Tag Archive for serving

Talking serving aggression and effectiveness

volleyball serve

Alan at VolleyMetrics wrote a post talking about serving effectiveness. It discusses the trade-off between aggressive serves and error control. This is something I wrote about before, perhaps most directly in the Serving: Go for it or get it in? post.

In the 2016 NCAA men’s final match between Ohio State and BYU there was an interesting serving dynamic. Ohio State was aggressive throughout the match. They made a number of errors early on. Eventually, though, they settled down. That kept BYU under constant pressure. It reached the point where the Cougars really struggled to receive well. As you can imagine, that OSU had a lot of transition point scoring opportunities.

Flipping things around, BYU actually seemed to get quite conservative in serve. They were pretty aggressive at the outset, but as the match progressed you saw more and more of the jump serve equivalent of lollipop serves. The result was good passing for OSU. That allowed them to run their MBs and score virtually at will.

This is the sort of trade-off Alan talked about with respect to UCLA playing against BYU previously in the season in his post. Do you rip your serves? Or do you take something off to not miss, knowing the opposition will be more effective in their sideout offense?

During the finals broadcast, commentary guy Kevin Barnett made comments about how the BYU program adhered to the Gold Medal Squared (GMS) philosophy. He described it as, among other things, one which espouses minimizing errors. I’ve yet to attend a GMS clinic or presentation, so I can’t speak to that personally. I couldn’t help but wonder if a bit of that might have been part of BYU’s downfall.

Now, before the GMS proponents reading this get upset, let me explain.

I do not blame the GMS philosophy itself here. I speak instead to the conservatism that seemed to take hold of BYU’s play as the match progressed. Some of this may have been from the GMS influence. It could just as easily have been a function of game planning. Maybe it was the psychological reaction of players and coaches to the pressure of the situation.

BYU was touted as statistically the best blocking team in the country in 2016. Certainly at the outset they showed that strength. They made it very hard on the OSU pin hitters by regularly putting up big triple blocks. I can’t help but wonder if that led the team to say something to the effect of “We’re blocking really well, so let’s keep the errors down and allow our block to do what it does best.”

And it might not have even been a conscious thing.

As I wrote about in Looking at serving and blocking together, there is a definitely link between the amount of pressure you put on a team with your serving and the effectiveness of your block. BYU’s block was a lot less effective when OSU was able to pass well and run their middles. So if there was that mentality of keeping the errors down, it backfired.

Having a pre-serve process

volleyball serve

Serving is the only closed-chain skill in volleyball. By that I mean it’s the only skill which is no reliant on someone else first doing something. Setters need a pass. Hitters need a set. Blockers and defenders need an attack. The server, though, is in full control of their own execution. That allows them to develop a routine before they put the ball in play.

Having a pre-execution routine is something we see in other sports. Baseball is probably the most obvious example for American sports fans because it has so many discreet plays. You can definitely put tennis in the same category.

In volleyball, some servers have very simple routines – hold the ball up, wait for the whistle, toss and hit. Others get more involved with a bunch of bouncing and/or hitting the ball. Perhaps the most over-the-top pre-serve routine I’ve ever seen involved a bunch of bouncing with weaving body/leg movement. Not something I personally would have encouraged.

And it doesn’t just apply to the player with the ball – the server or the pitcher. It also applies to the receiver, as Natalie Hagglund (US national team and former USC libero) pointed out in a recent post. In fact, some of the more ridiculous pre- routines can be found by hitters in baseball.

In particular, Natalie’s discussion of pre-serve routine focuses on keeping things simple. To quote:

“Your process should be short, sweet and should be able to trigger some sort of reaction.”

I’d say the same thing about serving.

And beyond the process, there’s also the focus. Here too Natalie recommends keeping this limited. If you’re focused on too many things you’ll probably find yourself overwhelmed. This applies to coaches just as much to players, by the way.

So give Natalie’s post a read. I would suggest, though, that the “simple” process described in one of comments left by another reader sounds anything but.

Coaching Log – Feb 1, 2016

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

On Sunday Engelholm beat Hylte 3-1 at home. Combined with our loss on Saturday, the results created a log jam at the top of the standings, with four teams within 2 points.

ElitSerie-Table-012516

The Elitserie schedule for the week was a fairly full one. Engelholm hosted Gislaved on Tuesday and RIG hosted Örebro on Wednesday. On Saturday, alongside our trip to Gislaved, Örebro hosted Hylte and RIG hosted Lindesberg. The only possible question mark in there in terms of expected outcomes was Örebro vs. Hylte, so in order to keep our position among the top group we needed to match everyone else and take a win against the 6th place team.

