How to stop overpassing

Overpasses are a persistent problem for many teams. Whether it’s in serve receive, on free balls, or on defense, teams which send the ball straight back over to the other team shoot themselves in the foot. This can be especially damaging when playing against good opposition.

So how do we prevent overpasses?

There are a couple of ways to approach it. Let’s take a look at each one.

Correct the mechanics

The cause of overpasses is a passing/digging platform angled incorrectly. It’s that simple. The platform angle is too close to perpendicular with the floor and not close enough to parallel. Thus, the first thing to look at is whether that is coming from poor mechanics in the passing or digging executions. If not, it’s just something which requires a minor adjustment.

For example, is a player not moving to the ball properly or not creating a good platform. Alternatively, is the player moving in to position well but just getting the platform angle slightly wrong for the type of ball they are playing? If it’s the former, that means work on basic mechanics needs to be the first priority.

Change the target focus

Overpasses often come about because players are trying to be too precise with their passes or digs. That can be corrected by letting them know they don’t need to be perfect. It’s OK to make a mistake off the net. In some cases, like digging or passing hard serves, you can actually get them focused on what is sometimes referred to as “Target 2”. That is essentially the 3m line in the middle of the court.

Negative consequences for overpasses

When playing a match, there is a negative consequence for overpassing. Usually, the other team rams the ball back down your throat. To reinforce this in training there must be a negative consequence to an overpass in drills. My favorite way to do this is to make an overpass a deduction in drills where the players have some target count. For example, if players have to get to 20 good passes, I make the overpass -1. You do something similar in a game using bonus points (or deductions in this case). That encourages them to make the mistakes in their passes on their side of the net rather than on the other side.

Those are the three things I do to get my players to keep the ball on their side of the court when digging or passing. What about you?

Volleyball Coaching App Review: TapRecorder

A while back, I looked into apps I could potentially use to help keep track of statistics in practice. I didn’t want to resort to going the old clipboard method. I wanted something that went beyond just match type stats. That’s in terms of being able to cover the whole squad at once rather than just 6 players. I also want to do more than just the standard kills, blocks, digs, etc.

Most of the apps out there are oriented toward match stating. I did find one which seemed to fit the bill, though. That was TapRecorder from Volleyball Ace.

TapRecorder What really attracted me to TapRecorder was its flexibility. It is based on a spreadsheet model, making it highly customizable. Basically, you can keep track of just about anything you like. In my case, I could do something like putting all my players on a single screen and track their passes in a serve receive drill.

The app comes with a set of sample recordings (downloadable from the website). You can use either on their own or as the basis for developing your own templates. Creating new recording sheets is pretty easy. I can be a bit tedious when you need to add in a long list of players, however. There’s a companion application which will allow you to do it on your computer for upload to the tablet. I haven’t used it yet, though.

As with any stating app, there’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve, though designing your own recording sheets helps to at least make things more intuitive for you. And obviously if you’ve only got TapRecorder on one device only one coach at a time can use it, which is no different than working with a clipboard. You’d need multiple versions of the app to have more than one coach stating, but there’s a companion desktop application (Excel-based) which will allow you to aggregate data from multiple recordings. I haven’t used that yet myself, but when I do I’ll add my observations here.

Game: Points for Passes Variation

A while back I posted the Points for Passes game I’d seen at a University of Rhode Island training. It’s something quite useful for putting the focus on serve receive passing in a game play context.

As an experiment, I tried making it a 2-sided game. By that I mean rather than one side serving all the time, I ran it more like a regular game situation with each rally deciding which team serves the next ball. So basically what you have is a game that gives bonus points based on the quality of the serve.

Here’s the wrinkle, though.

Rather than having the rally winner serve, I had the loser serve. In other words, winning the rally gives you the right to receive serve and thereby gain more points from good passes.

So far the players seem to like the game, though the loser serving bit is a bit confusing at first. If you play to 25 points things will tend to go fairly quickly. That’s good if you want to play several games, mix things up, etc. If you want longer games, though, you can play to more points or maybe only give points for high quality passes (say 1 point for a 2 pass and 2 points for a 3 pass, or just 1 point for a 3 pass). You could even think about using negative points for things like overpasses of whatever you might want to focus on.

