Priorities: Shake off the rust with lots of touches, start the process of the players getting to know each other at the beginning of a new season, get some initial impressions
Training time: 2 hours
Space: 2 courts
Players: 11 (2 setters)
Notes: Because set-up and take down were included in the allocated time, and some amount of time was necessarily allocated to introductions and initial discussion, the actual training period was somewhat less than 2 hours.
– – – The Plan – – –
Warm-up: No isolated warm-up.
Cooperative 1 vs 1 and 1 vs 1 w/fixed setter: Set up 4 games on 1 v. 1 and one game of 1 v 1 with a fixed setter. The idea is to get to 6 good pass-set-downball sequences. As soon as one group gets there, they all rotate in a clockwise fashion. If no one gets there in the time limit, rotate anyway.
3-person and 4-person pepper w/fixed setter: On one court is two groups of 3-person rotating over-the-net pepper. On the other court is a 2 v. 2 pepper with a fixed setter. The team’s two setters are market A and B. Again, play to six good pass-set-hit sequences (this time with jumping), or a the time limit. Rotation for the non-setters is clockwise. The setters switch positions each rotation.
5-person and 6-person player winners: Each court has a game of Player Winners on it, one with 5 players and one with 6 players. Play for 5 minutes, then move the top 2 from the 5-person court to the 6-person, and the bottom 3 from the 6-person court the other way (now making the 5 a 6 and the 6 a 5). Play 5 more minutes, then send the top 3 from the 6-person court to the 5-person court, and the bottom 2 from the 5-person court to the 6-person court. Play another 5 minutes, then repeat the process from after the first round. Play one last round of 5 minutes.
Winners 3: Finish with standard Winners (3s in this case) Start with back court attacks only, then shift to allowing front court attacks as well.
– – – Observations – – –
The first two exercises went quicker than expected. As a result it was desirable to add a 5th exercise. The initial thought was to play Winners 4s, but instead Neville Pepper was used. The 9 non-setters were split up into three roughly equal teams. They were the teams to play through the games. The setters were used in a fixed fashion, switching sides when the challenge side won a rally.
Synopsis: This pepper variation takes the standard two-player version and introduces playing the ball over the net, putting a real premium on ball control and smart ball-handling.
Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for all levels.
Requirements: 2 players, one ball, a net.
Execution: This variation of 3-person over-the-net pepper begins with one player on each side of the net, one with a ball. The player with the ball (Player A) hits it over to the other player and immediately runs under to the other side. The second player (Player B) passes the ball as normal. Player A sets the ball up to Player B and ducks back under the net. Player B plays the ball to Player A, and ducks under to the other side to set Player A. And so on.
- I saw John Kessel (USA Volleyball) describe this pepper variation over breakfast at the High Performance Coaches Clinic.
- You could use anything that can be set high enough for players to duck under (string, rope, etc.) for a “net”, allowing you to use just about any space.
Synopsis: This pepper variation expands on the over-the-net version to allow for more players to be included, potentially allowing for increased complexity.
Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for all levels.
Requirements: 6 players, one ball, a net.
Execution: This extension of 3-person over-the-net pepper begins with 3 players on each side of the net – one off the net one at the net, and the last one off the back line waiting to come in. One side starts the drill by tossing the ball to the player off the net on the other side. The player digs/passes the ball to the player at the net who sets back to them to play the ball over the net on the third contact. The setter rotates out, the digger/hitter moves up to become the new setter, and the off player steps in to become the new digger/hitter. The pattern repeats and play continues for as long as the ball can be kept in play.
- Depending on the level of your players you can have the 3rd contact ball be a free ball, down ball, tipped, rolled or controlled attacked ball.
- You could have the off player doing something while they wait to enter the court – jumps, footwork movement, etc.
- If you have the space, you could have 2 players in the off-the-net positions to create a kind of controlled 3’s game. In this case, the digger continues to attack and then swaps places with the setter.
- While it is possible to add players to this drill, that generally isn’t recommended from the perspective of maximizing player contacts. Better to create additional smaller groups if the space permits.
- By having two digger/hitters on rather than one you increase the complexity by forcing seem communication.
- I saw this being run by German men’s professional team TV Bühl.
Synopsis: This team pepper variation is good for working on both defense and controlled attack across the net.
Age/Skill Level: This is suitable for intermediate to advanced players
Requirements: 6+ players, balls, court
Execution: Place a setter on both sides of the net in target, along with players in positions 1 and 5 on both sides. Initiate a ball to one of the back row players to dig/pass to the setter, who then sets either one of the players on their side. That player hits a cross court standing attack (down ball) to the player in their same position (i.e. 1 to 1, 5 to 5). Play continues from there.
- If you have more than 6 players, the hitter/defenders can rotate by having the player who “attacks” the ball goes to the back of the court on the other side to eventually re-enter the drill there, with someone taking their vacated place.
- Instead of hitting cross-court, players can hit line.
- With more advanced players you can make it actual attacked balls, front or back row.
- An additional defender could be added in 6, especially for less advanced teams to get more digs. If so, you can continue to have the players in 1 and 5 be the attackers, and have the player from 6 rotate in for the player who just hit the ball.
- In order for this drill to work well, players must be relaxed executing a standing down ball. If they are not, there will be many, many errors.
- Have balls on-hand to initiate them fresh quickly when a rally ends.
- I saw this drill used in SC Potsdam training.
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.
Synopsis: This is a nice 3-person pepper variation which could be used as a warm-up drill and/or to work on ball control in general terms.
Age/Skill Level: This is suitable for all levels
Requirements: 3 players, 1 ball
Execution: Have two players off the net and one at it (or otherwise put the players somewhere on the court with a bit of space). The player at the net attacks the ball at one of the pair off the net. The non-digger takes the second ball and sets it back to the hitter. The two diggers then switch positions before the next attack. Continue for time or a given number of successful dig-set reps.
- For lower skill levels the player at the net can substitute a passed or set ball for a hit.
- The hitter can either hit to the same spot each time (meaning players alternate digging) or can randomly pick which direction to hit.
- A potential coaching focus point is the footwork used in the position change.
- Players should be able to problem-solve preparing for the set and giving themselves time for transition before having another hit come their way, but less experienced players may require a bit of nudging in the right direction.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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).
- 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.