

Priorities: Physically and mentally demanding session to quickly get players back into serious training mode after the try-out and selection process, start establishing team mentality

Training time: 1.5 hours

Space: 1 court

Players: 16

– – – The Plan – – –

Initial Warm-up: I had the team do a dynamic warm-up to start, knowing it was going to be a physical practice.

Ball-handling warm-up: I then had the players pair up and do a bit of passing and light pepper.

Serving warm-up: I had them partner up across the net. They started at about half-court just serving the ball back and forth with a focus on good mechanics. As they felt warm they backed up until they got to the point of doing full court serving.

Target serving: I had them do around-the-world serving where they had to get a good serve into each zone 1-6.

Serving and passing: I used the Get-2 passing drill as a fast-moving serve/pass exercise with a goal of 32 good passes. Overpasses were -1 and balls hitting the floor with no effort on them sent the count back to 0.

Position Hitting: In groups of 3 on both sides of the court, I had the players pass a free ball then hit, with the rest on ball collection and feeding duty. I then had the middles spend time running quicks. Using the small groups kept the tempo high for those in the drill, forcing them to do a lot of movement, transition, and jumping in a relatively short window of time.

Defense: To really push the players mentally and physically, I had them go through the Continuous Cross-Court Digging drill.

Team play: I finished up with Winners 4s

– – – Observations – – –

Although the group had already gone through the selection and try-out process, there was still the question of player commitment in some cases. Along with wanting to quickly get training at a high, demanding tempo and intensity to facilitate some needed conditioning work, I was looking to expose any potential commitment cracks. In other words, I wanted to encourage any who might be inclined to quit to do it now rather than in a couple of weeks.

Volleyball Try-Out Drill Ideas

Running volleyball try-outs is obviously about assessing players. Oftentimes, however, it’s also a question of managing a large number of players. If you don’t have to manage a lot of players, you can run virtually a regular training session. You just have to incorporate drills and games covering all of the key things you want to look at in rating the available players. As such, I’m will focus here on doing assessments as efficiently as possible. I’ll do that by providing volleyball try-out drill ideas that could be used to look at all the major skills.

Warm-up
As I discussed in Are your warm-ups wasting valuable time?, warm-ups tend to be quite badly handled. This can be especially true in a try-out situation where you want to get into assessment as quickly as possible. Warm-ups should be considered part of that process, not something which simply prepares players for it. I favor going right into basic ball-handling drills, especially ones with a movement element. Even simple pepper drills are quite useful here.

Serving
Chances are this is something you don’t want to spend all that much time addressing. Generally, we can fairly quickly judge the caliber of a player’s serving just by watching them do a couple of reps. To that end, just lining them up on either end of the court and having them serve back and forth like a pre-game warm-up may suffice. Doing this for a couple of minutes should allow you to give each player a watch.

If you want to narrow things down, you can take it a step further by introducing a goal. For example, depending on the level of play, you could set an objective of 10 serves in a row, or some number of serves to a given zone. I’d suggest a time limit to keep a drill from running on too long. If you have the players who reach that objective step out of the drill, you’ll get a good idea of the stronger vs. weaker servers.

Passing
There are plenty of possible serve receive exercises that can serve as volleyball try-out drill ideas. What you’re probably looking to judge here is which players are aggressive vs. passive, loud vs. quiet calling the ball, movement to the ball, and passing mechanics.A simple pass-and-follow shuttle (pass the ball and go to the end of the line on the other side) will give you an idea of simple ball-handling skill.

You want to see what players look like when receiving serve, though, to get a full assessment. A big deciding factor in how you set that up is the likely quality of the servers. If the players aren’t able to serve consistently, then you need to either do coach-initiated serves or use tossed/thrown balls in place of serves. Perhaps use something like passing triplets. If the players can serve, then probably the best way to get as many players on the court as you can is to run a 2-sided serving-passing drill.

Setting
You can probably get at least a basic idea of someone’s setting ability by watching them pepper or go through a setting shuttle such as the one mentioned for passing above. To assess a player for a setting role, however, you need to see them actually set to hitters. You also want to see how they move on the court. Setting to a hitting line is a simple solution to the former. Adding the requirement that the set comes off a pass adds the element of seeing the setter move around. You’ll want to put the setter candidate(s) in a game-like situation to finish the assessment, though.

Hitting
A look at players in pepper will give you an idea of where a player is at in terms of armswing mechanics and ability to control an attack. Simple hitting lines provide an assessment opportunity to look at hitters in terms of approach, timing, jump, swing mechanics, and the like. If you don’t have a consistent setter on-hand you may need to have the hitting done off a toss. To go beyond basics, though, you need to put hitters in game-like situations. That will let you see how they handle the variability and how they actually attack the defense.