Volleyball coaches need their rest too

The value of sufficient rest hit home for me (again) to me not long ago. I coached a match and found I just wasn’t as tuned in and energetic as usual. I’m not saying I normally bounce around yelling and screaming and talking a mile-a-minute in the huddle. My court-side demeanor tends toward calm, though I do move around on the sideline a fair bit. I figured out a number of years back that coaching on my feet rather than sitting allowed me to work off nervous energy (or whatever) and lower my blood pressure. 🙂

During this match, though, My brain ran in slow motion. The players may not have noticed it that much. I still focused them on the sort of things I normally did. It’s something I felt myself, though. I definitely didn’t like the lack of sharpness and motivation.

In hindsight I can ascribe my mental fogginess most likely to lack of rest. The combination late nights and early mornings with a cold clearly took it out of me. It just goes to show that as much as we tell our players to make sure they take care of themselves in terms of rest, hydration, and eating right we have to do the same thing as coaches to be at the top of our game.

Blocking Visual Cues

What I am about to share is the way I learned how to teach blockers in terms of visual ques. I can’t remember specifically who taught it to me. It might have been John Kessel at USA Volleyball. Regardless, it’s stuck with me over the years. No doubt that’s because it makes intuitive sense to me. I have seen others present things in different ways, some of with which I definitely disagree. I’ll offer my own opinion on things here, but am happy to engage in a discussion on the subject.

The visual cue progression I teach is ball-setter-ball-hitter. I’ll explain each in turn below.

Ball – This is the pass coming from the receiver or digger. It will define the attack options available to the setter. On a good pass you don’t get a lot of information as all primary options will remain available (unless a hitter is out of position). If the pass is less than good, though, the blocker can start narrowing things down.

Setter – How the setter positions themselves to receive the ball and/or makes contact with the ball can tell a blocker a great deal. Even on a perfect pass, some setters tip which way they’re going with the ball. On a pass requiring them to move, their ball-receiving position may dictate which direction the ball will come out (for example,a setter back pedaling will find it easier to set to the right side attacker or the back row than to the OH).

Ball – Once the setter has released the ball you learn its direction and likely attack point.

Hitter – The approach angle of the hitter determines block placement as it dictates the most likely line of attack. The approach timing and distance from the net then determine when the blocker should jump.

It’s that last step which gets blockers in trouble in two ways. One is that if they are watching the ball it tends to negatively impact their mechanics (eyes looking up rather than forward results in arms coming away from the net). The other is in the placement of the block. For example, a hitter with an outside-in approach (standard OH) presents a much different positioning situation than does an inside-out approach (OPP running a 2-ball on a combination play). Drilling down even more specifically, where the hitter’s shoulder is relative to the ball will weigh heavily on the direction of their attack.

Oh, then there’s the situation where the hitter doesn’t even jump. Blockers not paying attention to their hitter may find themselves up in the air for no good reason.

Again, this is just my approach to things. Other views are welcome.

See also looking at serving and blocking together.

Drill: Basic Blocking Footwork

Synopsis: This is a drill for working on the foundational blocking footwork which can be incorporated quite easily into a warm-up routine.

Age/Skill Level: This is suitable for all levels

Requirements: A net

Execution: Start players at the net in proper blocking ready position. Have them practice executing single and multi-step movements along the net (shuffles, cross-overs, etc.).

Variations:

  • You can set this up either with all players at the net working from a que or by having players go in a line first one way, then the other.
  • Depending on the needs of your players you can either just have them do the footwork, or have them extend the move into the block jump.
  • Players doing approaches opposite the blockers on the other side of the net can be introduced to provide a que and also work on properly fronting the hitter and timing the jump.

Additional Comments:

  • This can be a good warm-up exercise
  • You may want to avoid having players block directly across from each other as that tends to lead to players not fully penetrating when they execute their blocks.
  • Make sure to reinforce the coaching ques you have for blocking in the areas of body position, penetration of the net, eye focus, etc.

Game: Ice Hockey

Synopsis: Here’s a game you can use to concentrate your players on key coaching points executed within a game. It features a way to highlight how a player is disadvantaging the team by doing (or not doing) certain things.

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

Requirements: 2 teams, full court, 1 ball

Execution: This game is played in normal fashion. The variation comes when a player makes an error. That player is sent off the court to the penalty box (as in ice hockey) and may only come back when their team performs a designated play.

Variations:

  • The error or errors which get a player sent to the penalty box can be anything the coach desires.
  • Likewise, the play(s) used to get the player back on the court could be any number of options.
  • You could replace the performance of a designated play to get a player out of the penalty box to a fixed number of points (either total or against their team).
  • In a case where you are playing A team vs B team you could have different “fouls” and or player return criteria for each team to balance things out.
  • This game is suitable for small-sided play.

