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Archive for Volleyball Games

Game: Cross-Court 4s

Synopsis: By allowing you to narrow the focus of play you can use this drill to work on specific elements of hitting and/or defense, as well as on player assessment in both attacking and defending.

Age/Skill Level: This game is for intermediate to advanced groups.

Requirements: 8 players, full court, 1 ball

Execution: This game turns the cooperative cross-court hitting drill into a competitive game. The teams are comprised of a setter, an OH, a left back in 5 and a middle back in 6. They can only score into the opponents cross-court half of the court, making it a kind of OH vs OH competition.

Variations:

  • This 4 v 4 could easily be adapted to run as RS vs OH and/or RS vs RS
  • The setter could block or not
  • MBs could be added for a double block with the setter.
  • Players can be required to rotate after they send the ball over the net, or remain in specialized positions.
  • This could be run in a Winners fashion.

Additional Comments:

  • This can be a good game to evaluate not just hitters, but also defenders.
  • By including a MB and creating a double block, an limiting play to only high outside sets, you will force hitters to problem solve on the attack, such as encouraging going high hands or wiping off the block. To that end, though, you may have to introduce some kind of wash rule about touches off the block into the uncovered part of the court (like area 1) not counting as a point because of the lack of defenders there.
  • If you look to do a winners variation, make sure to consider the accuracy of your servers. Lots of missed serves will slow the game way down, so you may need to account for that with where players are allowed to server from or by introducing the ball to the winners in some other fashion (free ball, down ball, etc.)

Game: Hitter vs Hitter Challenge

Synopsis: This is a good game to help assess hitters in a ranking fashion while also encouraging competition intra-squad.

Age/Skill Level: This game is probably best suitable for intermediate to advanced groups.

Requirements: Two teams, full court, 1 ball

Execution: Identify two hitters to go against each other and set a fixed rotation line-up for each team which matches – for example, setter up on both sides. The only way points can be scored is if the designated hitters are part of the play. In other words, to score they must get a kill or a block, and they will concede a point on an error. Plays by others will only suffice to win/lose a rally, not a point. Thus, if a non-featured hitter gets a kill, their team wins the rally, but it is a wash in terms of points. Rather than earning the right to serve by winning a rally, however, the team earns the right to receive serve. In other words, the losing team serves, not the winning team. Play to a determined number of points.

Variations:

  • The primary types of hitter match-ups would be OH vs. RS/OPP and MB vs. MB so the hitters are blocking against each other. One could also do a variation which sets backrow attackers in opposition.
  • You could potentially add in bonus points if you want to encourage actions or behaviors in the focal hitters.
  • This could be used just as easily for small-sided games.

Additional Comments:

  • The advantage to using this sort of assessment exercise rather than some kind of hitting line situation is that it puts the players in game situations rather than in some kind of rigid structure. That will allow you to better judge how they will be in games, and also their influence on the team overall. For example, there may be a hitter who doesn’t get a great many kills, but is a massive positive influence on their team that they end up winning anyway.
  • Ideally, you’ll want to try to make the opposing teams as closely balanced as possible for a fair judgement. You can also have the hitters flip teams to that end.
  • Having consequences for losing (for the whole team, not just the hitter) may help to encourage competition and keep the supporting players motivated and focused.
  • Depending on how many players you have and what you need to do, this might be a game you can use in a try-out situation.
  • I saw this game used by CSU San Marcos.

Game: High Ball to Receive

Synopsis: This game works on hitters being more aggressive in challenging the block, which also means a focus on good hitter coverage, with additional work on serve receive and free ball attacking.

Age/Skill Level: This game is suitable for intermediate to advanced teams.

Requirements: Two teams, full court, a couple balls

Execution: This game begins with a coach-initiated ball to one team. That team must then run an outside or right side attack off a high set (no quick or faster tempo sets allowed on this first ball – and the ball must be hit, not tipped or rolled). The rally is played out from there in normal fashion (any set is permitted after the first ball). The winner of that rally earns the advantage to receive first a served ball, then a free ball. A point is awarded to the team which wins each of those rallies (not just the receiving team). The next coach-initiated ball goes to the other team. Play 8 points before rotating.

