Warm-up philosophy affirmation

An early post I wrote was a rant against some “traditional” warm-up methods employed by coaches and players. That article – Are your warm-ups wasting valuable time? – is one of the most frequently visited on the site. One activity is throwing the ball back and forth and hitting into the floor to loosen up the shoulder. I don’t like it for reasons I mentioned in that prior post. In particular, it seems like a lost opportunity to get in additional ball contacts.

With that as a backdrop, you can imagine how much I enjoyed it when a professional coach I visited with immediately stopped his players from doing that stand-by warm-up routine. It happened during one of their initial training sessions. Players were instructed to warm-up their shoulders. As soon as he saw them start the throw/hit thing, though, he stopped it, forcefully. He told them in no uncertain terms that what they were doing was a waste of time and opportunity. Instead, they should do a hit and dig-to-self routine.

You have no idea how happy this made me. It proved I’m not some crazy lone voice on the subject. There are at least two of us!  Importantly, it also let me go back to my university players (the men in particular) and say “This is what the pros do.” 🙂

On a related subject, I saw a variation on this idea where one player hits and the other catches. I am not a fan of this. The coach encouraged the catching players to move and position themselves as if they were digging. The reality, though, is that catching and rebounding/redirecting are very different skills.

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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.


  1. John Forman John Forman says:

    Hey Oliver. I actually talked just yesterday with Alberto about this. He agreed on the subject of the waste of hitting the ball at the floor as he’s really big on players getting lots of ball contacts. He still does that setting drill. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it every day in training while I’ve been visiting SC Potsdam. 🙂

  2. Kelly Daniels says:

    John, There are always two sides of every story, which I am sure that you agree. The purpose of throwing the ball back forth is not just warming up athletes arms. I use the throwing drill so athletes can work on proper mechanics of the arm swing. As the #1 injury in volleyball is the shoulder MOST coaches from my understanding do not teach the proper armswing technique. Throwing also forces the athletes to open their hips to initiate the armswing, if taught properly. Too many times do I see athletes hit back and forth squared to their partner. Not only that they are using unhealthy armswing technique. Those who use the throwing the ball warm up to just warm up the arm is wasting valuable time, I completely agree! If using the warm up to teach armswing techniques then we are using that time to benefit the athlete learning process.

  3. lothomas85 says:

    But Kirsty, does the hit and dig to self routine not present similar, if not enhanced learning opportunities for developing a good armswing technique also?

  4. Oliver Wagner says:

    He he. One of the things Alberto Salomoni told me concerning warm-ups was this: “Why are you Germans so nervous about warm-ups? Just do what you have to do and then let’s begin with the real practice.” At the time I watched his practice he for example started with a drill of setting (for everybody) from the middle of the field. It was instead of running and he was very determined about all players setting a ball that an outside could hit.

  5. John Forman John Forman says:

    I would ask the same question and comment that if you’re actually working on arm swing mechanics in terms of actively coaching, then it really isn’t the same thing as a warm-up. Different purpose and focus. Plus, warm-ups are often unsupervised because the coach has distractions.

    • Kelly Daniels says:

      If a coach is not participating/supervising warm up, I would think that they are not doing their jobs. Athletes should always be supervised to ensure they are warming up appropriately, whereas they are not presenting unsafe or unwanted techniques.

      • John Forman John Forman says:

        There are times when a coach cannot maintain constant supervision, such as is often the case pre-match, and sometimes even at the start of practice. In that situation, the coach’s responsibility is to have prepared the team to be able to run the warm-up, or at least part of it, on their own.

        Also, in the case of pre-match you probably don’t want to be talking mechanics too much with the players. It’s a time to prepare to play, not to get the players worried about their arm angle, footwork, etc. That stuff needs to have been handled in training.

        • Kelly Daniels says:

          I guess this where coaching philosophies come into effect. At no time do I want athletes to use improper techniques. Training in my programs is anytime an athlete picks up a ball.

          • John Forman John Forman says:

            Of course we coaches want our players using proper technique at all times. There’s no philosophical difference from that perspective. Keep in mind, though, that the focus of this post is warm-ups. To that end I there are two major points which need to be kept in mind.

            One is, as I’ve said and Oliver has also commented, we cannot be focused on every contact, movement, etc. every one of our players makes all the time. What we can and must do, though, is prepare our players to act in a technically proper fashion independent of our oversight and/or immediate feedback. This isn’t just about us not directly supervising, but also about when they are playing in a match since it’s not like we can tell the ref to stop so we can fix something. We observe, make note, and address any issues we see in future training so the player(s) will be able to do it properly the next time.

            The second is that we have to keep in mind the priority of warm-ups. Be it pre-match or pre-training, warm-ups are about mental and physical preparation. There may be room for technical coaching in some cases, but it must not detract from the preparation priority. As soon as it does, you’re into training, which is different, and as such can be detrimental to good preparation – both for the player(s) and for you as coach.

          • Oliver Wagner says:

            Interesting. Can’t you both bring your philosophies together? Of course every ball contact has to be one with the proper technique. But like John says, you can not (and I will not) supervise every single movement the players do. So I think as a coach we have to enable them to take responsibility and execute even if no “guard” is near 😉

            The players have to be independent in some way – at the latest on the court…

          • Kelly Daniels says:

            I completely agree that the athletes at some point must be independent and that’s when they are competing. My philosophy is that I train the team during practice and they show me what they learned in competition. Before I use to get involved during competition, but have learned they learn best in a training environment. They can learn in competition, but what is learn is limited. So I think we are on the same page in this aspect.
            I see your point about warm up about mental and physical preparation. This we do in our programs, but when they learn the warm up program it is taught in a technical manner. How and why is discussed after a few practices then warm ups are only ‘monitored’ and not coached.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.