Tag Archive for warm-up

Game: 2 v 2 side switch

Synopsis: This is a fast-paced, small-side game based on a Winners model, but with a major wrinkled that creates lots of movement and encourages player communication and problem-solving.

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

Requirements: 6+ players, full court

Execution: Play starts with 2 players on the “winners” side and two on the “challengers” side. One of the challengers serves to start the rally. The winners team has three contacts to attack the ball at the challengers, but the attack must come from the “challengers” side of the court. That means they must play either the first or second ball over the net so it can then be played for a final contact back to their starting side. Meanwhile, the challengers run over to the winners side to defend. When the winners play the ball back into the winners side of the court, they then have to do the same process (play the ball back to the challenge side and attack from there). So the ball is always attacked (or otherwise played over on a final contact) from the challenge side after first being received/dug on the winners side.

Whoever wins the rally becomes/stays the winners. The losing team rotates out and a new pair of challengers begin a new rally. A team earns a point by winning a rally when they started on the winners side. Play to a predetermined number of points.

Here’s some video of what it looks like in action. I recorded this in May 2017 during the training camp for the Australian Men’s National Team.

Variations:

  • If you don’t want to score the game you can play for time.
  • You can play with teams of 3. More than that would probably be too many people moving back and forth on the court, though.
  • If you don’t have the right player count to make fixed teams you can have each player keep individual score.
  • You can have the players stay on the ground (at least to start) if you want to use this game as a warm-up, as was done in the video.
  • You can require the teams to use all three contacts, or make them only use two.
  • For younger or less-experienced players you can require certain types of ball contacts. For example, the third contact must be a down ball.

Additional Comments:

Match-day serve & pass questions

This is an open question to especially college volleyball coaches, but potentially also to professional volleyball coaches.

Do you do a serve & pass session on match day?

If so, I’ve got a few follow-up questions.

Do you do it both home and away?

How long do you go?

What do you do?

When do you do it relative to the start of the match?

I ask because I can’t help but wonder at some things.

Serve & Pass routines

It is regular practice in the Lone Star Conference for visiting teams to do 30 minutes on-court prior to the match. Generally, this is done in the hour prior to the 60-minute match countdown. For example, if the match is at 6pm, the visiting team might do a session from 4:00 to 4:30. Some teams look to do them earlier in the day.

One of the other conferences in our area has a specific arrangement. The home team gets 75 minutes before match start to 60 minutes. The visiting team then gets 60 minutes from the start to the 45 minute mark. After that it’s shared until the 19 minute mark when the 4-4-5-5-1 begins.

These sorts of arrangements are not unusual in my experience. It was the same way when I coached in the Ivy League. No doubt this sort of thing happens all over the country. When I coached in Sweden, we did a serve & pass session on home match days. For Saturday matches, it happened in the latter morning, with team lunch to follow (we played at 2:00 or 3:00). Visiting teams didn’t usually have time, though there was never an issue with jumping on the court before the 60-minute countdown started if the home team wasn’t on the court.

Serve & Pass, then full team warm-up?

One of the things I find curious is when a team does a fairly active serve & pass time, then roll almost directly into a full pre-match warm-up. Aren’t the players already warm?

I saw a team doing a fairly intense 45 minutes (well at least the end was fairly intense), then 20 minutes later start pre-match with a dynamic warm-up.

Why do that? Is it a case of being married to the idea that pre-match warm-up must always be done a certain way?

Why Serve & Pass on match day?

The next question I have is the value of doing a serve & pass session. To be clear, I’m talking about a session on match day, not something the day before. The automatic response from coaches, I’m guessing, is that it gives the players a chance to acclimate themselves to the gym. I’m also thinking there’s a secondary motivation of getting extra practice time – especially time that doesn’t count toward NCAA limits in the case of US college volleyball.

So where’s the trade-off between the value of getting those reps and the added physical and mental exertion on match day? Players have to mentally ramp themselves up for the serve & pass session, then obviously have the physical workload for that period of time. Then they have to wind back down, recover, and do it all over again for the match.

Are the extra touches worth the fact that the players probably won’t be at full 100% for the match?

I’d honestly like to hear some opinions.

 

Skip the warm-ups?

What if you could go straight into training without having to first run a warm-up routine of some sort?

Before you start in on me about the need for players to be properly prepared for the physical (and mental) exertions of volleyball practice, I’m not talking about taking players from zero to full speed straight away. I am definitely in favor of being as efficient as possible – in all regards – when it comes to the warm-up process, but not so far as to suggest there be none.

Consider this, though.

What if you walked into the gym and the players were already warmed up?

I’m not talking about a situation where practice starts at 5:00 and you arrive at 5:20 after the team has done their dynamic warm-up or whatever led by the strength coach or team trainer. I’m talking about practice starting at 5:00 with the players already ready to go because they’ve taken it upon themselves to get warm on their own.

On the face of it, you might not think there’s much difference there. I’ll grant that it’s a subtle thing.

