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Tag Archive for 4v4

Game: Dig or Die Back Row Speedball

Synopsis:  This is a variation on the Speedball Winners idea as applied to a game with back row attacks only. The difference is that point scoring is collective and defensive intensity is highly encouraged.

Age/Skill Level: This is a game for intermediate to advanced players

Requirements: 12+ players, full court

Execution: Players are split, with half on each side. Those teams are then split into at least two groups. One group from each side starts on the court, with one of them serving to begin the rally. Once the rally plays out – back row attacking only – the losing team rotates out, with a new group from that same side serving to the winners and coming on. Points are earned for rally wins, with each side being a single team on the score board. If a team lets a ball drop without a touch, they lose all their points and go back to zero.

Variations:

  • For a higher tempo game you can start each play with a coach-initiated ball.
  • Depending on your numbers and training focus you can have fixed setters or not.
  • Again, depending on your level of play you can loosen up the must touch the ball requirement to must make a legitimate effort.

Additional Comments:

  • Playing multiple shorter games is probably better than playing one longer game. That way a single ball dropping isn’t quite so demoralizing (think being at 20 and going back to zero).

Game: 4 v 4 Out-of-System Winners

Synopsis: This is a variation on Winners 3s or 4s which narrows the attacking options. That should produced more rallies while getting in good work on defense against live hitters and out-of-system offense, among other things.

Age/Skill Level: This is a game for intermediate to advanced players

Requirements: 12+ players, full court

Execution: This game features 4 players on each side, two front row and two back row in a box type of formation. The two front row players are pin hitters, with the two back row players as wing defenders. The area within 6′ (2m) of the hitter’s line is declared out (so if the hitter is attacking in 4 then zones 1 and 2 are basically out of play. In other words, the hitter must attack middle or cross-court. The game is played like Winners in terms of having a winning side, rally initiation by a serve, etc.

Variations:

  • You can change up which areas of the court are out. If you exclude the middle of the court, then you make the hitters attack line or cross. If you exclude the cross court you force the hitters to attack middle or line.
  • You could eliminate the Winners element and just have the two sides playing each other with the sides rotating each time they send the ball over the net.
  • You can have positional specialization either by keeping players in fixed positions, or by left side players just playing on the left and right side players just playing on the right.
  • You can require that one of the back row players take the second ball.

Additional Comments:

A 1-hour practice plan

The other day we had the last of the off-season practice sessions with the team before they went on Spring Break, after which we’ll go into the non-traditional season (Spring Training). For those with an NCAA background, you’ll know that only 2 hours of on-court work is permitted during the off season. All the players had done an hour already earlier in the week – either individually or in small groups. This session, though, featured everyone. As I only recently found out, that is now allowed in Division II.

Since we only have two practices before our first Spring tournament, the head coach wanted to give the players a chance to go 6 v 6 for the first time in a long while. It was therefore decided that 30 minutes of time was going to be devoted to that. The first 30 minutes was build up to it.

Here’s one of the tricks of maximizing your time with the players in this kind of situation. Get them to warm-up on their own before you get into the gym. That way you can go right to work. By the time we got there, the players were already into playing back row Winners 3s.

Activity #1
We had 12 players with just one court set up. The first thing we did was to have them play 3 v 3 on a narrow court. In other words, we had two games going on next to each other. The players were grouped by position, then did a count-off to decide their teams. Two rounds of play were run, with winners playing winners and losers playing losers for the second one. If I’m remembering correctly, it was a back row attack only game. Games were played to 8.

Activity #2
The second activity is something I did at times with my Svedala team. I developed it as a kind of a Belly Drill or Speedball variation in teams of 4 (counted off as above). Two teams were on the court with one off waiting to come on. The teams on played out a 4 v 4 rally (all hitting options available). At its conclusion, the losers were replaced by the waiting team while a coach initiated a ball to the winners (down ball over the net).

This is a fast paced game with very little down time for players. We played for 15 minutes and had the teams keep track of rally wins. I think it was something like 27, 25, and 20. So we got in at least as many points as you’d get in 1.5 sets in less time than it generally takes to play a single one. This is more rallies than we’d have gotten in had we been going with Winners 4s with the inherent delay of teams waving through to the winners’ side.