Blocking
In many cases a quick look at the relative heights of your players provides a good idea of blocking ability. Going beyond that, however, you want to look at a prospective blocker’s footwork, quickness along the net, and ability to properly position and time their block. The footwork and speed side of things can be seen through simple blocking movement work at the net. The rest of it requires facing a hitter, though. That can be accomplished by putting blockers against a hitting line, perhaps requiring some additional initial movement (like MB closing to the pin blocker). Things like recognition, anticipation, and the other mental parts of blocking will only come by watching players in game-play situations.

Defense
You can probably get a significant sense of a player’s defensive abilities and mentality by watching them in game-like situations. That shows you who is aggressive and who is passive. It may also give you an idea of who is a lateral type defender (good for middle backs in most systems) and who is good at moving forward (good for wing defenders in many systems), as well as which players are able to read situations and hitters. To specifically assess dig control, you can put players through a coach-on-X type of drill. That’s where the coach hits balls at a group of players. This tends to be better for smaller groups, however, or situations where there are multiple coaches with room to spread out into different groups. Having players dig against hitting lines tends not to be very useful because it’s usually not very realistic.

Game-Play
As noted, there are some things you’ll want to assess which are best done in game situations. A good way to do this in a situation which moves players quickly through is something like winners. For a large group, you could split the court down the middle and run two sets of winners-3s on the same court. That gets 12 players on the court in a situation where they are likely to get more contacts than if they were playing 6 v 6. If you have a smaller group, a winners variation where you use backrow attacks only lets you see players having to cover more area, but in a situation where the attacks are less potent, leading to generally longer rallies than if the hitters were attacking on the net.

If you want to run 6 v 6 and have a large group, you can do a something like Neville Pepper. In this case, one team of six stays on for a fixed period of time. The teams on the other side rotate after each rally. You can also do a wave variation in which you rotate 3-player lines through each few points either from one end or from both ends.

Setting Priorities
In the end, what you pick to run as volleyball try-out drill ideas must be based on your selection priorities. It’s just like training priorities to develop a practice plan. If you’re looking to pick 12 players from a group it is different than if you’ve already got 8 returners and just want to pick players who fill some needs. Similarly, it’s different picking varsity vs. junior varsity. So start your try-out planning process by thinking about the sorts of things you need to identify and assess. Then work from there.

More volleyball try-out drill ideas

Hopefully, these volleyball try-out drill ideas at least give you a starting point to develop a good plan. A single article like this can’t really go into a lot of depth, though. That’s why I put together a booklet that goes further.

Get your copy now.

Training Plan: First practice back

Priorities: Shake off the rust, evaluate the players for the season to come, getting new players mixed in, prepare the starters for the upcoming match

Training time: 2 hours

Space: 1 court

Players: 11

Notes: This was the first training session of the season. Because of a few different complications, it also happened to be the last training before the first match of the year. Not exactly an ideal scenario. The bulk of the prior season’s starters were returning, but the setter wasn’t one of them and we’re also integrating at least one other new player in the pool of prospective starters.

– – – The Plan – – –

Ball-handling warm-up Part 1: I had the players do a progression where sets of partners started at 3 meters apart and first passed 10 balls each back and forth, then did 10 sets each. They moved out to 6 meters and repeated, then did the same thing at full court width.

Ball-handling warm-up Part 2: I then had the players do the 2-Player Set & Touch drill to get them moving and work on footwork.

Ball-handling warm-up Part 3: To mix the players around and start integrating the new players in, I did rotating pepper by having one side of gym rotate every 90 seconds.

Ball-handling warm-up Part 4: I then moved things on the net to start getting the action more game-like and had them do 3/4-person over-the-net pepper.

The above took about 30 minutes all together

Serving warm-up: After a water break I had them partner up across the net. They started at about half-court just serving the ball back and forth with a focus on good mechanics. As they felt warm they backed up until they got to the point of doing full court serving.

Target serving: I had them do 5 good serves each to Zones 1 and 5 where they had to put the ball in the last 3 meters of the court, as well as 5 good serves in front of the 3-meter line. I gave them 5 minutes to complete the drill, with push-up punishment for those who did not get it done.

Serving and passing: With shoulders warmed-up and serving consistency developed (at least a bit), I moved to having 3 passers on each side in serve receive, with an additional player as target. The remaining players were servers. I had the passers rotate out to target after 2 good passes (started with 3, but one side wasn’t rotating enough), with the target then going back to serve. I did this until I felt like the main passers got enough reps.