The difference isn’t so much a time consideration – though that could be an element involved. Instead, the main difference is in who’s directing the warm-up, and probably by extension how formal it is.

We coaches tend to want to control things. Warm-ups aren’t exempted from this. The result is that basically players all go through the same routine, even though they may have considerably different physical and mental warm-up needs. The latter can actually end up adding an addition time requirement to ensure everyone is optimally prepared to begin the day’s work.

What if we left the warm-ups to the players? Do you think they’d do a better or worse job?

Chances are those warm-ups would look quite different. Players tend not to like the formulaic warm-ups we coaches design for them. They instead favor something a bit more free form. In fact, they might simply prefer to just play themselves warm by starting at a low intensity and building up from there.

This is what the players at Midwestern State seem to like to do. In the 15-20 minutes before the official start of practice yesterday they did a little bit of shoulder warm-up, but then quite quickly got into playing small-side games (like Winners/Queen of the Court). They obviously didn’t go 100% right away, but by the time we started practice they were pretty ready to go – and they’d gotten a fair number of quality contacts.

Aside from the players getting to warm-up how they best see fit (or enjoy), having this sort of player-directed system offers some other benefits. For one, it allows them to enjoy themselves without being under Coach’s supervision. For another, depending on the group it can either be a good collaborative exercise and/or one which furthers the identification and development of leaders in the squad.

Something to think about perhaps?

Guys, I’m not impressed

One Friday during the 2016 season, I went to watch my first ever NCAA men’s volleyball match. I’ve watched them on TV, but I’ve never actually attended one before. That probably sounds a bit pathetic. In my defense, I’ve watched professional matches in Germany, have been to the CEV Champions League Final Four, and went to Poland to watch some of the 2014 World Championships. So it’s not like I’ve never seen high level men’s volleyball in person. And of course I coached the University of Exeter men.

Conveniently, I was hanging out in Long Beach, which was the home of the then #1 ranked Long Beach State (CSULB) team. They hosted a pair of matches that week, with the one on Friday being against #11 UC Irvine. I’d been to the Pyramid before for a Long Beach State women’s alumni match when I was visiting back in 2013. This was a better production in terms of the game day experience, which probably isn’t a surprise.

Long Beach State at the Pyramid

Take a look at the crazy number of guys on the Long Beach bench!

2016-02-19 19.18.23

Between set warm-ups

I was a bit late arriving to the match because of a late start to dinner beforehand. As a result, I missed warm-ups. Between sets, though, the non-starters came out on the court hitting (which I’ve never seen before). In a typical display of male whatever, the setters put the ball on – or even over – the net and the guys saw how high they could bounce the ball. There was no concern about hitting the net.

This is not the first time I’ve seen this sort of thing. I’m sure it won’t be the last. I wanted to say to the players, “Guys, I’m not impressed.”

What’s the point of this? You will never do this sort of thing in match situation.

It reminded me of things I’ve written about before in terms of warm-ups with respect to throwing the ball and slamming the ball off the floor the way many players do. Needless to say, I’m not a fan.

Player-run small-group training session

I watched some of the Svedala area players do a little bit of a training session one evening during July 2015 before I took over the team. It was something they organized and ran among themselves. There were two players from the Elite team, with three from the lower and youth teams. While watching, I found myself thinking it provided something of a template for a small group training situation, so I figured I’d share the basic outline.

They didn’t do any kind of formal warm-up. Instead, they basically played themselves warm through a progression. That started with a 1-touch game played inside the 3m line with the 2 Elite players against the 3 others. They started with forearm passing only, then shifted to overhead passing only.

From there they moved to a 2-ball, 2-person tennis type of game. Basically, each team served the ball underhand simultaneously. From there they played 1-touch until both balls were dead. Again, it was the Elite players against the 3 others, with the latter rotating a player in after each rally.

After that they moved to some serving and passing. One player served. One player was setter. There was a passer in 6 and a passer in 5, with one off as a sub. Each good pass resulted in a set to 4 attacked by the passer in 5. After each play, the players rotated with the 6 moving to 5, 5 coming out, and the remaining player coming in at 6. After a set number of reps, they switched servers.

Next up was a diagonal attacking and defense drill. They had a fixed setter setting both sides, then split the Elite players and partnered each with one of the younger players. Players were in positions 4 and 5. Each rally started with a free ball (initiated by a player’s mother, who coaches the U15s). Every set went to 4 and after the ball crossed the net the players switched positions. This was not a cooperative game. The hitters were swinging to score, but there were rallies.

That covered the first hour.

In the second hour they spent a bit of time working on 4-person defense with players in 1, 4, 5, and 6 with a player hitting from a stack of pads in 4 on the other side with periodic rotation. They did some more of the diagonal attacking and finished up with just some individual serving.

I feel like I’m forgetting something, but I think you get the idea. Maybe this gives you some thoughts for helping players in an open gym situations and the like.

 

Drill: 3 v 3 All-Touch Transition & Attack

Synopsis: This is a good game-play exercise that gets every player lots of touches and works especially on transition hitting.