Activity #3
The last half of the session was given over to simple game play. The players were divided up by position, which created some imbalances and caused some funky rotational requirements. One of the assistants jumped in to balance out the hitting, while a pair of defenders split time playing back row for one team. They got into a second set before the hour was up and decided to keep going after we left.

Skill coverage
Let’s think about the various skills and how much they were included in this short session.

  • Serving was included in the 3 v 3 game and the 6 v 6, though in the latter case not everyone ended up doing it because of the team compositions (some players front-row-only).
  • Serve reception was part of both the 3 v 3 and 6 v 6.
  • Setting was included in all of the games, though it was only in 6 v 6 where the setters specifically took all the second balls. In the other games sometimes they did, but often times it was other players.
  • Hitting was included in all three games from a variety of locations.
  • Blocking was included in all three games, though only in the 6 v 6 was their regular double blocking.
  • Defense was included in all three games, with the 4 v 4 essentially starting each rally with a defense ball (down ball from the other side of the net).

So you could say the balance was skewed toward the “open play” type of skills – setting, hitting, blocking, defense – with a bit less in serving and passing. We could have boosted the serve reception by having the assistants serve a ball to start the next rally in the 4 v 4 game.

Game: Positional winners

As volleyball coaches, most of us are aware, and make regular use, of the game Winners – also known as King or Queen of the Court. There is a variation of the game much favored by John Kessel from USA Volleyball which is known as Speedball. That one, though, requires the right numbers to do properly. I also sometimes use yet another variation in which it is individual players rather than groups (teams) of players who operate in the winners fashion.

Something I started doing with Svedala was another variation on winners that allowed for more positional specialization. It started by having fixed setters, but otherwise playing winners around them. Simply put, the setter who won the rally went to/stayed on the winners’ side.

At times I also had the MBs fixed. That was in order to have the middles and setters working directly with each other – and against each other. So like with the setters, the MB whose team won the rally went to/stayed on the winners side.

Now, I only had two setters and two MBs in the team, so the switches were pretty straightforward. Just two players swapping places.

There were times, though, when I had some extra players in training. In those cases when I wanted to do the fixed MB system I basically had them rotate through like a more normal winners idea. The middle who won the rally was the winner, the losing middle came off, and a middle waiting on the side came in on the challenge side.

So basically what this turned into is a triple Winners rotation. The setters were on a rotation. The middles were on their own rotation. Finally, the rest of the players where in the bigger rotation. Usually, in those situations I had the game played in 4s. That means there was a pair of players from the collection of OHs, OPPs, and Liberos joining up with an MB and a Setter in each team.

I came to like this winners variation because it allowed for more specialized positional work.

Game: 2 vs. 2 with a Player Net

Synopsis: This variation on Winners is a small-sided game which can be used when you don’t have a net available, especially for younger and/or more developmental players. Also potentially useful in situations where you have lots of players, but little space.

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

Requirements: 6 players, 1 balls.

Execution: Start with three teams of 2 players each. One of the team starts as the net. They stand in the middle. The other two teams play out a rally. The loser of the rally swaps places with the “net” team and serves the next point.

Variations:

  • The game could be played for time or until one team won a given number of points.
  • Depending on the amount of space available, you could configure the “court” to be short or narrow or whatever suits your purpose.
  • You could increase the team sizes to 3s, and maybe 4s.
  • Rather than switching on each rally, you could play mini games (say first to 3).

Additional Comments:

  • I saw this diagrammed on a table at breakfast by John Kessel.
  • If there is a rope or string or some other thing that could act as a net, the “net” team can hold that rather than having the rally played out over them.
  • This is something that potentially could be used in a pre-match warm-up when you only have one side of the court.

Game: Bonus Point Bingo

Synopsis: This is a game based on the bonus point idea, which means you can use it to encourage your team to concentrate on certain key areas of focus. It allows for a lot of flexibility and adaptability for varied levels of play and complexity.

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

Requirements: Court, 2 teams, 1 ball.

Execution: Start with each team choosing some number of bonus point plays/tasks they must complete. For example, one team could select quick set kill, getting a single block for the OH, and getting a soft or stuff block while the other picks forcing a non-setter to take the second ball in serve receive, getting a tip kill, and getting a high ball kill. The team that is able to do all their bonus plays first wins.

Variations:

  • You can do this in a small-sided game fashion.
  • The required bonuses could be randomly chosen, assigned by the coach, or picked by the team.
  • Multiple executions of a single play can be included, such as getting 5 good passes.