The concern I had starting the week was our seeming reversion back to the team we were when we gave up winning positions against Engelholm and Hylte to lose those matches in our first league meetings. We were not mentally tough against Örebro and our serving in recent matches has been problematic at the very least.

The struggles with the offense I outlined in the last entry are something we need to work on from a technical perspective. Missed serves and poor passing, though, are mental issues rather than technical ones for the most part. Obviously, being resilient in the face of adversity falls into that category as well.

I have to confess, I do have some concerns about fitness levels which could be contributory. I don’t have anything objective to point to from that perspective, though.

Monday
During the day I took the 3rd set from Saturday’s match, added notes and highlights to the video, and posted it for the team. That took most of my afternoon. I got it done only a short while before having to leave for practice, so there wasn’t enough time to expect the players to watch it. I spoke to it a bit at the start of the session and the players talked about a few things in terms of moving forward. The gym was too cold (again) to just be standing around chatting, though, so we swiftly got to work.

After warm-ups I had them do the final part of the Twenty-one drill as something to have them moving and being active from the start. I followed that with Continuous Cross-Court Digging. Then it was on to Winners 3s, back court attacks only.

The bulk of the session was spent doing serve receive and attack against three blockers to work on reception, attacking the block, and blocking. Myself and my assistants did the serving. I switched the players around from hitting and blocking and setting, blocking, and hitting in the case of the setters. The passing started off rough, but seemed to improve as the exercise progressed. My OPP in particular looked good in attack, though continues to have technical issues with her blocking.

We finished up with a couple of minutes of narrow court Winners 2s.

Tuesday
We had a young guest player in training – a girl trying to make a decision between potentially playing for Svedala next year and going to RIG and being in the academy program there. We also had our usual visiting player from the second team and our former player, giving us a full gym. That always makes things more fun and interesting.

After pre-hab and some group pepper as a ball-handling warm-up, I split the group. On one court the MBs worked on transition attacks coming off of blocks. On the other court, the OHs and RS were doing serve reception and attack.

I then brought them together and played a variation on Winners 4s – one I’ve used before. The setters were fixed (rally-winning setter goes to/stays on the winning side). The MBs did their own winners rotation, with the rest of the group on the usual one. Normally, I have them play on a narrow court, but this time we went full court. This was basically a build-up of the attacking work to add the block.

From there we did hitters vs. a full 6-team unit, taking things up another level. They played out any rallies which ensued.

I then moved them on to 22 vs 22 to bring in the serve reception element. Because of the mixture of ability and experience, I set the teams to have the starters against each other in the front row for the first two games (one side was the server in each), then flipped front and back row for the second two games.

We finished up with a regular 25-point game using the same teams.

It was a good session. The energy level was high. The players were generally more aggressive in attack. I saw more block-out, high hands swings, which is something we’re trying to work on. Serving was pretty good. Defense was very strong. It was good to see. The second team coach was in the gym with us, providing a bit more technical coaching.

Wednesday
I think lifting before training tends to take a bit out of the players (not surprisingly) and lead to less energy and intensity. That certainly seemed to be the case in this session. Though, my young MB did ask about how much jumping there would be given that they’d done a fair bit on Monday and Tuesday, so there was perhaps a little bit of an overall fatigue.

As per usual on Wednesday, the session started with 2-ball volley tennis. That was followed by cooperative cross-court hitting in which I had the group first do attacking through 4, then attacking through 2, then 2 and 4 and finally 4 and 2.

The second team was still going on center court, so I needed to extend our time on the side court a bit longer. I had the team do serve and pass 3s. That hadn’t been in the plan, but it served the time-fill purpose.

Switching to the center court, next up was back row Winners 3s to get into game play and competition. That was followed by a new version of the servers vs passers game, which the passers won again.

The primary full game play exercise was a 5 v 5 focused on right side vs left side. Each team had three back row players, but only two in the front. On one side, it was OH and MB. On the other it was RS and MB. We played games to 5 with one side serving each ball and playing two games before I rotated players around to get different hitting/blocking match-ups.

The 5 v 5 games end up being lower intensity and focus than I’d have liked. After going through a few rounds, I decided to do something much more uptempo. I had 3 front row players and two back row on each side. I alternated tossing a free ball in to each side and let them play out the rallies.