Hitting warm-up: In order to evaluate the setting options for the upcoming match and to get the hitters some swings, I ran short 1-position hitting lines. That comprised 3 people at a time hitting first through 4, then in the middle, and finally through 2. Setters were mixed around as the hitter groups changed.

Game-play: To get them playing and to continue the process of mixing players up and giving them a chance to get to know each other on the court, I had them play Winners 3s.

Team play: I finished up with the players who will be at the upcoming match (one starter missing) going against the rest in a 6 v 5 (zone 6 was declared out on the 5-player side). The team of 5 served every ball. The team of 6 needed to win two rallies in a row in order to rotate. Because we needed to cut things short a bit for admin talks, I just went through the rotations one time before wrapping things up.

– – – Observations – – –

You’ll notice I did no traditional warm-up. The players were quite happy not to have to do the dynamic version we did last season. ๐Ÿ™‚ย  I actually had to stop them from doing the throw-the-ball-back-and-forth thing players tend to do in pre-game warm-ups and such. This decision was all about getting right into shaking the summer rust off, having a chance to get a close look at the new players who were in training, and mixing those players in as quickly as possible.

Sneaky volleyball conditioning through pepper

Want an easy way to work on player conditioning while also having players develop their ball-handling skills?

Have them pepper for a while.

Now I’m not just suggesting you just roll the balls out and tell them to pass-set-hit with each other for half an hour while you sit and have a coffee. No such luck. You’ll actually have to do some coaching.

There is a trick to getting the most out of however long you want to run things. That is mixing up exactly what you have the players doing. There are loads of pepper variations. There are also many ways to focus on certain elements while keeping the players working hard. You’ve got a hitting element, a digging element, and a setting element. You can work with each singularly or in combinations.

For example, you could start with one player hitting at their partner, who digs the ball back for the hitter to catch and then go again. That provides focused consecutive reps for both players. While they are doing that you would be going around working with individual players on technique (and perhaps reinforcing bigger ideas like effort). You can then have the digger play the ball up to themselves rather than to the hitter. Then progress to digging the attack to themselves and setting the hitter as in the 1-way Pepper drill. This sort of progression can be used in all aspects of pepper to work on skills singularly or in small combinations. The idea is to build toward eventual full-on pepper.

Adding a jump requirement to the setting and/or hitting parts of pepper can go a long way too. From a skill development perspective, it forces the players to work on getting their feet to the ball. On the conditioning side you’ll definitely see the players get gassed more quickly. This isn’t something you’re likely to be able to do effectively with lower level players in standard pepper. You could do it with them in a partial pepper situation, though. As a simple example, have them jump set back and forth for a little while and see how tired their legs and shoulders get.

The two keys to making this pepper conditioning idea worthwhile, and to not let the players catch on to what you’re doing, is to mix things up periodically so they have different points of focus and to be sure you’re actively moving around the gym coaching them. You do that and they’ll never suspect you’re developing their conditioning along with their skills. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And by the way, this is actual volleyball conditioning. Much better than running or anything like that.

Pepper note: Whenever possible you should have your players go over the net. I am not totally against standard partner pepper (no net). It can have its uses at times. For skill development, however, it is not the best choice.

Fancy New Drill Syndrome – A Coaching Affliction

I don’t think there is officially something called fancy new drill syndrome (FNDS), but there should be. And it’s not something volleyball coaches alone can develop.

Basically, FNDS is a condition whereby a coach sees a new drill and immediately wants to use it. How strong that inclination is depends on where the drill was found and the “cool” factor associated with it. Drills from books tend to have low cool factors. Videos are a bit higher on the scale. Clinics sit at the top. This is especially so if they are high profile, like those at volleyball coaching conventions.

Layered in there is the profile of the person presenting the drill. If the presenter is someone few folks know and/or is from a non-elite team, then the cool factor is low. If, however, the drill is being shown off by Suzie Supercoach from We Just Won the National Championship University or Awesomecoach Arthur from the We Just Won the Gold Medal National Team then we’re talking major cool factor.

So basically, the more investment we’ve made in coming across the drill (time, money, travel distance, etc.) and the higher the profile of the coach telling us about it, the greater the chances we’ll be trying that drill the very first opportunity we get. This, of course, is hardly the way it should be. It’s human nature, though.

We’ve all been there. Newer coaches still in what I’ve heard referred to as the “drill collecting stage” of their development are particularly susceptible.

FNDS can result in two potentially problematic issues.

