Tag Archive for Coaching skills

Save time by naming your volleyball drills

You will notice that the volleyball drills and games I post here to share with you have names. You may or may not like them and think you can come up with better ones. If so, go for it. They are being shared so you can incorporate them into your training if you find them useful. I fully expect in doing so that you’ll make any adaptations you deem necessary.

Getting back to the point, though, there is a very specific reason for my assigning names to drills and games. It’s one which I encourage you to emulate if you aren’t already do it.

By naming each drill and using that name with your players you’ll make your training sessions go much more smoothly. Nothing grinds a well-tempoed practice to a halt faster than having to take several minutes to explain what you want for the next drill. Obviously, that can’t be avoided when introducing a new drill (which is why the start of the session is often the best time to do it). For those you use fairly regularly, though, having a name means the players know exactly what you want and can get on with things. There may be those who through either being new or being dense don’t know what’s going on, of course. The rest of the squad will get them sorted out so you can focus on what’s happening, though.

Now this doesn’t mean you can’t make modifications to adapt the drill to concentrate on your priorities for that session. As long as they don’t change the basic functioning of the drill, you do what you like. For example, you could say something like:

“We’re going to do The Belly Drill now. Since I want to focus on quick attacks today, though, we’re going to add a scoring element. A team will get 1 point for a kill from a quick attack. We’ll keep going until one team gets to 5 points.”

In this case I’m not doing anything in terms of altering the primary way The Belly Drill functions. All I’ve done is created a modification to focus on something I want the team working on that day. The players should have no problem understanding what the drill’s about because it will function the same as always, but now as a goal.

If, however, the modification you are thinking to make to a drill will alter the basic structure of that drill, then I’d argue that you’re now talking about something different. In that case you should give it a name of it’s own. You could perhaps use the first drill’s name as a reference point when describing it to the players, but you don’t want to get into a situation where every time you use it you’re saying something like “We’re going to use that modification of Drill Z that we did that one time before where the passers go there instead of here, and the hitters are on the other side of the net, ….” Just give it a new name. It’ll make everyone’s life easier.

There aren’t many of us volleyball coaches who have all the time in the world to run our trainings, so we need to use them as efficiently as possible and waste as little time as we can. Naming drills is one way to help spend more time on action and less on talking.

And definitely feel free to change the name of drills you find here on this site, in books, etc. You want them to be memorable for the players, so maybe involve the players in naming them.

Don’t limit your players with negative thinking

Once upon a time I worked with Denise Austin at a clinic for a group of local Exeter P.E. teachers in England. It was on the subject of teaching volleyball to their students.

By the way, this is something every experienced coach should stand ready to do to help grow and develop the sport.

The things we talked about in terms of what to do to introduce volleyball to beginners is the subject of other posts. For the moment, though, I want to focus on something which happened at the clinic. A comment made by one of the teachers irked me.

It went something like this.

“They will never be able to do that.”

I don’t remember specifically what we were looking at when that was said. It doesn’t really matter, though. Statements such as this are self-fulfilling. So long as you think that, the player(s) will not be able to do whatever it is because you won’t allow it to happen. You will probably not provide sufficient opportunity to properly attempt development of that skill. Alternatively, you will actively (though perhaps subconsciously) sabotage it to prove you’re right. That leaves the players to develop the skill themselves (if they are so motivated). If they succeed, they make you look like an ass.

Our job as coaches is to push players to achieve more than they think themselves capable. We’re there to keep them growing and developing. We are not there to put limits on them.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

I once had a conversation with a high school coach on developing a quick attack with her team. This woman was generally a pretty good coach, at least by the measure of others in that state. In this area, though, she was extremely hesitant. Her excuse for not working on middle quicks was one you may have heard or thought yourself:

We don’t pass well enough.

I could be a little more colorful with my language here. Let’s just say that excuse is complete crap. It’s not that her team consistently put the ball on target. Rather, I think the excuse is a total cop out.

Here’s why I say that.

That thinking is completely the wrong way around. A team will never pass every single ball well enough to run the quick. As I noted in my post about scoring serve receive passing, good teams target an average of 2.00 or better. That means their average pass isn’t good enough to run the middle quick. Yet those teams still train the quick attack and use it in games when the opportunity presents itself.

