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Washing to increase scrimmage intensity

Over the years I’ve come to really dislike watching my teams go through simple scrimmage games in training. The intensity level feels too low and there isn’t enough actual play going on. I didn’t like it when I was coaching at Brown and I don’t like it these days coaching at Exeter. I find myself either feeling frustrated at the slow pace or getting twitchy wishing there was more action, more player ball contacts.

Last night was a perfect example. I was running a training session for the university women ahead of them playing in South West Championships this weekend. Unfortunately, due to exams the numbers were low – only 7 players, plus one representative of the men’s team. Naturally, that meant doing a bunch of 4 v 4 stuff in the game-play elements of the session.

At the end of practice I had them play a straight game, but narrowed the court by about a third to encourage longer rallies. After a couple minutes, though, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was just too slow. To up the intensity I added an element to make it a wash game rather than just standard scoring. I did that by initiating a ball to the team that won the serve-initiated rally. A team needed to win both rallies to score a point. The team winning the first rally served the next ball.

The result of adding the wash element was that after about 25 minutes of play the game ended 7-5. Had I thought about it ahead of time, I might have started the score to have it finish at 25, but this was an on-the-fly adjustment, as we sometimes need to make as coaches. I think the players would tell you adding the wash element made the game more intense and fun. I know I liked it a lot better as a coach.

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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