Ignored training priorities
When a coach is super eager to use a shiny new drill they oftentimes fail to consider the priorities they should have in place for a given practice. Taking a bit of time to try a new drill may not seem like such a big deal one practice. If you have limited time and training opportunities, though, it can potentially have a meaningful negative impact. This, of course, can be avoided. Simply make sure to only work in the new drill when it’s appropriate to do so. Don’t just plug it in at the first opportunity.

Practices brought to a grinding halt

Invariably, incorporating a new drill into your training will take some time to accomplish. The players will need it explained to them. They probably need to go through it a few times before they fully get a handle on things. This is especially so if it’s conceptually and/or mechanically complex. This learning process is very likely to drag the tempo of training down. If the drill does not work, you’re left with a bunch of time and intensity lost. This is always the risk when trying to incorporate something new. You can minimize the impact by making sure to really think about whether a given drill is appropriate to your players, though. Also, placing its introduction into your practice plan at a point where it’s likely to be least disruptive if things don’t work out as hoped is best.

Unfortunately, FNDS is probably not totally preventable. Even experienced coaches sometimes get caught up in the euphoria. This especially true when they feel the need to shake things up a bit in their practices. Diagnosed early, however, FNDS can be successfully treated by the simple application of common sense.

There can, however, be the occasional case of FNDS run wild.

Don’t be this guy!

The absolute worst case scenario is when a coach cobbles together a bunch of “cool” drills into a practice plan with no clear overarching objective or set of training priorities. I saw this extreme type of FNDS once in England. A young German coach ran a training session I observed. I watched him put the team through several different drills. In the proper context those drills each could have been quite useful. Instead, however, I was left wondering what he was trying to achieve with it all (other than maybe showing off what he knew).

From my perspective, the whole first hour or more of the 2-hour session was largely a waste of time. It did not addressed the sorts of things the team really needed to work on with a match coming up. When you only train once a week – as was the case with this team – it is borderline criminal to be as scatter-shot in training as what I saw that evening.

The scenario above was preventable. The coach simply needed to determine or be given by the team (he was just running that single session) one or more priorities for the practice and develop a training plan based on those priorities. He might not have been able to use so many “cool” drills in that case, but he would have provided the team a much better service.

Creating a Priority-Based Practice Plan

In the early days of this blog I authored the post First Things First, Know Your Priorities. It’s main point is if you don’t have a destination in mind it’s kind of hard to map your course.

You have high level objectives in mind for your team/program. Those should be in terms of the grand scheme of where you want things to go. They may come down to you from someone higher up, such as club leadership, an athletic director, school principal, etc.

You similarly should have priorities for the current season. They need to be founded in the higher level objectives. The must also be based on your assessment of the players, knowledge of the competition, and the like.

As you progress through the season you will identify different things to work on to move the team toward those season objectives (or new ones if the situation dictates a shift). They could be something like improving on a particular skill or preparing for a certain opponent. This third tier of priorities is what drives the plans you make for your training sessions.The creation of a practice plan based on those objectives is what I want to speak to in this article.

Starting with your top priority

Any practice plan you develop must start first and foremost with your top priority. Let’s say serve receive passing is something you’ve identified as the top priority for today’s training session. Probably not too much of a stretch to imagine that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

You might like the theoretical idea of spending two hours doing nothing put serving and passing. Chances are, though, you won’t be able to keep the players focused and mental engaged for that long. It’s rather boring, and the intensity of those kinds of drills tends to be pretty low.

So how do you create a training plan prioritizing serve receive, but not just about serving & passing drills?

Your players’ level and the available time obviously play a major role in how you structure your training plan. You may want a drill which does do the boring fundamental work, at least for a little while. For beginners that could be a basic toss and pass drill. For other players and teams you could use drills like 8-Person Serve & Pass or Passing Triplets. They would serve as a foundational drill to get the players lots of reps in a relatively short period of time.

But you could have come up with that yourself, right? No new insights there.

Creating focal points in other drills

The real trick to developing a practice plan which highlights your top priority is to make that priority the focal point of drills which seemingly are concentrated on other things. For example, you can add a passing element to a hitting drill. It makes that drill one where serve receive quickly comes to the fore. The players won’t be able to attack the ball well if they don’t first pass well! At the same time, it also makes the drill much more game-like than your standard hitting lines.

You can also adapt any games you play in your practice to get the focus on serve reception. This can be done by replacing a freeball or attacked ball with a served ball as the ball initiation. It can also be in the way you keep score (see Volleyball Games: Scoring Alternatives). A great example of this is the Points for Passes game. It awards points based on the quality of the serve receive passes executed.

Operating at one level up

Along with drills and games focused specifically on whatever priority you have for that practice, you can also have ones with a higher level perspective that require the priority focus for proper execution. We can think about this by asking the question, “What play or strategy relies on good execution of my priority item to work?”

