Archive for Volleyball Drills

Drill: Passing Triplets

Synopsis: This is a good drill to work on passing (and potentially serving) in a way with maximizes reps while having a game-like featuring in the ball coming over the net. It is also a good warm-up drill on multiple levels.

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

Requirements: Three players, two balls, a net.

Execution: Begin with a passer and target on one side of the net and a ball initiator on the other side. The initiator and the target each start off with a ball. The initiator sends the ball over to the passer, who passes to target. As soon as the first ball comes over the target tosses their ball to the initiator so they are ready to do the next repetition quickly. Continue until the passer reaches some defined number of good passes.

Variations:

  • The initiator can send the ball to the passer either by tossing or by serving.
  • In order to work different angles, the drill can be run on a diagonal rather than in a linear fashion. For example, instead of the initiator being in zone 1 and the passer in zone 5, the passer could be in zone 1.
  • If you have to use 4 players because of numbers you can add a player at the net as a second target with a ball. This could be quite useful for lower level players where there are more shanked passes, as it would allow the reps to continue while one of the targets chases down an errant ball.

Additional Comments:

  • If the initiation is done by an underhand toss with the ball allowed to roll off the fingers (USC called this bowling) it will imitate a topspin ball. If it comes from a 2-hand overhead toss it can be made to be like a hard, flat float serve. A simple underhand toss or underhand serve could imitate a freeball.
  • If the initiator serves from mid-court it can be a good way to warm up the shoulder while working on mechanics without having to also worry about power.
  • Having the two balls going is meant to keep the drill moving quickly as the idea is to maximize reps in minimal time, so make sure the players keep the tempo high.
  • Having the ball come over the net in a variety of ways (you could have the players go through several rotations varying up the initiation) helps the players learn to recognize and adapt to different types of balls, especially with the ball coming from over the net.

Drill: Dig and Set Back

Synopsis: This is a useful drill which focuses on both controlled digging and setting an out of system ball.

Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for intermediate to advanced players.

Requirements: Coach, 2+ players, balls, half court

Execution: Begin with a coach in either the OH or RS position at the net, in the diagonally opposite defensive position, and one more players waiting to come in behind. The coach hits a ball at the player, which that player digs to themselves and then sets back toward the coach. Continue for time or a number of good reps. (Saw this at USC)

Variations:

  • With two coaches this drill could be run in both diagonal directions on the same side of the court.
  • At advanced levels players could replace coaches.
  • If the players are sufficiently skilled the ball they set back could be hit by the coach to the next player in line to keep the drill continuous.
  • The coach(es) could hit from over the net on a box.

Additional Comments:

  • Along with being able to control the hit ball, this drill focuses on being able to put up a hittable ball to the hitter at the net diagonal from the digger. This is what you would want to see rather than the player trying to set the ball to the net in front of them (for example from zone 5 to the OH in zone 4) where the angle is extremely disadvantageous to the hitter.
  • This can be a good pre-match warm-up drill.

Drill: 3-Person Pepper (Over the Net)

Synopsis: This is fairly simple multi-player pepper drill which can be used for warm-ups and general ball-handling practice.

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

Requirements: Three players, one ball, a net.

Execution: Begin with 2 players on one side of the net, with one player at the net and one off, and 1 player on the other side. The single player toss the ball to the play off the net on the other side who passes it to their partner on the net. That player set the ball, then moves off the net, swapping positions with their partner. The passer hits a roll shot to the original tosser, then steps under the net to become their setter and the cycle continues.

Variations:

  • At lower levels the hitter can do a standing down ball, or even execute a set over the net rather than doing a jump and roll shot.
  • A tip can replace the roll shot if you want to work on that skill or perhaps work at a lower level (tipped balls generally going higher).
  • Advanced players can actually hit the ball at something approaching full power if they have sufficient control
  • Advanced players can be required to jump set
  • You can run this with 4 players, in which case players stay on their own side and the hitter and setter simply switch positions when the ball goes over rather than the setter ducking under the net.