Variations:

  • You could make this a wash game by forcing a team to win both the serve and free ball rallies (either just the receiving team or the either team).
  • To work on weak rotations you can require a team to get 8 points before rotating (or some number of big points under a wash system).
  • This could be used just as easily for small-sided games.

Additional Comments:

  • The idea behind the initial high ball attack is to get players to be aggressive about attacking the block (looking for seems, going high hands, etc.). As such, players should be required to take a legitimate swing at the ball and not permitted to tip, roll, or otherwise use an off-speed shot.
  • Encouraging the challenging of the block also puts a premium on hitter coverage.
  • I saw this game used by UCLA.

Game: 2 in 2

Synopsis: This is a simple, likely fast-moving, game which requires players to score in both serving and serve receive situations.

Age/Skill Level: This game is suitable for all levels.

Requirements: Two teams, full court, 2 balls

Execution: This is a standard serve-initiated game with alternating pairs of serves (Team A serves once, then Team B serves once) using a wash scoring system. A team must win both the service rally and the serve receive rally to score a point. If one team cannot win both rallies, no points are scored and the two serves are repeated. Teams rotate each time a point is scored.

Variations:

  • Depending on how long you want this game to go on, you could run it to a set point objective (15, 25, etc.), or just on a timed basis.
  • You can change the rotation rule to require a team to win a point before it can rotate (rather than both teams rotate together).
  • This could be used just as easily for small-sided games.

Additional Comments:

  • If you don’t count missed serves as rally wins for the receiving team you will encourage players to serve more aggressively. Just make sure the players don’t miss serves consecutively per the rules.
  • Requiring a team to score a big point to rotate would likely have the benefit of giving more reps to your weaker rotation(s).
  • This game was inspired by something I saw in Long Beach State training.

Game: 18 before 12

Synopsis: This game features 6-v-6 play with a focus on closing an early gap, or conversely closing out a set when in the lead.

Age/Skill Level: This game is suitable for all levels.

Requirements: Two teams, full court

Execution: This starts with the score at 13-7 with the game played to 25 under standard rules.

Variations:

  • You can change the starting point and spread to adapt to your team.
  • If you want to do more focused work on serve receive offense and/or transition attack, you can have one team serve every ball.
  • This could be used just as easily for small-sided games.

Additional Comments:

  • This is one I saw USC use, though I might not have it totally right.
  • If you do have only one team serve you’ll want to allow for miss serves (but not two in a row) to encourage aggressive serving.

Game: 22 v 22

Synopsis: This game features 6-v-6 play, but with a major focus on serve receive offense, winning points in a row, and finishing a set.

Age/Skill Level: This game is suitable for all levels.

Requirements: two teams, full court, several balls

Execution: One team is the designated offensive team. The drill starts with one team serving the other with play running as usual for that rally. If the receiving team gets a first ball kill they get a point. If not, that rally is a wash, though the winner of it will serve the next ball. Before that, though, a coach initiates three balls to the offensive teams. If either team wins all three rallies they get a point. If not, no point is earned by either side. The game continues until one team reaches 25. Repeat all six rotations.

Variations:

  • To make getting the wash mini game point (the 3-ball part) a bit easier, you can award the point to the team which wins 2 out of 3 rallies instead of all three.
  • The coach can initiate the ball as an attack, a downball, or a free ball.
  • To have a more concentrated focus on serve receive you can have the non-offensive team serve all balls.
  • To make sure to give weak rotations more time, you can require a team to win the game before rotating, with the first team to go all six rotations winning overall.
  • This could be used just as easily for small-sided games.

Additional Comments:

  • I saw this game played at USC, though I may not have all the details exactly correct.
  • The focus here is obviously on first ball serve receive kills, and secondarily winning points in a row. The way the coach initiates the three balls also creates an opportunity to work on some other types of offensive play (e.g. free ball attack).
  • If you do have only one team serve you’ll want to allow for miss serves (but not two in a row) to encourage aggressive serving.

Game: 7 in a Row

Synopsis: This game features normal play, but with the use of bonus points and a focus on scoring points in bunches.