Sticking to the serve receive passing priority, that higher level perspective is the serve receive offense. Depending on your team’s level, you may be want to run the quick attack off serve receive, to have a certain first-ball kill %, or perhaps a target serve receive rally win %. Good serve receive passing is required to achieve your offensive objectives. That means any games or drills with serve receive offense as the focus must have passing as a focus.

Thus, you have another way of sneaking passing work into your training without your players moaning. ๐Ÿ™‚

Concentrating your coaching on your priorities

It’s not enough to just include in your practice plan drills and games which feature the skill, play, or strategy you want to highlight in your training for that session, however. You need to also concentrate your coaching on that priority. In our serve receive example, that means you need to focus on how your player move, set their platform, communicate, etc. This means letting other stuff go.

In my experience, it’s the letting go of non-priority stuff that’s the hard part for many volleyball coaches. We have a tendency to want to address every little thing.

The hitting drill I mentioned above where you can add a passing element is a perfect example of how easy it is to lose your priority focus. There’s a setting element which can grab your attention. No doubt the players will want feedback on their hitting as well. If there’s a block, that too could grab your attention. You have to resist the distraction and keep both yourself and your players focused on the serve receive priority for that day.

Of course if you have multiple coaches in the gym you could split up the focal points between you. For example, you could provide feedback to the setter(s) while another coach concentrates on the players passing. This keeps the main priority to the fore, but allows for working with players who are not executing that skill at the time without detracting from the rest.

Having multiple priorities

Much of the time we go into planning a given training session with multiple things we’d like to work on that day. That’s perfectly fine, but the number needs to be kept down to make it manageable. Two or three is probably about it in terms of the general practice plan. You may be able to have sub-priorities within drills or games, though, especially if you have multiple coaches at-hand.

If you do have more than one key focal point for a given session you need to prioritize them. Something has to be the main one. If you have a situation where a conflict between them arises, there must be a clear understanding of what gets the attention.

An example of this would be the combination of serving and passing. If you have two coaches at work, one can be with each group during a drill like Serving-Passing-Setting Quads. If, however, you are the only coach then you have to spend the majority of your time working with whichever group represents the top priority for that day.

Communicate training priorities to your players

The best way to make sure your priorities for the session get the concentration required is to communicate them to the players at the outset. This serves two key purposes. One is to give you a chance to get the players on the same page with you in terms of the team’s developmental needs or strategic planning requirements. They are more likely to stay locked in and remain committed if they understand what’s going on and see the need for it.

The other reason to communicate priorities is to encourage players to not get caught up in other things. Going back to that pass-to-hit drill I brought up, it’s really easy for player to focus on their hitting rather than their passing since that’s the last part of each play. Telling them that you want to concentrate on the passing won’t keep them from reacting to their hitting performance, of course. It does offer you the secondary training effect of encouraging them to focus on one skill at a time, however. Over time, this can help them in game situations – especially when they may be struggling with one skill.

So in conclusion…

If you set the priorities for your practice, plan the drills and games you’ll use with those priorities in mind, and stay focused on them in your coaching during that session you are more likely to walk out of the gym satisfied at the end of the day. Do it consistently and you’re just about assured of being pleased with how things progress over the season. Of course this assumes you do a good job assigning priorities. But that’s a subject for another article. ๐Ÿ™‚

Critiquing a ball-oriented volleyball warm-up routine

This video got a fair bit of attention once upon a time (on Twitter, I think).ย That is how I came to learn about it. Upon review, however, I was disappointed. The second half where they are using balls in strength and conditioning work I’m fine with. There are some good elements there. They don’t specifically require a volleyball, but since you have them at hand, why not use them?ย The first half, however, I found to be utterly useless. You will understand my reasons if you read my comments in Are your warm-ups wasting valuable time?.

Jogging, as I noted in the referenced post, is of little value to volleyball players. Now these guys are adding in silly things like spins. And what’s this stuff with tossing the ball up in the air? The only real attempt to have anything volleyball-like in there is the bits where the players mix in some sets and forearm passes. The mechanics of those skills, though, are poor – making their inclusion worse than useless. They are reinforcing bad habits, effectively.

If you want to have players moving and executing ball-handling skills then have them move in a volleyball-like fashion (shuffles, transition footwork, short runs, etc.).ย And have them execute those skills with proper technique – especially when dealing with young and developing players. Things like jog-and-set or jog-and-pass might be good to mix things up in a big camp or to have a bit of fun (team shuttles, etc.), but are not for use on any kind of regular basis.