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Archive for Volleyball Drills

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.

Drill: Twenty One

Synopsis: This a good drill to work on all kinds of ball-handling skills and to encourage communication and teamwork. There’s also an element of mental toughness involved because it can be very frustrating.

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

Requirements: 3 players, one ball, a net

Execution: This is a multi-player follow-the-ball type of drill much like a passing shuttle. The drill starts with the players doing a forearm pass-and-follow where when a player passes the ball over the net they follow under the net and get in line behind the player there. The three players pass 21 consecutive balls. They then switch to setting/over-head passing, following the same sequence of 21 balls. When that is complete they switch to pass-set-tip, again going for 21 straight executions. If at any point along the way the group makes an error, they must start all the way back at the beginning with passing.

Variations:

  • The last part can be dropped for beginner groups
  • The last part could be switched to pass-set-down ball as a step down from pass-set-tip to make it a bit easier for more advanced beginner groups.
  • Roll shots could replace tips in the pass-set-tip
  • For advanced teams the pass-set-tip could be changed to pass-set-hit (essentially over the net pepper).
  • Lesser skilled players can be allowed to finish each section of the drill individually. In this case an error would just require them to go back to the beginning of that section rather than all the way back to the start.
  • Intermediate and advanced players should be required to make all the transitions continuous such that pass #21 is directly followed by set #1 and set #21 goes right into pass-set-tip #1.
  • In the pass-set-tip section you can either have the player who has just tipped the ball go under the net to set, or you can have one player stay setter (switching back-and-forth) for 7 balls, then having the tipper for that 7th ball go under the net and set for #8.
  • This drill can be done with 4 players, in which case the last part should either be a tip-then-set as described above, or the players just stay on their side. In the latter case, the tipper becomes the next setter and the setter backs off to become the next passer/tipper.

Additional Comments:

  • The requirements of the drill is that all the first 21 balls be forearm passes, all the second 21 be sets, and all the last 21 be proper forearm pass, set, tip. You must make that clear to the players and monitor to ensure that they abide by it.
  • Require the players count the reps out-loud so you can hear it and be able to monitor things.
  • Really encourage communication throughout the drill.
  • You may need to put a time limit on the drill to ensure it doesn’t take up more time than you want for all groups to finish.
  • Make sure those who finish support those still trying to do so.

Drill: Run Serve Receive

Synopsis: This drill forces players to pass under pressure and when fatigued. It has a conditioning element and is good for working on mental toughness.

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

Requirements: A court, half a dozen balls, 6+ players.

Execution: Three players start in passing zones on the court, with three players at the net as their targets. A coach standing at about mid-court on the other side of the net serves to the first player, who passes the ball, then sprints to the end line, and back into position to receive another serve. Meanwhile, the coach serves the ball to the 2nd, then 3rd players, who do the same thing. Then it’s back to the first player once more. Each player must make 10 good passes to their designated target, that player keeping count. When a player finishes the drill they go out and their target enters, with another player taking over as target. Go through until all players have completed the drill.

run-serve-receive

Variations:

  • For beginning players the coach can do an underhand free ball as the serve.
  • If there are sufficient numbers, players can be used as servers rather than a coach.
  • The more advanced or athletic the group, the further back you can make them run after their pass, if space permits.
  • The number of successful passes can be adjusted for the skill level of the players.
  • You can use a single target rather than three for the sake of location consistency and ball circulation, but you would likely still want one player assigned to each passer for the sake of keeping count.

Additional Comments:

  • Make sure the pace of the drill is such that players don’t have to stand around in the court waiting to pass a ball for very long after they’ve done their run. Good ball circulation and feeding of the coach is part of that. So too is serving on rhythm rather than waiting for each player to get reset. This will force them to hustle back.
  • You will want to make sure players are sprinting and not just jogging, which make require introducing some kind of penalty, such as deducting from their tally or making them go back to zero.
  • There is no excuse in this drill for letting balls drop.

Volleyball Coaching Concept: Wash Drill

Basically, a wash drill in volleyball is one which forces a team to either do things in a row, or at least in bunches. If the team does so it earns a big point with the objective then being to accumulate some number of total points or to beat another team. If the team fails to reach the objective it is a wash and no point is given, or alternatively, the opposing team gets the point.

There are a few primary variations you’ll find in wash drills. They include

X before Y – One team has to get X number of points before the other team gets Y.

X out of Y – A team must get X number of points within Y number of attempts (or could be done on time).

X in a row – The team must score X number of “little points” in a row to get a big point – or at least the opportunity to get a big point.

There is also the variation of wash drills where achieving some objective doesn’t immediately give a team a point, but merely gives them an opportunity to earn a point. The bingo-bango-bongo game is a variation of this in that it uses an “X in a row” core approach, but requires the team to win a service rally to actually get the point.

Wash drills in volleyball can be used for any number of purposes. For example

  • An “X before Y” variation could be used to make for more competitive games between teams of unequal levels, such as starters vs. non-starters.
  • An “X out of Y” type of game could be employed to pit hitters against each other in an attack vs. defense drill or game.
  • A variation of “X in a row” could be used to focus on executing a skill or tactic, such as successfully running a quick attack.I

If there’s something you want to work on with your team there’s probably a way you can do it with a wash drill. The advantage of this approach is that it gets players and teams focusing on not just singular executions, which is the case with many skill development drills (think serve receive or hitting line drills), but instead on execution repetition. This, of course, is much more realistic in terms of what will be expected in games.

Drill: 7-in-7 Hitting

Synopsis: This a good drill to get hitters focused on getting in good, consistent swings. It’s particularly useful to temper the aggression of some hitters (think male teams constantly hitting the top of the net rather than swinging high for deep shots), but also helps develop a “get it in” swing for those times when a hitting error should be avoided.

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

Requirements: At least half a court and one ball per player

Execution: The primary framework is a standard outside hitting line. The objective of the hitters is to reach 7 minutes of time elapsed before 7 hitting errors occur. If they fail they have to start over.

Variations:

  • Balls hitting the top of the net can be counted as errors.
  • In case where a team is struggling to complete the drill, to avoid it going on forever you can put a fixed time limit (or number of attempts) and have punishment for failure to get done.
  • The hitting can be done from locations other than OH if you want to work on different types of attacks.
  • Rather than players tossing to the setter, balls can be initiated requiring them to pass or dig, then transition and attack. This will tend to slow things down, and lower the attack frequency, but will be more game-like and will force the players to deal with variability in the sets from a setter required to move around.
  • For advanced teams a target zone could be introduced.

Additional Comments:

  • Make sure the hitters are taking legitimate swings and not just hitting the equivalent of roll shots. The idea is to work on consistent swings, not giving away free balls.