Age/Skill Level: This game is suitable for intermediate to advanced players.

Requirements: two teams, full court

Execution: This is a 6 vs 6 game which operates normally in terms of service initiation and the play thereafter. The difference is in the objective and the scoring system. Teams are aiming to score 7 points in a row. Any rally win is a point. A bonus point, though, is given for first ball kills. Thus, it takes at least 4 straight rally wins for a team to win the game (three first ball serve receive or transition kills and a rally win). If at any point a team loses a rally its points revert to zero.

Variations:

  • You can alter the bonus point earning process to focus on whatever you prioritize – like certain types of offensive plays, aces, stuff blocks, kills on off-speed shots, etc.
  • You can even have smaller or larger bonus points (say 2 for a first ball kill and 1 for a 3-pass), especially if you find the 7-point target a bit too challenging for your team.
  • To create a more intense focus on serve receive offense you can assign one team to serve to start every play.
  • There should be no problem running this as a small-sided game.

Additional Comments:

  • The main focus here is on scoring points in a row, and conversely preventing the other team from scoring points in bunches. As a result, it would be best if the bonus points you employ support that cause.
  • I saw this one used by USC, though I might have it presented here in a slight different fashion than it was run.
  • If you do have only one team serve you’ll want to allow for miss serves (but not two in a row) to encourage aggressive serving.

Game: Points for Passes

Synopsis: This game features 6-v-6 play, but with a major focus on serve receive passing, and by extension serving.

Age/Skill Level: This game is suitable for all levels.

Requirements: two teams, full court, several balls

Execution: One team starts with 32 points, and the other with 0. The 32-point team severs every ball and scores a point on any rally win. The 0-point team also scores on any rally win, but also gets points based on the rating of each serve receive pass based on the 3-point scoring system (so a 3 pass earns them 3 points, a 2 pass earns them 2 points, etc.). The teams play to 40, meaning the 32-point team only needs to win 8 rallies. An ace counts as a rally win, but missed serves are washes. The receiving team rotates each time they win a rally. The serving team does a front-to-back switch on each of their rally wins, but ensuring that servers change up.

Variations:

  • You can change the starting point for the serving team to widen or narrow the gap the receiving team needs to overcome.
  • You can change the winning score up or down to require the serving team to win more or fewer rallies.
  • There can be negative consequences for multiple missed serves – especially in a row – from the same server.
  • This could be used just as easily for small-sided games.

Additional Comments:

  • I saw this game at University of Rhode Island training when I was there.
  • Of the six times I saw this played (three different sets of match-ups played with each side being the receiving team and serving team once), only once did the receiving team win. That came when they averaged a 2.0+ pass rating. Thus, good serve receive passing is a major focus point.
  • There’s a way to make this a 2-sided game (both teams serve rather than just one) outlined in the post Points for Passes Variation

Game: Second Chance

Synopsis: This game variation allows players to work on their short-comings by repeating skills after making an error.

Age/Skill Level: This game is suitable for beginner and intermediate players.

Requirements: two teams, full court, several balls

Execution: Think of this as a game which allows players a redo on their mistakes. Play proceeds as a standard scrimmage up to the point where a player makes an error. At that point the coach initiates a ball which requires that player to repeat the skill. If the do so successfully the play carries on. If not, they get another chance. This continues until the successful execution happens.

Variations:

  • The play can continue for a certain amount of time or a certain number of points.
  • If you use points you can have them count only on the initial play when the error was made, or on each play inclusive of the errors.
  • You can rotate or wave players through.

Additional Comments:

  • If you have the space, the players, and an available coach, you could sub a player out when they make a mistake and have them go off to another court (or area) where they are required to do X number of reps of the skill successfully before being allowed back in the game.
  • You may want to narrow the focus to specific types of errors, like hitting the ball into the net or out of bounds or not passing the ball to target – depending on your area of focus of that session.
  • If you don’t have some kind of play-ender (like a clean kill), this game will end up being continuous. That’s good for conditioning, but you’ll need to have plays end at some point to change things up and keep your front row players (especially) from becoming overtaxed.