Large group volleyball drills and games

As coaches, we sometimes find ourselves in situations where we have to work with a large number of players. This is especially true in tryout situations, in clinics, and in lower level more participation oriented groups. This is when you need large group volleyball drills.

There are two philosophical concepts that are key here. One is to keep the players moving as much as possible. We don’t want them standing around for long periods of time. The other is to maximize player contacts.

So how do we do this?

The first is to avoid line oriented drills. These are things like hitting lines. There are two reasons for this. First is all the waiting around. Second is how few players take part. Think about it. In a standard hitting line, one hitter tosses to a setter. That’s just two active players. And it’s only one if a coach tosses to the hitter!

How can we make that better?

As a starting point, we can add in a block. In fact, we can make that two blockers. Just depends what you want to accomplish with the drill, though. We can add in a passer. And while we’re doing that, we can add in a tosser or server as well. What about someone playing defense?

Now we have six or more players involved in each repetition. That doesn’t mean they all touch the ball each time, but just taking active part means they get reading reps.

Another way to get more players involved in large group volleyball drills is to make effective use of your space. For example, the 2-sided Serve & Pass drill puts servers and passers on both sides of the net. That effectively doubles the number of players involved at any one time.

You can do the same sort of thing by using narrow court arrangements. Think about whether what you want to do can be done on half a court, or even a 1/3 of a court.

That brings up the subject of small-sided games. The classic example of this is Winners, also known as Queen or King (or Monarch) of the Court. Most people play 3s or 4s in this game. Why not play that on a half court? That way you can run two games side-by-side and double the number of players active. Player Winners is another variation that you could possibly run on 1/3 of a court.

Of course what we like about Winners is the fast pace. Players move in and out quickly. We can actually speed that up, though, by using the Speedball version.

Related to that, you can use quick substitutions to manage court time in large group volleyball drills. One example of this used at times at MSU is 6 v 6s. This idea is to make the substitution cycles quick. Ideally, a player is on more than they are off, if that is possible to arrange.

For example, if you have three players you want to play across two positions you can rotate them on a plays or point basis. One is in Position 1, one is in Position 2, and one is off. After some number of plays or points, they rotate. Position 1 goes to Position 2, Position 2 goes off, and the off player goes to Position 1. That means each player is on the court roughly twice as long as they are off.

As always, it is important to start off with a clear set of priorities. What do you want to accomplish? From there you can think about the types of drills and games you can use with the group, and look for ways to keep wait times down, maximize the number of players involved, and to move things along quickly.

Have a favorite large group game or drill? Share it with your fellow readers in the comment section below.

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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