Archive for Volleyball Coaching Q&A

Volleyball Academy: Indoor or Beach?

I once had an exchange with a volleyball dad. He was looking for some advice on his daughter. At 16 she was an England international at the U19 level and had aspirations to play in college in the States. One of the academies accepted her for the next school year. Shortly after, the England sand volleyball training program invited her to join them in a similar academy type of situation. A former beach pro ran the program. The father sought my advice on the decision with regards to the impact on recruitment prospects. Below are the thoughts I shared with this father, but I’d be interested to hear other views.

So the question is to attend the indoor academy and train with other members of the England youth national team mix or go the beach route to train under a former professional and with other England beach internationals. The player in question was an outside hitter, though capable of hitting anywhere on the net. She was about 5’10”, with a good jump and long reach (slender build). She both hit and blocked well and generally had good ball skills. In the most recent season she had some back issues, but otherwise I was not aware of any injuries. If she went the beach academy route, part of the deal would be that she’d continue playing indoor ball in the National Volleyball League.

Now generally speaking I almost always encourage my indoor players to get out and play beach or grass doubles. It’s a great way for them to improve their abilities and have a different kind of volleyball experience. That’s not the same as choosing between training full-time as a beach player vs. as an indoor player, though.

If this girl played another position, like middle blocker or perhaps setter, I may feel differently. In this case, though, I thought going the beach academy route made a lot of sense. As an OH prospective college coaches would expect her to have solid skills all around – not highly specialized ones as would be the case in other positions. Beach volleyball would help her continue developing those skills. I also thought sand training would reduce the pounding her body would take as a full-time indoor player. That could have long-term benefits.

From the recruiting perspective, the math was fairly simple. There are WAY more indoor programs and scholarship opportunities, and that wouldn’t change any time soon (if ever). As such, focusing on the indoor side in the recruitment process offers more opportunities, especially given the way the NCAA counts volleyball scholarships (an indoor scholarship athlete can play sand without issue, but a sand scholarship athlete cannot play indoors unless being counted toward the indoor scholarship limits). That said, being a dual-surface player would make one quite attractive to schools where players are part of both the indoor and sand teams (rather than the teams being run separately).

All things taken together – working on her all-around game, the opportunity to train under a former beach pro, still getting to play indoor competitively – I thought going the beach academy route in this case mades a lot of sense. That’s what I told the father.

Agree? Disagree?

Newbie prep for high school volleyball

This post basic seeks to answer the question: How should I start working with someone brand new to volleyball?

A while back I got an email from my brother. His oldest daughter was entering high school in the Fall. Apparently, she’d decided to go out for the school volleyball team. This wasn’t necessarily a new thought for her. I recalled a volleyball being on her Christmas wish list a couple years prior. Up to then, though, she concentrated on competitive swimming, and it sounded like that would continue. The timing of the decision was unfortunate. Had it come a few months earlier she could have played 14-and-unders club volleyball that season. Oh, well.


My brother asked the school coach for some advice on preparing Darling Daughter. Apparently, they suggested she take part in a U15 developmental program run by the local Juniors club I co-founded back in 2001. I was glad to know the club maintained its reputation since I left in 2007. 🙂

I, of course, told my brother that sounded like a good idea. Naturally, summer camps were also an option. He just needed to be sure they had a low level/beginner group and weren’t just for experienced players.

Unfortunately, a camp or weekly series of training sessions only goes so far. They could prepare someone in terms of skill. They would fall short in terms of playing experience and getting ready for August two-a-days. More time and more game-like reps are really required to start to develop the foundational skills and the physical conditioning.

Back at home

My brother played volleyball in high school himself, though baseball was his primary sport (in our state at the time, boys’ volleyball was a Fall sport while the girls played in the Spring). Naturally, I told him to get out in the backyard and pepper with his daughter to help work on her ball-handling skills. I also said to get a net up so she could practice serving and passing and general game play.

