Archive for Volleyball Games

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.

Accidentally finding a useful new scoring system

Last week I ran a small training session what ended up being a trio of players from the Devon team that won South West Championships this year and a quartet of junior aged girls. The skill levels are obviously quite widely separated in a situation like that, so there are limits to what you can do in terms of drills.

We did some fundamental work on ball-handing and serving and passing, then moved into game play. Then I moved it to game play and had the Devon players go against the four girls, playing on half a court to encourage rallies.

Obviously, we’re talking about teams which were quite imbalanced. In order to make things more competitive, I introduced a scoring twist. The young team used standard rally scoring, but the Devon team could only score on kills. Aside from keeping the game more competitive, there were some interesting side effects to using this system.

  1. Devon quickly started serving easily because they could only score if the ball came back over the net, allowing them to run a transition attack.
  2. Devon also started hitting the ball harder and attacked the ball from positions they perhaps would not have done so otherwise.
  3. The girls realized quickly that they needed to adapt their defense to deal with more aggressive play, which got them putting up a much more effective block to slow the Devon attack down.
  4. The girls were also freed up to play more aggressively than they otherwise would because they couldn’t lose points for making errors.

The girls ended up winning 25-23. One of the Devon players and I were commenting afterward that the 23 kills they got in that game were more than many teams get in multiple games (even matches at certain levels).

I didn’t have all the side effects in mind when I decided to do that split scoring game. I was just looking for a way to even things out a bit (we later mixed the groups for a regular game). As I watched the play, though, I could see what was developing and it definitely gave me ideas for how I could use it in other training session, with Devon or other teams, in the future.

In particular, one of the issues we had with the Exeter Uni women’s team was putting the ball away. We played very good defense, which let us compete with even the top teams, but just couldn’t get the kills we needed. Using this kind of scoring system for scrimmage play in practice could be effective in working on more aggressive attacking since there are no consequences for making hitting errors.

Game: Baseball

Synopsis: Also known as softball- this game concentrates on both serve receive and free ball play in a way which has one teams strongly focused on scoring while the other is equally strongly focused on not allowing a point.

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

Requirements: two teams, full court, 6 balls

Execution: This game begins Team A serving to Team B. If Team B fails to win the service rally an out is registered. If Team B wins the rally and gets a point (run). It then receives a free ball. If it wins that rally, it gets another point and receives another free ball. This continues until Team B loses the point, at which stage an out is registered. Team A then serves again. This continues until three outs are made, at which point Team B becomes the serving side. An inning is complete when Team A reaches 3 outs, at which time the teams rotate and a new inning starts. The team with the most runs at the end of six innings wins.

Variations:

  • The game could be played with fewer than 6 players, in which case there would be less than 6 innings, but you could double up to extend the game.
  • To increase focus on winning the serve receive rally you could make that worth more points and/or make a first ball rally win worth extra.
  • Similarly, you could make winning the first ball in a free ball rally worth extra.
  • And of course there’s plenty of room for bonus points if you want to encourage (or discourage) certain things.
  • You can add on an extra inning at the end which pits the best rotation from each team against each other either as a last inning or as some kind of winner take all.

Additional Comments:

  • Since only the team receiving serve can score points (kind of an opposite to sideout) there is the opportunity for that team to be more aggressive than might otherwise be the case. As a result, this can be a good game to use if you want to encourage the players to take chances hitting hard, using new plays, etc.
  • Keep the tempo up by having a new free ball initiated as soon as the rally is dead. This gets players focused on the next play and adds a conditioning element.
  • Consider the impact anything you might do with the serve receive rally to make it more meaningful will have on serving. Certainly if the receivers get more points for winning a first ball, for example, then the servers will quickly realize how penal a missed serve becomes – unless you don’t count that in the scoring structure.
  • If you play this regularly, you’ll want to consider how you set the starting line-ups for each side to either mix up the match-ups for balanced appraisal or to concentrate of certain rotations in different ways (like matching strong vs. weak).
  • This can be a quite helpful game in identifying problem rotations for further concentrated work. Unfortunately, the stronger offensive rotations will tend to get a lot more opportunities in this particular game. On the flip side, from the perspective of the serving team the rotations which struggle to stop points being score will actually tend to get more work.

Volleyball Games: Using Bonus Points Effectively

There is a major focus in volleyball coaching circles these days on making training as game-oriented as possible. That means moving away from rote mechanical training and incorporating the types of visuals, movement patterns, and situations one will see in a match. Obviously, nothing is going to be more game-like than actually playing. Let’s face it, though. The scrimmages and other volleyball games we do in training oftentimes drift away from the developmental focus we would like to have for that particular session.

There is a way to have your players concentrating on those key things, however.

By introducing bonus points, you can get your players focused on executing whatever skills or plays you want. For example, a bonus point for a 3-pass (see Scoring Serving and Passing Effectiveness) will have them concentrate more on passing, while a bonus point for a stuff block will get your blockers more intent on their task. You can have bonus points for more complex sequences like quick attacks or combination plays, or for scoring on the first ball in serve receive.

You can also have point penalties for undesirable plays. For example, if you want to curb the amount of 1-arm digging or passing that’s happening, a point deduction can be assessed for each time it happens. Maybe your team isn’t calling the ball enough. If so you can subtract points for failure to do so. Or if you want your players to send free balls only to zone 1 you can asses a deduction when it doesn’t happen.

Here are some things to think about in terms of employing bonus/penalty points in your games:

  • You can vary the points based on the amount of focus you want to give something – more points for key areas of focus, fewer for lesser ones.
  • You can have multiple bonus/penalty items in your game, but don’t get carried away. The players can only focus on a couple of things at a time effectively, and you can only track of so many different things, so keep it relatively narrowly defined.
  • Be careful of unintended consequences. You don’t want you players forcing things to try to earn bonus points. Make sure you structure your point system to avoid that.

You’ll know you have your player’s attention on where you want their focus when they start yelling out bonus point scoring in the middle of plays. That’s probably not the best situation in terms of their game concentration, but at least you know you have them thinking about the right things. 🙂