Additional Comments:

  • The larger the number of potential “fouls” you have which send players off, the faster they should be able to get back on. Otherwise, you could end up with severely depleted teams.
  • Ideally, you should use the priority points you have designated for that training session to determine what’s a “foul” and how a player returns. For example, you could send a player off for not covering a hitter properly if that’s a focus point, and you could require a quick attack to get a player out of the penalty box if you’re working on the offense.

Adapting games and drills for lower level players

There are loads of volleyball drills and volleyball games we coaches can use in our training sessions. Some of them, however, will only be of use to certain levels of players. After all, you’re not really going to use complex, multi-skill drills with a group of beginners. It would be a disaster. That said, there are ways to adapt many drills and games which in their base case are designed for players more advanced than yours so you can use them yourself.

Lower the standard

Many games and drills have targets associated with them. For example, serve receive drills may have an objective of X number of good passes. At higher levels what counts as a good pass could be a 3-pass. At a beginner level, though, you may count any pass that’s playable for a second contact. In a hitting drill with kills as an objective for newer player you could simply count balls hit in. Alternatively, in a digging drill you might remove the penalty for the ball going over the net, if there is one.

Replace serves

Many games and drills start with a player serving. This can introduce a massive amount of variability into the situation. It makes certain types of training exercises unworkable. If you replace the serve, though, you can make things much more workable. For example, a passing drill which normally uses player serves can have those replaced with tosses. You may need to train players how to toss well. That is usually easier than getting them to be able to consistently provide accurate serves, though. In the case of running game play, you could replace serves with free balls.

Removing steps in the chain

More advanced drills tend to have multiple steps in the process. Reducing those steps will make a drill more useful with lower level players. A pass-set-hit drill could replace the pass with a toss, or alternatively could keep the pass, but put a toss in place of the set. It’s a question of what your coaching priority is for a given drill. If you want to work on hitting, then having a consistent set makes sense. If you’re focusing on the setting, though, then having consistent passing would be useful.

Use a ringer

Continuing along the lines of cutting down variability in some part of a drill or game, you could use a more advanced player at some point in the chain. This allows you to keep things very game-like while having more consistency. This could be done by having an advanced player (or coach) be the passer in a pass-set-hit drill or acting in the setter role in a 6 v 6 type of game.

Varying the initiation intensity

In coach-centric drills, you tend to have a lot of flexibility in how you put the ball into play. The Belly Drill is an example of this. For advanced teams you can make players have to play the ball while still on the floor, chase balls off the court, or dig hard driven balls. You can also challenge better players more and weaker players less, allowing you to help both develop equally at their own pace.

Change the dimensions

Beginning players tend not to move much, but many types of drills and games require lots of court movement. Winners 3s is a perfect example, as three players are expected to cover the full court. Using a smaller court can help create rallies where you would otherwise struggle to see them (see also small-sided volleyball games).

I’m sure there are other ideas out there. If there’s something you’ve done to adapt more advanced drills for use with less developed players, I’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below.

Drill: Servers vs. Passers Scoring

Synopsis: This is a serving and passing focused drill which offers some flexibility for you to put players in a competitive situation.

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

Requirements: full court, two groups of at least 3 players, several balls

Execution: Place half the team on one side of the net as servers and the other half the teams on the other side as serve receive passers, with a target. The serving team will take turns serving to the other team. Whichever player passes the ball moves to target with a new player filling in. The target sends the ball back to the servers, then goes to the back of the passing line. Each pass is scored on the 0-3 scale with the passing team getting that many points and the serving team getting 3 minus whatever the passers got. For example, if the passers get a 2 pass they would get 2 points and the servers would only get 1 point (3-2). A missed serve counts as 3 points for the passing team. The first team to a designated point objective wins. Switch passers and servers and go again.

Variations:

  • You can use an alternative pass scoring system.
  • If you want more aggressive serves you could either not count missed serves or have them worth fewer points to the passing team.
  • You may also use different scoring for each side if you are working A team vs. B team.

Additional Comments:

  • Having consequences for the losers may increase competitiveness.
  • If you find either servers or passers consistently winning, you may have to alter the scoring system to make things more competitive.
  • You may also find that you need to adjust the scoring and/or length of the game over the course of a season as players develop to keep things balanced.
  • Keep an eye out to see if servers start specifically targeting weaker passers, which is strategically a good idea and also gives those players more reps.