We finished with target serving. At the end, my American MB did some work with the young Swedish MB on her arm swing hitting off a box.

Friday
This session was a classic build-up one, starting with fairly simple and progressing to complex. After warm-ups and pre-hab I had them do a 4-corner setting drill. That was followed by target serving where I told them to do 10 good of the best serve, than work on their next best. I gave them about five minutes.

Next up was servers vs. passers. This time I only went to 15 points and started the score at 4-0 for the servers. No bonus points. The game ended up much closer this time, though the passers won once more, 15-13.

From there it was back row Winners 3s to get in attacking and defense, with some “live” serve reception. I then progressed that to Winners 4s with fixed setters and middles (one of the others was front court as well). That kept the passing and added in the middle attacks and blocking.

After that it was more full game play – though one side only had six players so Zone 6 was out. I used 22 v 22 as the structure. We did 3 total rounds of that, by which time the players were looking fatigued, so I called it a day.

After training the MBs once again did work on arm swing. The two passers who struggled last weekend also wanted to stay and do some more passing. We talked a little about technique and ready position, but the biggest issue for both is what’s going on between their ears. They pass well in drills (though are very hard on themselves if it”s not perfect), so I told them it’s all about clearing out the negativity come playing time.

Saturday
That match didn’t go as planned. I had a warning during our warm-ups that we perhaps weren’t as focused as needed. During the defensive drill the team does (2 hitters, a setter, 3 defenders rotating in and out) there were balls getting hit between players not getting dug – to the point where I stopped them for a few words. That’s the first time I’ve felt the need to do anything like that.

The first set was nip and tuck early, but eventually they got out to a 14-10 lead, and then 17-12. We clawed back to 19-17, but it ended 25-18. Part of what saw us fall behind was missed serves in the early going, which was theme through the match. We seemed to have them in clusters near the start of sets, but got much more consistent after that and ended up with 11 aces to 11 errors for the match.

We actually passed fairly well in the first set, but our hitting was poor. We only sided out at 44%.

The second set saw things turn around sharply. We got out to a 9-4 lead, which ended up extending to 19-9. We had no service errors in that set, but managed 4 aces.

At 19-10 I subbed in our back-up setter for the starting one. The starter had just finished serving, so she was in 1. Unfortunately, the passing let her down and she maybe could have made a better decision on one of her sets. We gave up I think 4 points and I had to put the starter back in. Even from there they managed to keep coming back and get to 20-16. From there it was even and we won 25-21.

Hitting in the second set was miles better (13 kills against 1 error). We sided out at about 62%, though our passing was a little worse than in the first set.

The third set saw our first four servers miss three serves, though we missed none after that. It was tight up to 10-10, then they nosed ahead to 13-10. From there we never got back to level, though we fought hard. We weren’t helped by some poor officiating. Our hitting was pretty solid and our passing decent, we just struggled with stopping them from scoring (only 32%).

The fourth set had a very similar beginning. We missed 4 serves in our first trip around the rotation – once more not missing any after that. Our passing dipped a bit in this set, though our offense overall remained pretty effective (17 kills vs. 3 errors). Again the issue was stopping the other team from scoring (33%). It was very even up to 13-13, then they nosed ahead  to 18-15. We came back and eventually reversed things to 23-22, but then gave up the last three straight points.

This one hurt. We were clearly favored and had beat Gislaved three times before. They were a team on the ropes having gotten pounded on Tuesday and with a bunch of players recovering from injury and illness. We needed this one to stay in the fight for a top playoff seed. Losing puts us in a bad position given our remaining schedule.

As much as we looked great at times – especially on offense – we had quite a few lapses. Hitters didn’t expected to get set. Players didn’t cover their hitters or expect a ball to get played by teammate. A few execution and decision errors. My concern is that the team was mentally and/or physically fatigued, which led to the focus issues. Some of the players are also dealing with minor injury issues.

Thoughts, observations, and other stuff
On Tuesday Engelholm beat Gislaved rather easily. Apparently, Gislaved was dealing with a rash of injury and illness issues. Their top OH, for example, was relegated to playing Libero. Not that we’d have expected them to beat Engelholm in any case. Similarly, Örebro won 3-0 at RIG on Wednesday night.

On Thursday we found out that Engelholm had replaced the American MB they’d had to send home due to a back injury. The player is reportedly a part of the Canadian nation, so a potential upgrade in quality. That team has used it’s middles very little offensively, so it might not add much to them from that perspective, but it could improve their block.

