Tag Archive for 6v6

Game: Win 2 Out-of-System Rallies

Synopsis: This is a wash type of game which puts the focus on attacking in a setter-out or out-of-system situation. It can be very useful for getting pin hitters (or back row attackers) to make good decisions when not put in the best of attacking situations.

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

Requirements: 12+ players, full court

Execution: Initiate a setter-out ball (attack a ball at the setter, or otherwise require a non-setter to take the 2nd ball). Play out the rally. After the first ball, play is as normal. If the team receiving the initial ball wins the rally, they get a second ball in the same fashion. If they win both, they rotate. If they lose either the first or second ball, it’s a wash and the other team gets the setter-out ball. Play until one team rotates all the way around.

Variations:

  • You can keep a rally score tally going (each team gets a point for a rally won, regardless of who got the initial ball). If you set a score cap (like 25 points), then it will let you put a rough time limit on how long the game goes.
  • To encourage positive errors rather than negative ones, and hitter coverage, you can have a team rotate backwards if a pin hitter hits an out-of-system ball into the net or is stuff blocked.
  • Once a rotation is earned, you can either restart with a first ball to that team, or give the first ball to the other team.
  • As an alternative to initiating a setter-out ball, you could toss in a ball that is the first contact, and require a certain player (or position) to play the second contact off of it.

Additional Comments:

  • Be aware the players can be stuck in a rotation for a while in this game. In most cases it requires a team to win three straight rallies (stop the other team, then win two setter-out initations). This can be further exacerbated by having to reverse back on bad errors. You may want to consider doing rotation flips (1,4,2,5,3,6) rather than going sequentially as a result. Either that or have system to rotate players around to keep some (like MBs) from being in or out longer than desired.
  • This could be used in a small-sided game situation.

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: Pin Hitter Challenge

Synopsis: This game pits the OH and OPP hitters against each other in a kill challenge to work on being able to score against full-team defense, but also allows for working on blocking and defense.

Age/Skill Level: This game is suitable for intermediate and advanced players.

Requirements: 2 teams, court, balls

Execution: Playing 6 v 6 in a single rotation, one side receives all serves. The setter is back row and alternates setting the OH and the OPP. If one of them scores and the other does not, that hitter earns a point. If neither scores or both score, then it is a wash. The defensive team plays the second ball over when they make digs to keep rallies going. Each new rally begins with a serve. Play to a certain number of points.

Variations:

  • You could designate only high ball attacks if that’s a specific area of focus you want.
  • Blockers can be given specific instructions as to what to take/give.
  • You can have your defense play something other than the usual one to act as an upcoming opponent or work on developing a new system.

Additional Comments:

  • I saw this demonstrated by the USA National Team coaching staff at the HP Coaches Clinic.
  • It’s not a bad idea to keep hitting stats while doing this game, to get the added information above and beyond who wins.
  • Having the defensive team play the second ball over keeps them engaged and allows for work on hitting in transition in a more controlled fashion than going off a 3rd touch contact.

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”.

Coaching Log – Oct 9 2014

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2014-15.

Back to the big gym. This being the 2 week mark from the time a player told us she’d come out for the team in two weeks, there was the possibility of having a 16th in the mix. With no contact since, however, I wasn’t betting on it. As it turns out, she did show up, though I also had one player out sick.

Of more immediate concern was the upcoming matches. All indications point to us playing our first BUCS match on Wednesday, with a tune-up South West league match before that on Sunday. Unfortunately, a couple of the probable starters for Wednesday (M2 and L/O2) can’t make Sunday’s match. Also, one of my three starting setter candidates is unavailable for Wednesday for academic reasons. That means I need to focus on the other two setters in the short term, leaving me to use the to-be-missing one as a libero for Sunday’s match.

Topping my training to-do list was Run & Serve, which I wanted to do last week – just good serves, nothing more at this stage. As per usual, serve and serve receive to take advantage of the larger space were to be main features. I made this the first drill after warming-up. It took maybe 10 times through for everyone to get their serves in. Not horrible, but could have been better.

From there I moved them to player winners and eventually to winner’s 4s with fixed setters (setter for the winning team goes to/stays on the winner’s side) in the form of my two prospective starters for next week. That then progressed to 6 v 6 in the form of the 2-in-2 game to work on serve receive offense, with regular play for the last 10 minutes (after I did a quick serve receive rotation walk-through to show them the different options for mixing things up).

Observations: A) should have done the serve receive walk-through at the outset. B) I hope low intensity isn’t going to be the Thursday training pattern. C) I need to find some ways to motivate/encourage talking among the B side players as they were virtually silent at times.

Here’s hoping Sunday’s SW match serves to start bringing things together and providing more focus through the lens of external competition.

By the way, the trial player was decent, but not someone likely to challenge the starting group. As a result, I told her we just didn’t have room for another player (15 is already pushing it). She was not well pleased by that.

Coaching Log – Oct 8 2014

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2014-15.

I finished up with my individual meetings on Tuesday feeling like the players were in a generally good mental state at this point. Of course, things can change once we get into playing the competitive matches.

