Rules for coaching volleyball from John Kessel

John Kessel has developed and posted what he’s calling his “10 New Commandments of Volleyball”. It’s actually commandments for coaching, not something more broad in terms of the overall sport or anything like that, despite the inclusive title. They are worth reviewing in full. Here they are in brief:

  1. Be demanding, but not demeaning
  2. Use the net
  3. Include back row hitting in each training
  4. Develop 2-side players (can play left or right side of the court)
  5. Catch them doing things right
  6. Train more in terms of reading than technique
  7. Ask questions, don’t tell them the answer
  8. Train the mentality of “good errors”
  9. Teach players to use both sides of their body
  10. Make things as game like as possible.

I’ve definitely written before about making things as game like as possible, which I think ties in with using the net (here, here, here). I’ve also talked about the question of good vs. bad errors and encouraging the mentality of being accepting of mistakes (here, here). The idea of increasing the amount of reading is something I posted on earlier as well.

Including back row attacking in training is something I do a lot of myself with my teams, and have done for years. In fact, I had my Svedala team do back row swings for the pin hitters in the first minute of warm-ups. I go that route to get players to reach and focus on hitting deep before hitting on the net.

Two of the more thought-provoking commandments, to my mind, are the ones related to players training both sides of the court and both sides of the body. I regularly make use of small-sided games. They feature players playing both sides of the court. I’m not sure if I have really thought much about that from an intentional perspective, though.

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.


  1. wayne yamamoto says:

    Love it, just one thing missing in his ten commandments is number 11 “Thou shall not pepper”.

    • John Forman John Forman says:

      I’d argue that #2 at least partially covers that.

      To be fair, though, we need to be clear. I’m assuming you’re talking simple partner pepper. There are any number of variations of pepper which are done over the net.

  2. Marty Charters says:

    Good morning and thank you for your time. I have a question or two to ask you.

    Can a blocking player have their hands over the net (onto their opponent’s side of the court) during a block?

    I know setters and hitters can switch positions after the ball goes over the net, but can players in the back row (positions 1, 6, & 5) switch with players in the front row after the serve, as well?

    I coach and would appreciate a response as soon as possible. If you would please send your responses to me, I would greatly appreciate it. Would you please also site a source that I could refer to for these rules and others so I have “proof” of the rules? Thank you.

    Warm regards,
    Marty Charters

    • John Forman John Forman says:


      To your first question – yes, a blocking player is permitted to have their hands across the net during a block.

      To your second question – after the serve players can move to anywhere on the court they like. Or off the court for that matter. The issue where the ball is played. A back row player may not attack a ball (send it over the net) that is entirely above the top of the net unless they have jump from behind the 3m (10′) line. Same with blocking.

      To give you a specific rule book reference I would need to know under which set of rules you play. All sets of rules agree on what I said above, but where exactly these things are addressed varies.


  3. Billy Noon says:

    Good job Mr. Kessel

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