Additional Comments:

  • This is obviously an extension of the 3-person in-line pepper drill, with the addition of the net giving it a more game-like aspect.
  • In the 4-person variation you basically have a co-operative version of small-court doubles play, so this drill could be used as a lead in to something like that, or in a similar fashion to something like the Hard Drill Game.

Drill: 3-Person Pepper (In-Line)

Synopsis: This is fairly simple multi-player pepper drill which can be used for warm-ups and general ball-handling practice. (Saw this one while watching the University of Rhode Island training)

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

Requirements: Three players, one ball

Execution: Begin with 2 players on one sideline and 1 player on the other. One of the two players hits the ball to the 1 player, who digs it. The hitter sets the dug ball back to the digger, then runs around behind them. The digger hits the set ball to the other player, and the cycle continues.

Variations:

  • More than 3 players can be used with little problem
  • Advanced players can be required to jump set and/or jump hit

Additional Comments:

  • Having the hitter wait and set the dug ball rather than run around behind the digger right away slows the movement down, which will help less skilled player keep from chasing all over the place.
  • One of the coaching points of this drill is for the digger to play the ball only part way back to the hitter rather than all the way as is normally done in pepper. This is a more realistic approach since the player does not want to dig a ball in match play all the way back to the hitter, but somewhat short of that for the sake running a transition attack.

Creating Game-Like Volleyball Drills

In her book, Coaching Volleyball Successfully, Sally Kus shares how to make drills game-like. This is something which gets a lot of attention in coaching circles these days. Here are those steps.

  1. Identify the skill.
  2. Go back one play.
  3. Start the drill there.
  4. Perform the skill.
  5. Perform the next in the sequence.

So, for example, if you want to work on OH attacks you could do something like this.

  1. A serve or free ball from the other side of the net is initiated to a player.
  2. That player then transitions and attacks a set ball.
  3. The player then moves to their defensive base at the net.
  4. The player executes a block (perhaps with some initial footwork).

The idea of using these more complex drills is for the player to execute the skill within the context of how they do it during a match situation. The player sees what they will see before the skill (ball coming across the net, coming from a teammate, etc.), executes the skill, then does something immediately afterwards.

Admittedly, these types of drills run slower than the simple ones (like hitting lines). Aside from training the players to play the ball as they do in real life, though, these drills allow you to train multiple skills. This is done either with one player or several of them. Clearly, when working with beginners you’ll use less complicated drills, but even with them there are plenty of ways to make things game-like by having the ball come from across the net, having them execute a follow-up skill, etc.

Drill: 4-person Diagonal Pepper

Synopsis: This is a good warm-up drill which includes all ball-handling skills and lots of movement, plus encourages player communication. (Saw this one while watching the University of Rhode Island training)

Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for intermediate and advanced players.

Requirements: Four players, half a court, 1 ball

Execution: Begin with 1 player in a corner of the court and 3 players in the opposite corner. The one player standing hits a ball to the group of three. The player who digs the ball immediately runs across to where the hitter is. One of the other two players sets the ball to the other of the duo, then runs to join the other two. Finally, the third player hits the ball at the three now in the opposite corner, starting the cycle again.

Variations:

  • In order to give the setter more time to get across the court, the hitter can take the set ball and do a self-set before hitting the ball to create a little delay.
  • Higher level players could be required to jump hit and/or jump set
  • This could be done for time or for some number of successful dig-set-hit executions (consecutive or otherwise).

Additional Comments:

  • The variability of who takes the first ball and the requirement of the other two players to have to decide which takes the second ball.
  • The defenders should also be encouraged to call for the ball when the hitter is getting ready to send the ball their way to provide an auditory target.

Drill: Amoeba Serving

Synopsis: This is a drill which focuses on serving accuracy, providing the weaker servers with more reps than the stronger ones.

Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for beginner and intermediate players.

Requirements: A team, a full court, one ball per player

Execution: Split the team into two even groups and place the groups at opposite end lines. The drill starts with one player from each side serving a ball. They then go sit or lie down where their serve landed – assuming it went in (if not, the next player serves). The rest of the players then start serving, trying to hit their teammate on the other side of the net. If successful, they go join them. The drill ends when one team has all of their players reach the other side.