I had two major focuses for this training. One was to see lots of the three setter candidates for starting first team setter in action. The other was to work the first team together in something at least approximating the 5-1 line-up we’re likely to use over the weekend and next week should that indeed be our first BUCS league match.

With that in mind, I designed the following training:

Dynamic warm-up
Blocking and hitter transition footwork
Wall serves as a serving warm-up (because of odd numbers), then target serving
14-player Serve-Pass-Hit
Continuous Transition hitting
Scramble
22 vs. 22

Because I had 15 players, for the Serve-Pass-Hit I added a second setter on one of the half-courts. I had the players rotate such that the hitter went to set on the other side and I had them play out the rallies. There was some confusion, but I forced them to work through the problems with minimal intervention from me – as they would have to in a match. That took longer than I had really planned, which meant I dropped the transition hitting, but I didn’t feel like it was a big loss.

For the two 6 v 6 games I basically put them in to A/B sides, though I mixed the players around. There are three clear starters right now (two returners and a new MB). The other three positions were rotated some to get a couple of different players working through. I had all three setters in the A side on one or more occasions (I did give the new addition from last week a bit more time as I’d seen her less, but liked what I did see).

Overall, the game play was massively improved. Clearly, just having one setter (which I did for both sides) smoothed out a lot of the rough patches. The hitting was way more impactful, with some very good swings from a number of players. There’s still plenty of work to be done on communication and movement/positioning, but things are coming along. The serving was VERY strong when they were doing their target work.

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.

Volleyball Coaching Challenge: A-team vs. B-team

Matt over at The College Volleyball Coach, who I worked with on the book Inside College Volleyball, had a question come in the other day. Most of the questions Matt gets are related to US college volleyball recruiting. This one came from a new Juniors club volleyball coach, though. This situation is this:

“The issue is our starting 7 have come from good high school and/or club programs and have very good attacks (and relatively good setting and passing) whereas the backups and 2nd team are newer to the game and are coming along, but really aren`t able to be competitive with our starting 7 in practice.”

Leading the coach to ask:

“…do you have any advice or drill on how to work on defense (blocking and covering balls of blocks) without really having strong players on the other side of the net to practice against?”

The question is similar to the one I addressed in my Training 6 v 6 when your only setters are those running your 6-2 offense post. As in that scenario, we have a situation where a coach needs to be able to train certain players at a higher level than the rest of the team is at presently. This is a challenge I definitely had in a major way at times. It’s one all coaches face when they want to train their starters with only the non-starters as competition.

In Matt’s reply to the question he brought up the idea of using small-sided games rather than 6 v 6 play. That is definitely one way to go in terms of developing more broad-based skills. Going that route lets you put your stronger players up against each other, and likewise with your weaker ones. You can also create mixed teams. This allows you to put your starters against each other in different ways, even in 6 v 6 situations. I did that in one of my training sessions.

Of course, at times you need to have your starters together to work on team-specific things. For example, offensive and defensive systems. In this case you have to find ways to make your B side competitive. This might include allowing them to serve every ball. You could require the A side to only score in certain ways. There are wash scoring variations. You can also initiate easier balls to the B side in the case of something like the Scramble game. Using bonus points is another possible option.

There are any number of ways you can achieve your training objectives. You just may need to think creatively about how to do it.

Coaching Log – Feb 10, 2014

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

This training session started with an announcement. We got official word earlier in the day that we’ve been granted a bye for the round of 16 of the BUCS Championships. This was a stunning development, and we’re not entirely sure how we got to be the beneficiary of this particular bit of league largess, and I’m sure there are other teams out there wondering why us. Regardless, we’ll go directly to Final 8s, meaning we’ve achieved the objective we had from the beginning of the year. It also means we have qualified for the new BUCS Premier League next season.

Naturally, that took up a bit of the start of training, shortening the effective session length. Given the announcement, I didn’t plan for a particularly hard or focused session, so instead did something a bit mixed with some fun elements.

After dynamic warm-up, I had the players do over-the-net pepper, using two groups of 4 and a group of 3. I rotated players around periodically to offset the harder work done by those in the group of 3. From there we went into serving. After warming up, I had them play amoeba for a bit of fun and competition. We did a best-of-5 as individual games with this group don’t tend to last very long.

At this point I had originally thought to do some hitting, but time remaining was starting to get limited, so I instead went with Continuous Cross-Court Digging, which I know the players like. After that, knowing we’d do some 6 v 6 play, I had them play Winners 3s on a 2/3rds width court as preparation. I then asked them which game they wanted to play. The two leading choices were Bingo-Bango-Bongo and Scramble. That should tell you a lot about how much this group likes to work in training since both those games are essentially continuous action. Scramble ended up winning out, and I had them go through six rotations.

At the end of the session I talked with them about key focus points moving forward – namely being more composed in scramble situations, playing with purpose, and being aggressive in our hitting. All of this is stuff that will be important come Final 8s. I also talked about the upcoming schedule for the second team, as they will have their Cup quarterfinal near the end of the month. Due to the injury last week, there needs to be some adjustments to personnel. I plan on bringing the serve receive work I mentioned previously into full force for next training.