On the physical side, my niece’s swimming background probably put her in quite good stead in terms of shoulder and core strength. The issue for her was the jumping and low posture movement and positioning in volleyball. I suggested to my brother that he get her doing a lot of good spike approach reps to both develop the skill and to condition the legs. Of course, working on all the types of court movement footwork and patterns was a good idea, but we need to start somewhere.

If it was your brother, what would you say? What kind of advice would you give someone in this situation?

Training 6 v 6 when your only setters are those running your 6-2 offense

The following question came in from a reader. It’s regarding what to do when personnel constrain your options in training. In this case it’s in terms of setters on a team running a 6-2 system:

Here is the problem: I have two setters that are the two of my better all around players so we play a 6-2. In practice when we do 6 v 6 drills and games I am left playing 5-1 due to only the two setters. How does one get around that situation when there are no other setters available?

We all face problems like this one at times. I have a few questions in this particular case:

  • Do you have other more developmental setters in the squad you can use in limited setting roles?
  • Do you have an assistant coach who can set the B side in 6 v 6?
  • Is there an external player you can have in training sometimes to set?

In other words, have you explored all the options for identifying or bringing in other possible setters to help out when you want to work your starters together? If not, then definitely see what you can do there. If so, then we have to be creative in terms of structuring things, setting priorities, etc.

In this case I would suggest that at times it is appropriate to focus on these better players being setters. At other times focus them on being hitters. That would allow you to have them work on more facets of their games in the 6 v 6 situations.

For example, sometimes you want your other players to get the best sets so they can work on attacking development. At other times, though, maybe you put the focus on more of a scramble type play. That’s mainly out-of-system play and quality setting is actually something you don’t want happening a great deal. Or maybe you just focus on working the top players as hitters and have them train their attacking with the lower quality sets necessarily coming from the other non-setters in the team.

Of course playing small-sided volleyball games is great for working on all-around skills for all your players.

To specifically work the starters playing together, set up games where the non-starters can be competitive. You have to do this without requiring quality setting. For example, you could do a wash drill/game where the B side could serve every ball and scores a point if they can get a good swing from the A side’s first ball over (as well as on an ace, block, or A team error). This puts the focus on getting a first-ball score for the A team. Another option would be to have the B side get an attack off a tossed ball to start each rally. The A side would then have to defend and transition.

The idea in both cases is to give the B team a motivation to play with intention and competitiveness even though they are clearly undermanned, while at the same time allowing you to focus on certain types of play with the A team.

It’s almost always best to use your 6 v 6 games in training to focus on something specific rather than just letting the players go like it’s a regular match. If you’re creative about setting up those priorities and finding ways to work with available strengths or on certain weaknesses you can often find ways to adapt things to the personnel you have at hand. It takes a bit of creative thinking, though.

Volleyball coach seeks help with motivating a beginner

A reader asked the following question. It relates to motivation of a beginning player, which is different from motivating players to win. I share a few of my own thoughts below, but would love to hear what others think.

How do I get a shy quiet girl moving. I had a guest coach over teaching and one of my girls walks up to her spike. The coach made her do it again but she went a tiny bit faster. I put this child on my team as per a request of her mom that says she is a couch potato. I try to teach her everything I know but still no happiness in this child or a smile or hustle, nothing. Help, how can I make her a player?

This sounds like a very challenging situation. If the mother is forcing the girl to attend, there’s a major motivation hurdle to overcome. It’s even more so if she is not naturally a physically active kid. You have to get her to be eager to be active and to want to improve her skills. It’s not an impossible task, but it’s a hard one for sure.

Motivations vs. confidence

The first thing you need to try to figure out is if this is a case of “don’t wan’t to” or “can’t”. The former is about just not being interested. The latter is about thinking you’re not good enough or talented enough or whatever to be able to do what is asked. Be aware that sometimes “don’t want to” masks “can’t” as the individual puts up a protective front.