Saturday’s other matches saw Lindesberg win easily at RIG, as expected. The more interesting match was Örebro hosting Hylte. The visitors won a tight one, 3-2.

More on servers vs. passers games

volleyball serve

I want to follow up on my serve reception scoring philosophy post. After some consideration, I experimented with a different scoring version. This was motivated by a discussion with Mark from At Home on the Court.

The scoring was as follows:

Pass is a 3 or 2 (positive pass in DataVolley) = point for passers
Pass is a 1 or overpass, or get aced = point for servers
Missed serve = -1 for servers

The game started at 3-0 in favor of the servers. That allowed the servers to miss a reasonable number of serves.

I set the game up to go to 25. Unfortunately, I quickly realized the game was going to take too long. As a result, when the first group reached 15 (passers in this case), I told the team it was bonus time. Moving forward, aces and 3 passes (perfect) were worth 2 points. That sped things up. It also led to the score being tighter in the end.

I will experiment with this further. One thing to look at is shorter games. So too is going with the 2 point plays from the beginning. Also, I need to think about the number of missed serves to allow for with the starting score. It has to be based on the number of serves made to be more fair based on how aggressive you want to the servers to be.

Coaching Log – Dec 14, 2015

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

After a full set of fixtures last week – and then some – here’s how things stood in the Elitserie coming into the new week.

Elitserie-Dec0615

As of this point, we were the only team on the women’s side to have secured a spot in January’s Gran Prix. Our 22 points is enough to ensure at least a 3rd seed. Neither Örebro nor Engelholm could catch us. Lindesberg could pull level, which would see it come down to a tie break for position. Hylte is the only one that could finish with more points.

In terms of the Oresund Liga, our win over Gislaved last Thursday counted toward the standings. Also on Thursday, Holte defeated Engelholm 3-1 at home. The other match on the week was Amager hosting Holte on Sunday in a Danish league match that counted toward the cross-border league as well. The away side got the win there. Leaders Brøndby were inactive, so here’s that table.

Oresundliga-120615

Our upcoming match at Brøndby on the 15th is the only one left before the holiday break and will decide who leads the league to start the second half come January.

Monday
I was in England fulfilling a requirement of my PhD work, so there was no training. Given that we’d played two matches in three days, the timing for this was pretty good.

Tuesday
I got back to Svedala in the early afternoon and one of the club’s board members picked me up at the train station to take me to my new place. On the plus side, it’s an interesting place (old property that was formerly a cloister) that seem comfortable and has wifi. On the down side, it’s 6k outside town with no real transit options. People are going to have to shuttle me back and forth. I believe the club is look at this as a temporary situation and that they are looking for something more convenient to eventually put me in “permanently”.

At the start of training, we started talking a bit about the last match – which seemed a long time ago for everyone – and the one coming on Sunday. For my own part, I focused on our improvement in recent matches when having a lead and being in position to win and creating problems for the other team from a tactical perspective.

After pre-hab and some partner pepper, I split the team. On center court I had the MBs and Setters working on attacking after block-transition, which they told me they felt was very useful. On the side court I had the rest initially doing some cooperative 3 v 3 play which required each player on a side to get a contact, which I then shifted to an 11 point back row attack only game.

After doing some target serving, I had them play a bit of Winners with fixed setters and MBs..The rest of training was a 6 v 5 version of 22 v 22. I had the starting setter on the 6 side for her three back row rotations, then moved her to the 5 side for two front row rotations. I normally would probably have included some serve and pass, but in this case I wanted to maximize our time in game play and since 22 v 22 is serve reception focused we got plenty of passing in.

In the first part of training I had some concerns about focus. Things were a bit sloppy, which made me think there might be a bit of complacency about things given that qualification for Gran Prix was already assured. I told them heading into the game play that I wanted high intensity during that work since it was probably the only time this week we’d be able to do near full team play. There was some good play in that final phase.

Wednesday
After skipping the last two weeks – one for a match and one because I had them on “active rest” rather than doing a program – the team was back together for their weekly join weight training. At the end of last week I gave them a new lifting program running through to the end of the regular season. That’s 13 weeks. It starts of low intensity, higher reps through the holiday period, then picks up once we get back rolling again in January.

Following the usual Wednesday warm-up routine, I had the players do a 5-person version of over-the-net 2-touch shuttle. I then had them play a series of 10 point games of 5 v 5 back court. There was a setter and middle at the net, with three in the back court with all attacks going through 1 and 6. I wanted to do this to work both on defense against something we’ll see in Sunday’s match (at least in terms of the pipe), but also to work on improving our own attack. Unfortunately, one of my changes meant my OH1 ended up being the only attacker on her team, so she got every ball. Good for working on that attack and for the defense training on the other side, but not optimal in general terms.

