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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.
John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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