Additional Comments:

  • This game was described by US Women’s National Team coach Karch Kiraly at the 2015 HP Coaches Clinic.
  • If you don’t allow teams to know the bonus plays for each other you add the dimension of forcing them to try to figure it out to prevent the other team from “scoring”.

Game: Speedball Winners

Synopsis: This variation on Winners looks to maximize contacts but cutting down transition time.

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

Requirements: Court, 8 players, 3 balls.

Execution: Divide the players into 4 teams of two, with two teams on each side of the net – one on the court, one behind the end line. The two “off” teams each have a ball, as does one of the “on” teams. The on team with the play starts play with a serve and the teams rally normally from there. The team that loses the rally immediately vacates the court and the off team on that side serves and enters the court to begin a new rally. The winner of each rally scores a point, with the game played to some predetermined point total.

Variations:

  • Teams of 3 or more can be used.
  • More than 4 teams can play if necessary.
  • You can use a full or reduced sized court.
  • For lower level teams where serving is inconsistent, the coach can initiate the ball to start each rally.
  • Attacking can be limited to certain types, such as back row only.

You can see a 4-player team version of speedball in the USA Volleyball video below.


Additional Comments:

  • By incorporating requirements into the play – must have 3 contact, all players much touch the ball, bonus points for quick set kills, etc. – you can adapt the game to work toward the training objectives you have for the session.
  • You can see a Newcomb style version of speedball used as a warm-up game in this video.
  • If you are playing 2s or 3s on a full court you likely want to use beach rules in terms not allowing open-hand tipping and requiring sets to be straight forward or back (no sideways dumps over the net). Alternatively, you could just not allow such attacks in front of the 3 meter line.

Washing to increase scrimmage intensity

Over the years I’ve come to really dislike watching my teams go through simple scrimmage games in training. The intensity level feels too low and there isn’t enough actual play going on. I didn’t like it when I was coaching at Brown and I don’t like it these days coaching at Exeter. I find myself either feeling frustrated at the slow pace or getting twitchy wishing there was more action, more player ball contacts.

Last night was a perfect example. I was running a training session for the university women ahead of them playing in South West Championships this weekend. Unfortunately, due to exams the numbers were low – only 7 players, plus one representative of the men’s team. Naturally, that meant doing a bunch of 4 v 4 stuff in the game-play elements of the session.

At the end of practice I had them play a straight game, but narrowed the court by about a third to encourage longer rallies. After a couple minutes, though, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was just too slow. To up the intensity I added an element to make it a wash game rather than just standard scoring. I did that by initiating a ball to the team that won the serve-initiated rally. A team needed to win both rallies to score a point. The team winning the first rally served the next ball.

The result of adding the wash element was that after about 25 minutes of play the game ended 7-5. Had I thought about it ahead of time, I might have started the score to have it finish at 25, but this was an on-the-fly adjustment, as we sometimes need to make as coaches. I think the players would tell you adding the wash element made the game more intense and fun. I know I liked it a lot better as a coach.

Game: Neville Pepper

Synopsis: This is a game similar to Winners but with a fixed team on one side for a set period of time, and with the ability to focus players on certain training points.

Age/Skill Level: This is suitable for all levels

Requirements: 9+ players, several balls, full court

Execution: Divide your squad up into at least 3 teams. Place one team on Side A of the court with the other teams set up in waves playing through Side B (like Winners). After ball initiation, the teams play out the rally. The team on Side A stays there for a set period of time (2-3 minutes) while the teams on Side B wave through after each rally.The team on Side A is the only one to score points. After their time is up, a different team takes over Side A. The team with the most points when all teams have gone through is the winner.

Variations:

  • You can vary the amount of time a team spends on Side A.
  • You can use fixed setters if you don’t have enough for each team to have one.
  • Points can be as simple as rallies won, or you could count them based on specific areas of focus (digs, block touches, certain types of attacks, serve receive pass quality, etc.)
  • The ball can be initiated in various ways, either to Side A or Side B, depending on what you want to have the players working on – defending, free balls, serve receive, etc.

Additional Comments:

  • If you want longer rallies you can shrink the court, opt for back row attacks only, and/or add more players. Whether longer rallies is desirable may depend on your training objective.
  • Along with positive points earned, you can apply point deductions for things like overpasses, lack of communication, etc.