A coach in a Facebook group posted the following inquiry.

I agree with the mantra that the game teaches the game but I am struggling with a part of that. If all we do is play 6v6 there are too few contacts. 1 ball 12 players. If we play small sided 2v2, 3v3 it’s not game like. (Smaller court, less players, less transitions, different positions.)

I think this post brings up a major misconception. The game teaches the game DOES NOT mean all you do is play 6v6. It’s about making things as game-like as possible.

A big part of making things game-like is incorporating the appropriate visual cues. You can think of this as reading on defense and reading the server in reception, but it also involves cues from what’s happening on your own side of the net. All of that can come out in small-sided games just as much as in 6v6 if you structure things right. And you don’t have to sacrifice positioning and transition considerations.

Here’s an example.

The Cooperative Cross-Court Hitting drill is a 4v4 exercise, but it’s very game-like. And I’m talking about all elements, as positioning and transition are features. It works by isolating a part of the court. Everything in that portion works just like it normally would in 6v6.

There are lots of variation on that concept you can use.

The question you have to ask yourself is what’s the purpose of any given exercise? Generally, coaches tend to use 2v2 or 3v3 games as a kind of warm-up. In that case they are quite good because players basically do all the primary volleyball movements, and they include lots of reading. You can quite easily integrate specific training focuses too, though. I share some ideas of how you can do that in this post.

But carrying on with the purpose/focus concept, remember that this is where you need to make sure things are properly game-like. If the rest of it isn’t as much, then it’s not that big a deal.

And returning to the idea of not getting enough reps in a 6v6, there might a failure of focus here too. It’s certainly true that individual players get, on average, fewer ball contacts in 6v6 play. If, however, your focus is on structure of play or similar team concepts, the number of contacts isn’t really something you should be thinking about. It’s about the frequency of the scenario you want to put them through. Make sure you don’t lose track!

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Volleyball Director for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

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