From there we did some serve & pass, with a bit of hitting mixed in. That was followed by target serving.

The last part of training was some 5 v 5. I wanted to keep working on our blocking, particularly in terms of dealing with attackers who like to go block-out. We struggled with that last time we played Hylte. The game had play start with a serve and the first set was required to go to the OH. After that the setter could go where ever she wanted. If the serve did not produce a rally (ace, hitting error, block) then I initiated a ball to the serving side – though I only counted the first ball toward the score. We played several games, rotating players around.

After I finished some players did a bit of work on specific things of their own. Our OPP worked with our OH1 on digging line attacks. The two MBs worked on blocking balls when they have to close fast to the pin.

Friday
Last real training before the Christmas break. I had to have a few words with the team at the start about being on time. There’s been a slow drift toward tardiness as the season’s progressed. It’s not that players are turning up late – at least not without a good reason – but we’ve been pushing things in terms of getting started on time and I’ve been on the verge of saying something about it. In this case, the net didn’t get fully up until 5 minutes or more after our start time, which gave me a very clear thing to point to as representing a problem.

After pre-hab I had the team do 21 to see where they were at in terms of focus. From there it was a bit of target serving focused on deep and short serves, which is the sort of thing that could come in handy against Hylte.

Along the same vein, the next exercise was back row attack Winners 3s. I saw some really good stuff both in terms of our attacking and our defending. Hopefully that translates to our play. I’d really like to see us get our OPP more involved in the offense when she’s back row.

The last two exercises were also game play. The first was a 5 v 5 game where I initiated an attacked ball to each side in turn and let them play out the rally. The idea there was to get some work in on our transition game, which has been up and down of late. The last thing we did was to run through the rotations in 6 vs 4 fashion, with the 4 serving and also getting a free ball if there was no subsequent rally. I tried to have the rotations go quickly, but wanted to make sure there were at least 3 good attacks from serve receive in each one.

For the last 2 rotations I specifically set my O1 up to be hitting when my OPP was playing defense to keep the latter working on her defensive game. She’s come a long way, and has become really adapt at picking up tips, but she continues to have her struggles handling harder driven balls well.

Sunday
Our second away match against Hylte was played at their other gym.

2015-12-13 12.55.47

In what was generally a back and forth affair, we won 3-2. Set scores were 25-23, 18-25, 25-22, 21-25, 15-12. Once again, our inability to put up a solid block at the pins gave us issues – both at the net and in defense. Looked like we just wanted it more when it counted in the last set as we just outscrapped them.

Our sideout game was very strong – near men’s levels of efficiency around 66%. Unfortunately, so was the other team’s. We also dramatically improved our ace/error ratio and I think generally did a better job of putting them under pressure despite our inability to stop them from siding out.

Other stuff
My OH2 twisted her ankle late in the 5th. She fought through it to finish out the last few points, but there’s a good chance she’ll miss Tuesday’s match.

The two points we got assured us of a top 2 seed for Gran Prix. Hylte, though, can match our point total if they win their remaining match before the break 3-0 or 3-1 they’ll. If so, they would take first on the basis of a better set differential.

Looking at serving and blocking together

In the same edition of the AVCA Coaching Volleyball magazine as one of my own pieces there’s an article from former Nebraska head coach Terry Pettit. Did you know I interviewed Terry for Volleyball Coaching Wizards?

Anyway, Terry speaks to developing strategies and tactics. Definitely give it a read. In particular, the fourth point is one that I shared with my team:

Teams that block and serve create a third dimension. Tough serving allows a good blocking team to become a great blocking team. Volleyball is a game of runs, which are usually created by nudging the opponent toward unforced errors. While kills may be impressive, they do not demoralize an opponent nearly as much as aggressive serving and blocking.

Good serving was a major focus of mine when I coached at Exeter, and it continued to be a point of concentration at Svedala. There, though, I also had a pretty good blocking squad. We led the Swedish league in blocks per set by a large margin. That isn’t necessarily the best way to judge blocking effectiveness, but it’s a starting point.

