Tag Archive for Volleyball Practice Planning

Volleyball Coaching Concept: Wash Drill

Basically, a wash drill in volleyball is one which forces a team to do things in a row. Sometimes it is doing things in bunches. If the team does so it earns a big point. The objective is to accumulate some number of total points or to beat another team. If the team fails to reach the objective it is a wash. They don’t earn the point, or alternatively, the opposing team gets the point.

There are a few primary variations you’ll find in wash drills. They include the following.

X before Y
One team has to get X number of points before the other team gets Y points.

X out of Y
A team must get X number of points within Y number of attempts (or could be done on time).

X in a row
The team must score X number of “little points” in a row to get a big point.

There is also the variation of wash drills where achieving some objective doesn’t immediately give a team a point. It instead gives them an opportunity to earn a point. The bingo-bango-bongo game is a variation of this. It uses an “X in a row” core approach. Once a team gets that, though, they must win a service rally to actually get the point.

Wash drills in volleyball are useful for any number of purposes. Here are some examples.

  • An “X before Y” variation can make for more competitive games between teams of unequal levels, such as starters vs. non-starters.
  • An “X out of Y” type of game can pit hitters against each other in an attack vs. defense drill or game.
  • A variation of “X in a row” could be used to focus on executing a skill or tactic, such as successfully running a quick attack.I

If there’s something you want to work on with your team, there’s probably a way you can do it with a wash drill. The advantage of this approach is that it gets players and teams focusing on not just singular executions. That is the case with many skill development drills (think serve receive or hitting line drills). Instead, the focus is on execution repetition. This, of course, is much more realistic in terms of game expectations.

Are your warm-ups wasting valuable time?

This post will no doubt ruffle some feathers, but so be it! 🙂

There is little I hate more as a volleyball coach than watching a team do a jog-and-stretch warm-up before practice or a match. I have to think there are only three potential reasons for teams to do that.

  1. The coach (or captain) is ignorant of the better options.
  2. The coach (or captain) is being lazy.
  3. The players are intransigent (perhaps due to ignorance).

All of these reasons (excuses?) can be addressed, and should be for the benefit of the team. When I agreed to take on coaching for Exeter University in 2012 one of my requirements was that jog-and-stretch be thrown out.

Why? Because jog-and-stretch is an utter waste of time. I mean that both figuratively and literally.

On the figurative side…

Static stretching (the sort we most often think of when referring to stretching) may not have any value for warming-up. There’s no evidence that it prevents injuries, which is counter to what a lot of people think. According to WebMD, research actually shows that it may be harmful in some cases – explosive sports (like volleyball) being one of them.

Regardless of whether static stretching has any value, athletes should do it when muscles are warm. Jogging a few laps around the court is not sufficient. This is why the suggestion is that you stretch after, not before, exercise. Static stretches are best for developing flexibility, not for warming-up.

Taking it a step further, a warm up should replicate the activities to be performed during the exercise, just at a lower intensity level. You may make the case that since sprinting is part of volleyball (though only barely), jogging is a good warm up to that. Fair enough, but what about jumping, lunging, shuffling, serving, spiking, and blocking? Not much jogging is going to do for them.

All of this is why dynamic warm-ups have become so popular. Here are a couple of examples.

The first is the Stanford University men during pre-match warm-ups.

This second features a set of exercises demonstrated by teenage players.

There many, many variations and types of dynamic warm-up exercises out there. Search YouTube and I’m sure you’ll find dozens.

On the literal side…

Jog-and-stretch misses an opportunity for the players to work on volleyball-specific movements and skills. The dynamic warm-up at least can have some volleyball type movements integrated. Even there, though, most aren’t great for getting the shoulders warmed up for serving and hitting, which is why you often see teams go from there into some kind of throwing the ball back and forth.

I also think that throwing of the ball back and forth, in most cases, is a waste of time.

Why do I say that? Because in my experience, especially with male players, it becomes more about how hard they can throw the ball or how high they can bounce it and less about actually warming up. And it takes way too long with an opportunity for skill development lost.

A simple progression from light ball-handling to easy pepper (partner pass-set-hit) to full-speed pepper will warm-up a player’s shoulders at least as well and offers the added benefit of having them working on volleyball skills at the same time (to a degree). This is supported by coaches in professional volleyball.

When I was a volleyball camp counselor we used to play games during the break periods. Because we had a limited window of time, we generally went almost straight into playing without much in the way of warm-up. For the first several minutes it was fairly cooperative with no aggressive hitting or serving. It was only after a while that we upped the intensity to a proper competitive level. We basically played ourselves warm. Much more enjoyable than jogging around and stretching. 🙂

Do the sums

To re-task the Tesco motto, every little counts (Tesco is a grocery store chain in England).

How many training sessions will your team have this year? How many matches? Add those two figures together and multiply by 5 (or more). That’s how much more effective training time your players can get by dropping jog-and-stretch or some other non-ball related warm-up.

Let me use the Exeter teams I coached as an example. We trained twice a week for something like 20 weeks and had at least 20 matches. If we replaced non-ball warm-ups with those that include the ball in some form we get 300 additional minutes of ball-handling work (60 x 5) over the year, which is like adding 2-3 training session.

It’s OK not to do what the elite programs do

Now obviously playing your team warm isn’t something that suits all situations. Still, one needs to give a lot thought to priorities when planning warm-ups. If you’ve got a developing group of players you should probably forget about the fancy warm-ups used by upper level teams with elite level athletes. For them it’s about preparation for high-intensity competition. They are beyond the point where a few more setting or passing reps are going to make any difference. For you, though, every rep counts – especially when you only see them a few hours a week.

And keep in mind there’s a negative relationship between warm-up requirements and age. Kids don’t need to do all that stuff. Just get them on the court playing!

First Things First, Know Your Priorities

Everything you do as a volleyball coach starts with the priorities you have. Kind of hard to achieve goals you don’t know you have, after all, isn’t it?

Working from priorities is a top-down process. Unfortunately, many coaches take a bottom-up approach to their coaching – especially inexperienced coaches. Quite often newer coaches get caught up what I’ve heard described as the “drill collection” phase. They forget to think bigger picture. By that I mean a coach will learn a new drill and become excited to use it in training. They fail, however, to look at the context of that training to judge whether the drill is suitable at that time.

Every drill in every training session should have an objective. Every training session should have one or more objectives. There may be objectives for certain periods of time during a season. For example, pre-season objectives vs. early-season objectives, vs. late-season objectives. There certainly will be overall season objectives for the team. The club or school program of which the team is part will have objectives. The requirement is to start with the top level priorities and work down so it all lines up and every effort of yourself and your players is pulling in one direction.

This is not to say that each training session in a given period of time (like pre-season) should have the exact same objectives. It’s just that the objectives chosen for a given session should contribute toward the reaching of the next level of objectives.

For example, your pre-season objectives may be to develop fitness, get rid of the off-season rust, and create a cohesive team. You can focus on any one or more of those objectives in your pre-season training sessions.

I go deeper into developing a training session plan based on your defined objectives in other posts. For now, make sure that what you do in training lines up with the team’s higher level objectives. You will be a much more effective and productive coach just taking that step.