Archive for Volleyball Drills

Shifting from cooperative to competitive

I have liked to use cooperative drills like this one, this one, and this one with my teams for a couple of reasons. One is that they give players a lot of quality – meaning game-like – contacts because rallies are sustained and the ball goes over the net a lot. Another is that they can help train players to make good decisions in situations where less aggressive play is demanded to keep the play going. You can potentially add in a couple other things as well.

The other day at MSU we ran a competitive version of the rotating cooperative cross-court hitting drill. Obviously, instead of having the players keep the rally going, they were looking to win each one. In this variation, points could only be scored actively, not on opponent error. Basically, that means you get a point for a kill or a block, but nothing for an opponent hitting error. At the end of a rally, a new ball was initiated by a coach (over the net) to the team that won (whether they earned a point or not).

The team played 4 games to eight points – 4 vs 4, 4 vs 2, 2 vs 2, 2 vs. 4.

On the face of it, this might be a nice way to work on cross-court defense and things like that. At one point, though, I was tempted to call a time out and see if I could get the hitters to think about the easiest way to score.

Have you figured out what that would be?

Consider this. You have one blocker in position 2. You have defenders in 4, 5, and 6 basically covering half the court. That leaves half the court wide open. Yes, it’s technically out of bounds. But if you can tick the ball off the block …

If the players were to get smart enough to realize this, then the drill/game kind of falls apart – at least from the perspective of wanting lots of touches from more sustained rallies. On the other hand, it could be an interesting exercise in getting hitters thinking outside the box and working the block.

My broad point in all this – like using other scoring systems and/or bonus points – is that you definitely need to make sure you think about the potential implications involved. Specifically, what might the scoring incentivize above and beyond the basic level?

Just something to consider in your planning.

A reasonable hitters on boxes vs blockers set-up

I’ve never been a huge fan of blocking against hitters on boxes. My big problem with it are that the way these drills are often run is that they very often eliminate the read/react element of things and/or operate at a tempo that isn’t very game-like. This version is perhaps the best I’ve seen, though. In having a live setter working off a pass, the blockers are forced to try to read and react. Plus, the tempo of the attacks is pretty much game speed.

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Now, that said, there is still a big short-coming. It’s one that is tough to get around with hitters on boxes. I’m talking about the lack of a hitter read for the blockers. They basically know exactly where the hitter will attack the ball, so there is no reading of that. In other words, it trains the blockers to simply go to a spot, which is a problem I see all the time.

That being the case, as much as I think this is a better version of blockers vs. hitters on boxes than most, I would still be inclined to only use it infrequently to work on very specific things (penetration, communication, movement, etc.).

Drill: 3 v 3 All-Touch Transition & Attack

Synopsis: This is a good game-play exercise that gets every player lots of touches and works especially on transition hitting.

Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for intermediate and higher levels.

Requirements: 6+ players, a ball, a net, extra antennae

Execution: Attach the spare antennae to the net to create a channel for attacking in Zones 2 and 4 (similar to what’s discussed here). Place three players to a side, with one at the next in Zone 2 (opponent’s Zone 4), one as the OH, and one as back court defender. One side starts the attack with a set to 4. The opposing player at the net blocks line, so the two others defend the angle. If the back court player digs the ball, the blocker sets the OH in Zone 4. If the OH digs the ball, the back court player sets the blocker in Zone 2, in which case the OH hitter on the other side blocks and the other two play defense. In this case the pattern is same in that if the front court player digs the ball, the back court defender sets the blocker, otherwise the blocker sets the OH. In other words, every player touches the ball each play. Continue until the ball goes dead, then the players rotate.

BertrandDrill

Variations:

  • This can be done cooperatively to encourage longer rallies.
  • The antennae can be adjusted to alter what the hitters have available to swing at around the block.

Additional Comments:

  • This drill is from England Junior National team coach Bertrand Olie and was posted as part of an interview with him on the Volleyball England website.
  • As a cooperative drill this could be used as a warm-up.

Working on attacking the block in games and drills

During one of the on-court sessions at the HP Coaches Clinic, someone presented an idea about hitters attacking the block. They put an antenna on the net about a meter in from the left side pin. Basically, it defined the zone in which the OH normally attacks. The hitter then had to hit the ball between the antennae. That obviously makes it harder to hit around the block. This forced the hitter to work the edges of the block. Or they could attack seam, if that option was available. The blockers took line or cross to work on things more narrowly.

This sort of thing can be used in the Pin Hitter Challenge game they demonstrated at the clinic, if you have two sets of antennae. It also works in the Hitter Tourney drill, the Hitter vs. Hitter Challenge or High Ball to Receive games. Basically, use it in any game or drill with hitters against blockers with lots of sets to the attackers in focus.

Of course training the attackers in this fashion also benefits blockers as well. They can work on good hand position and angles to avoid hitters tooling them.

Drill: 1-2 Serve & Pass

Synopsis: This drill allows passers to work on receiving hard serves, and servers on serving them, but without lots of missed serves leaving passers standing around.

Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for intermediate and higher levels.

Requirements: 6+ players, 3 balls, a net.

Execution: Set up three players in serve reception on one side of the net, with a target, and 2 or more servers on the other side. The servers work in sets of three good serves. The first one is an aggressive serve to any of the three passers. The second and third serves are controlled balls to the two players who did not pass the first ball. For example, Server A serves a hard jump serve to the passer in Position 6, then Server A and Server B serve standing float servers to the passers in Position 1 and 5.