The goal of passing is to run the quick offense by producing as many 3 passes as possible. If you give your players that kind of focus it motivates them to pass better. If all you do is run a 2-ball (second tempo or meter ball) in the middle, then the passers have no particular motivation. All they need to do is get the ball inside the 3-meter line and around the middle of the court. The 2-ball offense just doesn’t require that much precision.

Think of a successful quick attack as the reward for perhaps the ultimate expression of teamwork in volleyball. It requires three very precise coordinated movements. There must be a good pass. A hitter needs to attack at the right time. Finally, a precise set is required. If any of those things fail, the play fails. Players at basically all levels get excited when a quick attack is well executed, and for good reason. That is way more motivation for the team to pass well. It’s much more concrete than, “So the setter doesn’t have to chase all over the court.”

And it need not be something that complex.

I helped coach 12-and-under girls once upon a time. These were kids with no playing experience coming in. Some were as young as 8 years old. Nevertheless, we taught them pass-set-hit. It did not happen in games very often, of course. As the season progressed, though, we gave them the goal of N pass-set-hits per game. Even if they didn’t actually get the three contacts right most of the time, at least they thought proactively about something more than just get the ball back over the net. And when they did get it right they were very excited. The end result was our two teams finished as regional champs and runners-up.

Heck, Denise’s daughter could jump serve with an adult ball on an adult net from behind the end line as an 11-year old. If that doesn’t tell you can players can achieve a lot if we just push them and given them the right motivation, I don’t now what will.

So stop thinking that you can’t get a player or a team to a level of development or skill. Start thinking about how you can get them there.

The 4 Key Skills for Volleyball Coaches

Volleyball coaching is primary a mental exercise. That said, however, there are a few physical skills which are quite handy. That’s aside form being able to be on one’s feet for lengthy periods of time! In fact, if you are looking to be an assistant or apprentice coach, these are virtual must-have skills. After all, you are most likely to be an active participant in initiating drills. Likewise if you coach a team by yourself.


Quite a few volleyball drills and exercises are initiated with a toss. If you cannot accurately toss a ball then you will struggle to get the sort of consistency needed for your players to work on specific skills. If you’re in any doubt, watch what happens when your players do the tossing. Think of things like balls initiated to the setter for hitting warm-ups.You can toss either under-hand or over-hand (like a setting motion). Either is fine so long as you can consistently put the ball where you want it.

Underhand serve/hit

It may seem like an easy thing, but a consistent and accurate underhand ball takes a bit of practice. Anyone can pop a high loopy ball over the net and into the middle part of the court. What a coach needs to be able to do, however, is hit balls to all parts of the court. And they need to do so at different tempos.

Topspin Hitting

Training defense, be it team or individual, requires accurately initiating an attacked ball. It could be from on the ground on the same side of the court. It could be across the net by way of a down ball. Or it could be over the net from on top of a box or chair. This might be strictly a defense drill. Maybe it’s part of transition exercise (dig – transition – attack, for example). Regardless, you need to put the ball where you want. That could be straight at the player, high/low, to one side or the other, or in front. And it requires a pace appropriate for the level of the player(s) in question.


Much of the time it makes sense to have players initiate balls in a drill with serve receive included. Sometimes, though, it behooves the coach to take that on themselves. To do so effectively, the ball needs to go where you want it to go much more often than not. Now obviously a float serve isn’t always going to end up exactly where you aimed it, but it should be pretty close.

You also need to be able to vary the speed of the serves, and it helps to have enough of a repertoire at your disposal to replicate any kind of serve your opposition may throw at your team. That doesn’t mean you need to be able to rip a powerful jump serve yourself, but you should be able to come up with a way to simulate something close (hit topspin balls from a box midway into the court, for example).

If you don’t have them…

If you are a volleyball coach without these four skills you are going to be very limited in what you can do with your team. As a head coach you can perhaps get around any limitations you may have by bringing in an assistant coach to make up for the short-coming. If you’re aiming to be an assistant coach, however, you are in a disadvantaged position by lacking these abilities when it comes to finding work.

There’s no magic way to get good at any of these volleyball coaching skills. Just as with your players, it’s all about reps.

Be sure to take care of your body, though. You are just as prone to overuse injuries as the athletes, if not more so in some ways. Learn how to take the strain off your shoulder when hitting and serving, and make sure to work on your core so all the twisting from those activities doesn’t do in your back.