Archive for Sample Volleyball Practice Plans

A 1-hour practice plan

The other day we had the last of the off-season practice sessions with the team before they went on Spring Break, after which we’ll go into the non-traditional season (Spring Training). For those with an NCAA background, you’ll know that only 2 hours of on-court work is permitted during the off season. All the players had done an hour already earlier in the week – either individually or in small groups. This session, though, featured everyone. As I only recently found out, that is now allowed in Division II.

Since we only have two practices before our first Spring tournament, the head coach wanted to give the players a chance to go 6 v 6 for the first time in a long while. It was therefore decided that 30 minutes of time was going to be devoted to that. The first 30 minutes was build up to it.

Here’s one of the tricks of maximizing your time with the players in this kind of situation. Get them to warm-up on their own before you get into the gym. That way you can go right to work. By the time we got there, the players were already into playing back row Winners 3s.

Activity #1
We had 12 players with just one court set up. The first thing we did was to have them play 3 v 3 on a narrow court. In other words, we had two games going on next to each other. The players were grouped by position, then did a count-off to decide their teams. Two rounds of play were run, with winners playing winners and losers playing losers for the second one. If I’m remembering correctly, it was a back row attack only game. Games were played to 8.

Activity #2
The second activity is something I did at times with my Svedala team. I developed it as a kind of a Belly Drill or Speedball variation in teams of 4 (counted off as above). Two teams were on the court with one off waiting to come on. The teams on played out a 4 v 4 rally (all hitting options available). At its conclusion, the losers were replaced by the waiting team while a coach initiated a ball to the winners (down ball over the net).

This is a fast paced game with very little down time for players. We played for 15 minutes and had the teams keep track of rally wins. I think it was something like 27, 25, and 20. So we got in at least as many points as you’d get in 1.5 sets in less time than it generally takes to play a single one. This is more rallies than we’d have gotten in had we been going with Winners 4s with the inherent delay of teams waving through to the winners’ side.

Activity #3
The last half of the session was given over to simple game play. The players were divided up by position, which created some imbalances and caused some funky rotational requirements. One of the assistants jumped in to balance out the hitting, while a pair of defenders split time playing back row for one team. They got into a second set before the hour was up and decided to keep going after we left.

Skill coverage
Let’s think about the various skills and how much they were included in this short session.

  • Serving was included in the 3 v 3 game and the 6 v 6, though in the latter case not everyone ended up doing it because of the team compositions (some players front-row-only).
  • Serve reception was part of both the 3 v 3 and 6 v 6.
  • Setting was included in all of the games, though it was only in 6 v 6 where the setters specifically took all the second balls. In the other games sometimes they did, but often times it was other players.
  • Hitting was included in all three games from a variety of locations.
  • Blocking was included in all three games, though only in the 6 v 6 was their regular double blocking.
  • Defense was included in all three games, with the 4 v 4 essentially starting each rally with a defense ball (down ball from the other side of the net).

So you could say the balance was skewed toward the “open play” type of skills – setting, hitting, blocking, defense – with a bit less in serving and passing. We could have boosted the serve reception by having the assistants serve a ball to start the next rally in the 4 v 4 game.

Training Plan: 11 players, just games

Priorities: Shake off the rust with lots of touches, start the process of the players getting to know each other at the beginning of a new season, get some initial impressions

Training time: 2 hours

Space: 2 courts

Players: 11 (2 setters)

Notes: Because set-up and take down were included in the allocated time, and some amount of time was necessarily allocated to introductions and initial discussion, the actual training period was somewhat less than 2 hours.

– – – The Plan – – –

Warm-up: No isolated warm-up.

Cooperative 1 vs 1 and 1 vs 1 w/fixed setter: Set up 4 games on 1 v. 1 and one game of 1 v 1 with a fixed setter. The idea is to get to 6 good pass-set-downball sequences. As soon as one group gets there, they all rotate in a clockwise fashion. If no one gets there in the time limit, rotate anyway.
11-player singles rotation3-person and 4-person pepper w/fixed setter: On one court is two groups of 3-person rotating over-the-net pepper. On the other court is a 2 v. 2 pepper with a fixed setter. The team’s two setters are market A and B. Again, play to six good pass-set-hit sequences (this time with jumping), or a the time limit. Rotation for the non-setters is clockwise. The setters switch positions each rotation.

11-player peppers

5-person and 6-person player winners: Each court has a game of Player Winners on it, one with 5 players and one with 6 players. Play for 5 minutes, then move the top 2 from the 5-person court to the 6-person, and the bottom 3 from the 6-person court the other way (now making the 5 a 6 and the 6 a 5). Play 5 more minutes, then send the top 3 from the 6-person court to the 5-person court, and the bottom 2 from the 5-person court to the 6-person court. Play another 5 minutes, then repeat the process from after the first round. Play one last round of 5 minutes.

Winners 3: Finish with standard Winners (3s in this case) Start with back court attacks only, then shift to allowing front court attacks as well.

– – – Observations – – –

The first two exercises went quicker than expected. As a result it was desirable to add a 5th exercise. The initial thought was to play Winners 4s, but instead Neville Pepper was used. The 9 non-setters were split up into three roughly equal teams. They were the teams to play through the games. The setters were used in a fixed fashion, switching sides when the challenge side won a rally.

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, with push-up punishment for those who did not get it done.

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 schedule, 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.

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. 🙂  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.