Variations:

  • Passers can rotate after each trio of serves, or stay in assigned positions if working on specialized training.
  • If you only have one properly aggressive/tough server, they should always serve the first ball, otherwise the first ball can be done in some kind of rotation.
  • If a server misses their serve they can either go again immediately, or the next server can go.
  • You can go for time, for some number of good passes, specifically for a target number of good passes off the aggressive serves, or make it a servers vs. passers game.
  • If you have sufficient players, you could run this drill 2-sided with servers and passers on both sides of the court.

Additional Comments:

  • This drill was introduced by Laurent Tillie at the HP Coaches Clinic.
  • This is a good drill to allow for aggressive serving without the common problem seen in most serving & passing drills where there can be lots of missed serves and/or balls going largely to the same passer/zone.

Drill: 2 vs. 0, or 2-Player Over-the-Net Pepper

Synopsis: This pepper variation takes the standard two-player version and introduces playing the ball over the net, putting a real premium on ball control and smart ball-handling.

Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for all levels.

Requirements: 2 players, one ball, a net.

Execution: This variation of 3-person over-the-net pepper begins with one player on each side of the net, one with a ball. The player with the ball (Player A) hits it over to the other player and immediately runs under to the other side. The second player (Player B) passes the ball as normal. Player A sets the ball up to Player B and ducks back under the net. Player B plays the ball to Player A, and ducks under to the other side to set Player A. And so on.

Additional Comments:

  • I saw John Kessel (USA Volleyball) describe this pepper variation over breakfast at the High Performance Coaches Clinic.
  • You could use anything that can be set high enough for players to duck under (string, rope, etc.) for a “net”, allowing you to use just about any space.

Drill: 14-Player Serve-Pass-Hit

Synopsis: This drill gets a lot of players active on one court working on serving, passing, setting and hitting – and potentially blocking and defense.

Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for intermediate and higher levels.

Requirements: 14+ players, 4 balls, a net.

Execution: Set the players up as shown in the diagram below – two passer/hitters on each side, two servers behind the end lines, and one setter on each half court. The half courts run independently as separate drills. The drill begins with a serve going to the pair of Passer/Hitters with the setter on their side. One of them passes the ball. The setter sets to either P/H. That player than goes to become the server on their side. The setter switches sides and the drill repeats for the other side. The server then goes in to replace the P/H who hit the ball the repetition before.14-player serve-pass-hitVariations:

  • If you have sufficient numbers, you can have 4 setters in the drill and not have them flip sides.
  • If you have extra non-setters you can have the extras in the service area where they can be ready to serve straight away following a miss.
  • You can let the players to play out a rally rather than just having the attacked ball to be the conclusion of the repetition.
  • If you don’t want to use fixed setters, you can have the hitter rotate to setter, and the setter rotate to server.

Additional Comments:

  • You can make this something of a butterfly by having the hitter collect their ball and go to the other side to serve rather than stay on their own side. This may require having more than just 14 players, however, depending on the skill of your players and the size of your gym (ball chase time).
  • Having the players play out the rally would be more easily done if you have two setters on each half court rather than just one, but it can still be done with one setter quickly ducking under the net each time the ball goes over.
  • Of course this drill can be done with fewer numbers using a full court. The idea in this case, though, was the show a way to incorporate a large number with as many active players as possible.

Volleyball Coaching Concept – Second Chance

A while back I shared something called the Second Chance Game. The basic idea is that a player who makes an error is immediately given an opportunity to correct their mistake. For example, a hitter spikes a ball into the net. The coach immediately makes them hit another ball, and potentially another, and another until they have a good swing. It is worth noting that doing this sort of error correction need not be confined to one certain type of game. It can happen at any time, in any game or drill.

During my time with the professional teams in Germany, I saw many examples of the coaches using this kind of second chance approach. They did it in passing drills. They did it in defense drills. They did it when working on movement. They did it for setting. The point was to not accept the bad repetition – especially if it was driven by poor technique, bad decision-making, etc. – and reinforce the desired execution.

In fact, second chance is often best used in drills because it’s easier to have a do-over in those situations than in game-play. Second chance when having your team play tends to create a continuous play situation. This can be useful at times, but if you’re looking to have something with a more discrete stop-start process (like with rallies begun by a serve), then second chance from an individual player perspective is probably not the best choice. You could, however, do it from a broader team perspective by repeating the play from the start or from some key juncture.

Drill: 6-player Over-the-Net Pepper

Synopsis: This pepper variation expands on the over-the-net version to allow for more players to be included, potentially allowing for increased complexity.

Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for all levels.

Requirements: 6 players, one ball, a net.

Execution: This extension of 3-person over-the-net pepper begins with 3 players on each side of the net – one off the net one at the net, and the last one off the back line waiting to come in. One side starts the drill by tossing the ball to the player off the net on the other side. The player digs/passes the ball to the player at the net who sets back to them to play the ball over the net on the third contact. The setter rotates out, the digger/hitter moves up to become the new setter, and the off player steps in to become the new digger/hitter. The pattern repeats and play continues for as long as the ball can be kept in play.

Variations:

  • Depending on the level of your players you can have the 3rd contact ball be a free ball, down ball, tipped, rolled or controlled attacked ball.
  • You could have the off player doing something while they wait to enter the court – jumps, footwork movement, etc.
  • If you have the space, you could have 2 players in the off-the-net positions to create a kind of controlled 3’s game. In this case, the digger continues to attack and then swaps places with the setter.

Additional Comments:

  • While it is possible to add players to this drill, that generally isn’t recommended from the perspective of maximizing player contacts. Better to create additional smaller groups if the space permits.
  • By having two digger/hitters on rather than one you increase the complexity by forcing seem communication.
  • I saw this being run by German men’s professional team TV Bühl.