Volleyball Coaching Challenge: A-team vs. B-team

Matt over at The College Volleyball Coach, who I worked with on the book Inside College Volleyball, had a question come in the other day. Most of the questions Matt gets are related to US college volleyball recruiting. This one came from a new Juniors club volleyball coach, though. This situation is this:

“The issue is our starting 7 have come from good high school and/or club programs and have very good attacks (and relatively good setting and passing) whereas the backups and 2nd team are newer to the game and are coming along, but really aren`t able to be competitive with our starting 7 in practice.”

Leading the coach to ask:

“…do you have any advice or drill on how to work on defense (blocking and covering balls of blocks) without really having strong players on the other side of the net to practice against?”

The question is similar to the one I addressed in my Training 6 v 6 when your only setters are those running your 6-2 offense post. As in that scenario, we have a situation where a coach needs to be able to train certain players at a higher level than the rest of the team is at presently. This is a challenge I definitely had in a major way at times. It’s one all coaches face when they want to train their starters with only the non-starters as competition.

In Matt’s reply to the question he brought up the idea of using small-sided games rather than 6 v 6 play. That is definitely one way to go in terms of developing more broad-based skills. Going that route lets you put your stronger players up against each other, and likewise with your weaker ones. You can also create mixed teams. This allows you to put your starters against each other in different ways, even in 6 v 6 situations. I did that in one of my training sessions.

Of course, at times you need to have your starters together to work on team-specific things. For example, offensive and defensive systems. In this case you have to find ways to make your B side competitive. This might include allowing them to serve every ball. You could require the A side to only score in certain ways. There are wash scoring variations. You can also initiate easier balls to the B side in the case of something like the Scramble game. Using bonus points is another possible option.

There are any number of ways you can achieve your training objectives. You just may need to think creatively about how to do it.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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