Tag Archive for advanced

Drill: Belly-to-Dig

Synopsis: This is a player-centric drill which can be used to work individual digging movement and handling technique, while also offering the potential for use as a conditioning exercise.

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

Requirements: 3 players, 2 balls

Execution: Position the three players in a triangle about 6 meters apart. Two players have a ball and the third is laying on their stomach facing the others. One of the players slaps the ball. The one on the ground gets up, then shuffles over so they are even with the player who slapped the ball. That standing player attacks a ball to be dug. The receiving player then goes back to the start, and repeats the process with the other standing player. Repeat for four digs total.

Variations:

  • You can increase the number of digs to raise the workload.
  • You may require only good digs, based on whatever criteria you feel suits your group
  • For lower level players the ball to be dug could be a toss rather than a spike.

Additional Comments:

  • As a player-centric drill, this could be something used in a stations set-up combined with other drills.
  • It could be used as a conditioning exercise.
  • As a coaching point, make sure to pay attention to both foot movement and the dig execution.

Drill: 4-Player Pair Pepper

Synopsis: This is a pepper variation which creates a more realistic 3-touch sequence. It is a good warm-up drill, one which can be used in place of normal 2-player pepper.

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

Requirements: 4 players, one ball

Execution: This is a basic pepper done with two pairs of partners. It starts with the pair on one side attacking a ball at the other other pair. That pair then executes a dig-set-hit to send the ball back to the first pair. Continue from there as normal pepper. Essentially, it is a cooperative 3-touch pairs game played without a net.

Variations:

  • For less skilled players, you could go with a dig-set-set or dig-set-pass exchange, removing the hitting element.
  • For more advanced players you can reduce the contacts to 2 touches and require the dug ball be attacked.

Additional Comments:

  • This drill can be used in warm-ups. It offers the advantage of taking up a bit less space on the court than two set of pairs peppering.

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.

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.

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.

Game: Cross-Court 4s

Synopsis: By allowing you to narrow the focus of play you can use this drill to work on specific elements of hitting and/or defense, as well as on player assessment in both attacking and defending.

Age/Skill Level: This game is for intermediate to advanced groups.

Requirements: 8 players, full court, 1 ball

Execution: This game turns the cooperative cross-court hitting drill into a competitive game. The teams are comprised of a setter, an OH, a left back in 5 and a middle back in 6. They can only score into the opponents cross-court half of the court, making it a kind of OH vs OH competition.

Variations:

  • This 4 v 4 could easily be adapted to run as RS vs OH and/or RS vs RS
  • The setter could block or not
  • MBs could be added for a double block with the setter.
  • Players can be required to rotate after they send the ball over the net, or remain in specialized positions.
  • This could be run in a Winners fashion.

Additional Comments:

  • This can be a good game to evaluate not just hitters, but also defenders.
  • By including a MB and creating a double block, an limiting play to only high outside sets, you will force hitters to problem solve on the attack, such as encouraging going high hands or wiping off the block. To that end, though, you may have to introduce some kind of wash rule about touches off the block into the uncovered part of the court (like area 1) not counting as a point because of the lack of defenders there.
  • If you look to do a winners variation, make sure to consider the accuracy of your servers. Lots of missed serves will slow the game way down, so you may need to account for that with where players are allowed to server from or by introducing the ball to the winners in some other fashion (free ball, down ball, etc.)

Drill: Rotating Cooperative Cross-Court Hitting

Synopsis: As with the non-rotating variation, this can be viewed as a kind of team pepper drill with lots of focus on ball-control and the additional element of encouraging keeping the ball in play and overcoming frustrating situations.

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

Requirements: 8 players, full court

Execution: This drills starts and is executed the same was as the Continuous Cross-Court Hitting drill. The difference is that the players don’t just do it as alternating attacks through area 4. They start there, but when then complete the required number of reps one team shifts so it becomes one side attacking through 4 and the other through 2 (so OH vs RS). The team which did not move the first time then shifts to area 2, making it a cross-court execution again (RS vs RS). They then finish with the side attack that originally moved from area 4 to area 2 returning back to area 4.

Variations:

  • You may require the reps to be completed continuously (ball cannot drop or count goes back to 0) or not, depending on how fast or slow you want to go.
  • You can have players in their actual positions, or rotating around through the positions each time they send the ball over the net.
  • If there are extra players they could be subbed in on rotation.

Additional Comments:

  • This could be a good drill to do in a stations situation where you have multiple courts available and want to break a smaller group out to work on something specific.
  • I saw USC run this variation.

Drill: Cooperative Cross-Court Hitting

Synopsis: This drill could be viewed as a team pepper type of exercise in that it focuses on keeping the ball in play rather than go for the point. In doing so, it focuses on several facets of ball control, with an element of problem-solving and potentially a strong dose of mental toughness work mixed in.

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

Requirements: 8 players, full court

Execution: Put one player each in positions 4, 5, and 6 with a setter at the net on both sides. The drills runs similarly to the Hard Drill in that the players have to keep the ball in play. In this case, however, all sets go to the OH in position 4. They must attack the ball cross-court so their teammates on the other side of the net can dig and attack in return. The objective is to get 10 good dig-set-hit sequences without the ball hitting the floor. If it does, the counter resets to 0.

Variations:

  • Players can be required to rotate positions each time they send the ball across the net, or leave a setter in place and have everyone else rotate around them.
  • If there are extra players, they can be subbed in in either a rotational or contact fashion (e.g. sub goes in for the hitter)
  • You can vary the number of successful reps required based on the level of the skill of your team.
  • With advanced teams you can require that the 10 reps be completed consecutively, meaning the ball only crosses the net 10 times. With less advanced teams you can allow for faulty sequences where a team cannot execute a proper dig-set-hit, but keeps the rally going. In that case, you count the good sequences and don’t go back to zero unless the ball hits the floor.
  • The setter could be required to penetrate from back row if you are using just your actual setter(s).
  • The setter can be required to block (if not penetrating as above).

Additional Comments:

  • Make sure to enforce that successful reps only count if there’s a dig, a clean set with hands, and a legitimately attacked ball (no soft swings).
  • Allowing a team to not have to get all 10 reps in a row will result in faster completion of the drill if time is a concern. It will also let you get the players to focus on keeping the ball in play when they are in scramble mode.
  • Because there can be considerable frustration with having to restart on errors (or discontinuities), mental toughness can be a developmental aspect to this drill.
  • You may have to put a time limit on the drill to keep to your practice plan.
  • There is a problem solving element to this drill in that it behooves the players to make sure the best defenders are the ones receiving most of the hits to keep the play going. This thinking is something you may have to hint at if they aren’t getting it.