The fun part was we were not even at our best from a technical, positioning, and timing perspective. 🙂

Recommendations to help improve the serve toss

Improving a team’s serving is something that coaches of especially younger teams are always looking to do. Even when I was coaching at Exeter, I spent a fair amount of time focused on serving, to good benefit. Invariably, once raw strength is sufficient to get the ball over the net overhand, the biggest factor is serving performance is a consistent toss. The following question from a reader highlights this.

I coach a HS JV team. Each player has the potential to have great serves: they are strong and when the connect properly, their serves are rockets. However, they are inconsistent due to their toss. Their toss will sometime either be too low or to the side which creates a serve into the net or out.

What are your recommendations to help improve a perfect toss?

There are a couple of things I can suggest to help players with their toss.

Video
Record your players serving from either directly behind them or directly in front (behind is probably safer!). This will show quite clearly where players are tossing the ball, which is probably all over the place. Show them an example of a good toss, and then show them where there own tosses are in comparison.

Short Serves
A lot of screwy mechanical things can come into play when players serve full-court because they are thinking about power. Have them serve from mid-court where power is not a concern. That way they can focus on consistent tosses and good ball contact.

When I was at Exeter, nearly every training with the women’s team featured what I called a serving warm-up. It was players serving back and forth in pairs starting just about the 3m line and gradually backing up to the end line. This both served to warm-up their shoulders and to give them time to work on their mechanics. I would do this with any team where developing good serving technique is a priority.

I should note that even coaching professional players as I’m doing at Svedala there are toss-related issues (saw them when working with the TV Bühl guys last month as well). They aren’t usually as dramatic, and take on a different character, but they can be equally influential.

Serving Strategy: Attacking Zone 1

volleyball serve

In the Fall 2014 edition of Volleyball USA, Matt Sipes brings up the idea of using serving to not just to create out-of-system offensive situations for the opposition, but to get very specific in how you do that. In particular, Matt talks about things like interfering with the movement patterns of the setter and opposing hitters or forcing the front row OH to pass to put them under pressure. All of these things are important ideas when thinking about how you want your team to serve – and a key reason to work on players being able to serve all areas of the court.

I want to focus in particularly here on the idea of serving specifically to Zone 1. Matt brings this up from two potential perspectives. One is to serve the ball into the area where the setter is coming from if they are pushed back in serve receive – which is often the case when they are in Rotation 1. The other is to force the setter to have to look over their shoulder to track the ball coming in – meaning the ball is not coming at them from the front (Zones 5 and 6). He makes the case that setters are often not comfortable dealing with those balls and therefore can become very predictable when being forced to do so.

This is very true. It’s something you can pick out quite often if you pay attention. For example. some setters will set to Zone 2 or back row to Zone 1 more frequently when the pass is coming from Zone 1.

I’ll take it a step further and give you a very specific example of something I picked out back in my Brown coaching days. While scouting Yale one seasons I noticed their setter – who was quite good – set with a much faster tempo when passes were coming from Zone 5/6 than she did when the pass was coming from Zone 1. The latter sets tended to be markedly higher, giving the block more time to move to the point of attack.

So guess what we did the next time we played them?

Yup. We pounded Zone 1. I can’t recall whether we won that match or not, but we certainly slowed their offense down considerably.

Drill: 1-2 Serve & Pass

Synopsis: This drill allows passers to work on receiving hard serves, and servers on serving them, but without lots of missed serves leaving passers standing around.

Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for intermediate and higher levels.

Requirements: 6+ players, 3 balls, a net.

Execution: Set up three players in serve reception on one side of the net, with a target, and 2 or more servers on the other side. The servers work in sets of three good serves. The first one is an aggressive serve to any of the three passers. The second and third serves are controlled balls to the two players who did not pass the first ball. For example, Server A serves a hard jump serve to the passer in Position 6, then Server A and Server B serve standing float servers to the passers in Position 1 and 5.

Variations:

  • Passers can rotate after each trio of serves, or stay in assigned positions if working on specialized training.
  • If you only have one properly aggressive/tough server, they should always serve the first ball, otherwise the first ball can be done in some kind of rotation.
  • If a server misses their serve they can either go again immediately, or the next server can go.
  • You can go for time, for some number of good passes, specifically for a target number of good passes off the aggressive serves, or make it a servers vs. passers game.
  • If you have sufficient players, you could run this drill 2-sided with servers and passers on both sides of the court.

Additional Comments:

  • This drill was introduced by Laurent Tillie at the HP Coaches Clinic.
  • This is a good drill to allow for aggressive serving without the common problem seen in most serving & passing drills where there can be lots of missed serves and/or balls going largely to the same passer/zone.