If it’s a question of “can’t”, then your job as coach is to find out where the perceived issue is. Then you start to build confidence. That could be a question of showing the player someone like her who is successful. It could be about breaking things down a bit more so you can focus on elements where the player has a comfort. Then work back up from there.

If the problem is “don’t want to”, then you have a different challenge.

For most beginners, the key factor to keep them coming back and interested in getting better – at least to a point – is fun and enjoyment. When it comes to those of the female gender, the social element is a big one. If this girl isn’t socially connected with the others in the group, try to find ways to encourage that. If she does have a connection, maybe you can use that to help you motivate her a bit more.

Another way to go is to try to find out the girl’s interests. There might be stuff you can do to link what you’re trying to teach her in volleyball with other things she does or likes. That also might give you the opportunity to do some role-modelling with her. Pointing out someone she can watch with whom she has things in common.

Why does my volleyball team miss serves?

The title of this post comes from a search query which brought someone to the website. When I saw it I was immediately struck by how often that question must get asked by coaches in any given season. They certainly ask it inside their own heads! I know it flashed through my head a number of times in years when I watched teams miss several serves in a row – often costing us momentum in the process.

So let’s think about why players miss their serves.

Poor mechanics

The first area we have to look at in addressing serving is the mechanics of the servers. The specifics there are best left for another time. Suffice it to say, players lacking good mechanics are very likely to be inconsistent (at best) with their serves. Much of the time it’s the toss which is the biggest culprit. Sometimes, however, mental issues can creep in which lead to faulty mechanics in an otherwise competent server (see below).


Nervous players make mistakes. I had a player a while back who demonstrated clearly in training more than sufficient power to get the ball over the net. Once she was put into a situation where there was some kind of pressure (drill or game), though, everything changed. Suddenly she could barely get the ball to the net. That’s an extreme case, but I see many players make mistakes serving because they are trying to avoid mistakes. This tends to manifest in poor ball contact coming from a weak arm swing and/or a soft hand rather than a firm one on impact (this happens a lot in hitting too). If you’re seeing a lot of balls come up short, you could have a problem in this area.

Overly Aggressive

The reverse of tentative serving is being too aggressive. Balls hit hard into the net or flying well long are symptomatic of this issue. You as a coach have to define what is appropriate aggressiveness, as you will naturally see more missed serves when you ask your team to serve tough than would likely otherwise be the case. Of course there are also the cases of players just simply trying to hit the ball too hard (often boys).

Poor Situational Awareness

Players need to know when it’s acceptable to take risk and when they really need to focus on getting the serve in (see When the Serve Needs to Be In). If players are missing serves at bad times, it is up to the coach to get that corrected in training by making sure there are consequences for that sort of thing in drills and games.

Insufficient skill

Sometimes players simply are being asked to do something for which they lack the skill required. This is most likely to manifest when a coach calls a serving target either by zone or player (“Serve #2”). Players who just simply can’t consistently target their serves will often miss more serves in trying to do what the coach wants.

I think this list covers miss serve causality pretty well. If you can think of something else that should be here, though, definitely leave a comment.

nike tn pas cher nike tn pas cher nike tn pas cher nike tn pas cher air max pas cher air max pas cher stone island outlet stone island outlet stone island outlet stone island outlet stone island outlet stone island outlet barbour paris barbour paris barbour paris barbour paris barbour paris piumini peuterey outlet piumini peuterey outlet piumini peuterey outlet piumini peuterey outlet piumini peuterey outlet canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher woolrich outlet online woolrich outlet online woolrich outlet online woolrich outlet online woolrich outlet online woolrich outlet online Fjllraven Kanken backpack Fjllraven Kanken backpack Fjllraven Kanken backpack Fjllraven Kanken backpack Fjllraven Kanken backpack Fjllraven Kanken backpack woolrich outlet online piumini woolrich outlet moncler outlet online moncler outlet piumini moncler outlet moncler outlet online peuterey outlet online peuterey outlet cheap oil paintings pop canvas art