Variations:

  • For better players you could require them to execute more than one successful serve before they can go over to the other side.
  • In order to give the initial server some reps you could have them swap with the first teammate to hit them.

Additional Comments:

  • By requiring a successful server (one which hits a growing target) to go to the other side of the net this drill provides more reps to the players who struggle the most with their serving.
  • Because winning the drill often comes down to the performance of the weakest server, you will generally see their teammates become quite supportive and encouraging, which can help overall team chemistry.

Drill: Continuous Transition

Synopsis: This drill is great for working on the transition from blocking to attack, with a definite conditioning element involved.

Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for intermediate to advanced players.

Requirements: 6+ players (including 2 setters), a full court, two tossers, lots of balls

Execution: Start with two groups of three front row players on either side of the court at the net. There will be a coach with a supply of balls on each side in the back court. One side starts the drill by transitioning off then net. A ball is tossed to the setter and the offense is executed. If the ball gets by the block on the other side, that team transitions and attacks. If the ball is blocked or hit into the net, the same team transitions and attacks once more.

Variations:

  • The drill can be run for a certain amount of time, a set number of balls, some goal objective, or on a scored basis as a game.
  • You can run this with the setter as one of the front row players, or having to penetrate from their back row position.
  • If sufficient players are available, they can be used in place of the coaches to toss.
  • You can have a fixed play for each side, have players audible their sets, have the setter call a play, or have a/the coach call a play.

Additional Comments:

  • Done properly, this will be a very tiring drill, so make sure to account for that when deciding how long to run it for and how many rotations to put players through – especially middles.
  • Especially when working with less advanced players you’ll want to make sure you’re paying attention to their transition footwork.
  • Because of the required tempo of the drill and close proximity of lots of running and jumping players at risk of having a ball underfoot, it is imperative that ball retrieval is handled quickly and efficiently.
  • The inclination may be to include defensive players into the drill to dig and/or pass the first ball to the setter rather than for it to come from a toss. In most cases this probably won’t work as it will tend to slow the drill down and introduce a lot of timing variability as if the ball isn’t dug, or is dug poorly, a ball will still have to be introduced on a toss.

Drill: The Hard Drill

Synopsis: This is a team pepper type of drill which works on back court attacking and defense, controlled attacking, and keeping the ball in play during scramble situations. It also has a mental toughness element.

Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for all intermediate to advanced players.

Requirements: 6+ players, a full court, 1 ball

Execution: This a cooperative back court exchange variation on pepper. The players are in two teams of three, all playing back row. The drill progresses as a game of back court 3s, but with the objective of keeping the ball in play and getting 10 successful pass-set-hit sequences before the ball hits the floor or an error occurs. If that should happen, the drill restarts with the count at 0.

Variations:

  • A 4th player can be introduced in the front row as setter
  • The setter can be required to jump set
  • Players can be required to rotate positions each time they send the ball across the net
  • If there are extra players, they can be subbed in in either a rotational or contact fashion (e.g. sub goes in for the hitter)
  • You can vary the number of successful reps required based on the level of the skill of your team.
  • With advanced teams you can require that the 10 reps be completed consecutively, meaning the ball only crosses the net 10 times. With less advanced teams you can allow for faulty sequences where a team cannot execute a proper pass-set-hit, but keeps the rally going. In that case, you count the good pass-set-hits and don’t go back to zero unless the ball hits the floor.

Additional Comments:

  • Make sure to enforce that successful reps only count if there’s a dig, a clean set with hands, and a legitimately attacked ball (no soft swings).
  • Allowing a team to not have to get all 10 reps in a row will result in faster completion of the drill if time is a concern. It will also let you get the players to focus on keeping the ball in play when they are in scramble mode.
  • Because there can be considerable frustration with having to restart on errors (or discontinuities), mental toughness can be a developmental aspect to this drill.
  • You may have to put a time limit on the drill to keep to your practice plan.
  • There is a problem solving element to this drill in that it behooves the players to make sure the best hitters are the ones getting most of the swings and the best defenders are the ones receiving most of the hits to keep the play going. This thinking is something you may have to hint at if the ball is just being shared around.