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

Requirements: 6+ players, a ball, a net, extra antennae

Execution: Attach the spare antennae to the net to create a channel for attacking in Zones 2 and 4 (similar to what’s discussed here). Place three players to a side, with one at the next in Zone 2 (opponent’s Zone 4), one as the OH, and one as back court defender. One side starts the attack with a set to 4. The opposing player at the net blocks line, so the two others defend the angle. If the back court player digs the ball, the blocker sets the OH in Zone 4. If the OH digs the ball, the back court player sets the blocker in Zone 2, in which case the OH hitter on the other side blocks and the other two play defense. In this case the pattern is same in that if the front court player digs the ball, the back court defender sets the blocker, otherwise the blocker sets the OH. In other words, every player touches the ball each play. Continue until the ball goes dead, then the players rotate.

BertrandDrill

Variations:

  • This can be done cooperatively to encourage longer rallies.
  • The antennae can be adjusted to alter what the hitters have available to swing at around the block.

Additional Comments:

  • This drill is from England Junior National team coach Bertrand Olie and was posted as part of an interview with him on the Volleyball England website.
  • As a cooperative drill this could be used as a warm-up.

Opportunities in training on a lowered net

I mentioned before how you can use the game of Newcomb to work with inexperienced players. You can use it to teach court movement, positioning, and things like that in a volleyball-like, but slower speed situation. At the HP Coaches Clinic they did something similar, but for a more advanced purpose.

The coaches lowered the net down to just about head height for the average player. The demo athletes then played a co-operative 6 v 6 game with no jumping. The third contact was set over. Basically, it was all the movements you normally see in volleyball. The players just did not jump.

In this particular case the focus was blocker movement. The coaches watched the middle blockers for proper focus on their reads and their footwork. It was a way to give those middles lots of reps without burn out.

Thinking more broadly, this is an exercise that can serve a number of purposes. It could very easily be a warm-up. It includes lots of volleyball motion, just done at a lower intensity level. You can tick up the intensity if you make the 3rd contact be a down-ball.

Of course, you can also get rid of the cooperative aspect and make it a competitive game. That speeds things up, demands more movement, and introduces more problem-solving elements. It makes reading more game-like, and gives you increased opportunities to focus players on specific aspects of their play while still is a lower intensity situation.

Coaching Log – Sep 29, 2014

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2014-15.

Over the weekend all but one of the players took part in a beach volleyball focused trip. I did not attend, but they got a couple of sessions of coaching by the England Juniors beach coach. The main purpose was one of team bonding, and the reports suggest mixed results there. I won’t get the full story (or as much as I want/need to know, anyway) until probably Wednesday when the team captain returns from a conference. The suggestion, however, is that we may have some toughness issues and a lack of discipline. The captain suggested addressing the issue of fitness, which has been on my to-do list already.

From the beach coach I got a separate report in terms of stuff she went over with them on the court. Several elements were things I have either already started to address (footwork patterns) or had noted from last week’s work to bring up (playing with intention). She made similar observations about some of their serving as I did while creating a video for them from footage taken in Thursday’s session.

This session was 90 minutes in the small training gym. Top of my list of things to do in the session was to assess the setters and middles in terms of running quicks. I knew going it that the strongest MB could do it, but the rest was an open question. Last year the quick never developed for a number of reasons. This year I want to prioritize it if possible.

This was the plan going in:

Blocking footwork
Volley tennis
Serving warm-up and target serving
Backrow Hitting lines
Split group: Quick hitting / OH pass & hit
Player winners

I actually managed to get through all of those things as planned and more or less as anticipated. This was the first time they’ve done volley tennis and player winners. They went pretty well.

In the latter case I ran parallel games with 7 players on each half court. About halfway I had the top three players from one court swap with the bottom three from the other. This is something I’m going to keep tabs on over time to see what kind of evolution there is in who ends up on the “winners” court.

I did quite a bit of technical coaching in this session. First it was in the serving warm-up. I prepared a video of some of the serving done in the prior session to highlight the good mechanics, and posted that for them to watch. Most of them had before training, so I was able to key them on certain training points. There is starting to be progress already, though a couple players need sorting out.

The other major technical work was in the quick hitting drill. Both setters and hitters needed some direction. I was a bit disappointed in the setting side of things as one of the players I’ve been looking at as either a starter for the first team, or part of a 6-2 system was not one of the better performers. One of my projected second team setters actually did well.

I talked with the team afterwards about having intention when playing the ball, as there was a lot of “panic” type play in the 6 v 6 last session. I also talked about slowing the game down by taking the ball lower, which is something I know got discussed over the weekend. I finished up talking about fitness and getting the players to submit ideas for modifying the warm-up sequence.

I also warned the team that I will be making things harder – both mentally and physically – moving forward.

Drill: 6-player Over-the-Net Pepper

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.

Variations:

  • 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.

Additional Comments:

  • 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.