Archive for Volleyball Games

Game: Bonus Point Bingo

Synopsis: This is a game based on the bonus point idea, which means you can use it to encourage your team to concentrate on certain key areas of focus. It allows for a lot of flexibility and adaptability for varied levels of play and complexity.

Age/Skill Level: This game is suitable for all levels.

Requirements: Court, 2 teams, 1 ball.

Execution: Start with each team choosing some number of bonus point plays/tasks they must complete. For example, one team could select quick set kill, getting a single block for the OH, and getting a soft or stuff block while the other picks forcing a non-setter to take the second ball in serve receive, getting a tip kill, and getting a high ball kill. The team that is able to do all their bonus plays first wins.


  • You can do this in a small-sided game fashion.
  • The required bonuses could be randomly chosen, assigned by the coach, or picked by the team.
  • Multiple executions of a single play can be included, such as getting 5 good passes.

Additional Comments:

  • This game was described by US Women’s National Team coach Karch Kiraly at the 2015 HP Coaches Clinic.
  • If you don’t allow teams to know the bonus plays for each other you add the dimension of forcing them to try to figure it out to prevent the other team from “scoring”.

Game: Speedball Winners

Synopsis: This variation on Winners looks to maximize contacts but cutting down transition time.

Age/Skill Level: This game is suitable for all levels.

Requirements: Court, 8 players, 3 balls.

Execution: Divide the players into 4 teams of two, with two teams on each side of the net – one on the court, one behind the end line. The two “off” teams each have a ball, as does one of the “on” teams. The on team with the play starts play with a serve and the teams rally normally from there. The team that loses the rally immediately vacates the court and the off team on that side serves and enters the court to begin a new rally. The winner of each rally scores a point, with the game played to some predetermined point total.


  • Teams of 3 or more can be used.
  • More than 4 teams can play if necessary.
  • You can use a full or reduced sized court.
  • For lower level teams where serving is inconsistent, the coach can initiate the ball to start each rally.
  • Attacking can be limited to certain types, such as back row only.

You can see a 4-player team version of speedball in the USA Volleyball video below.

Additional Comments:

  • By incorporating requirements into the play – must have 3 contact, all players much touch the ball, bonus points for quick set kills, etc. – you can adapt the game to work toward the training objectives you have for the session.
  • You can see a Newcomb style version of speedball used as a warm-up game in this video.
  • If you are playing 2s or 3s on a full court you likely want to use beach rules in terms not allowing open-hand tipping and requiring sets to be straight forward or back (no sideways dumps over the net). Alternatively, you could just not allow such attacks in front of the 3 meter line.

Game: Player Winners

Synopsis: This variation on Winners is a small-sided rotational game which can be a good playing warm-up and/or a way to get a large number of players playing for assessment and other purposes.

Age/Skill Level: This game is suitable for all levels.

Requirements: Full court, 6+ players, 2 balls.

Execution: Designate a “winners” side of the court and have two players begin there. One player starts in the court on the other side, with a second player in service position. The remaining players are off the court waiting. The ball is served and a rally played out. The player whose error ends the rally goes out. If the player is on the winners side, the non-server from the non-winners side moves over to take their place and the server steps in with a new server stepping up. If the error-maker is the non-serving player on the non-winners side, they go out and the server moves up with a new server coming in. If the server is the one to make the error, a new server takes their place any everyone else stays where they are.


  • Depending on the level, you could cut the playing area down, such as using a badminton court or half a standard volleyball court.
  • Players can accumulate points on an individual basis for rallies won (or only rallies won while on the winners side).
  • Constraints can be placed on types of attacks – such as backrow only, no tips, only roll shots, etc. depending on what you might want as a specific focus.
  • A lower levels, a coach could start the rally with a free ball rather than having players serve.

Additional Comments:

  • At lower levels the vast majority of rallies end as the result of errors, but at higher levels things like kills become a feature, making it less obvious who should go off at the end of the rally. As such, you may have to either have a bit of coach intervention or to establish clear rules.
  • If you have several courts of this game going, you can have players move up or down based on who scored the most or fewest points. For example, the three players with the most points move up a court, the three with the least move down.
  • While you certainly could run this game with a larger number of players than 6, going too much beyond that would likely prove counterproductive as players will be out for lengthy periods. In that case, it would probably be best to try to find ways to split the group up – perhaps to play on smaller courts.
  • While it’s certainly possible to play a 3s version of this game, keep in mind that adding players lowers touches per player and potentially increases the complexity of managing player movement through the game.
  • I saw this run at England Cadet/Junior National Team trials.

Volleyball Camp Drills and Games

Summer is, of course, prime season for volleyball camps. As anyone who has ever run one knows, camps present their own set of challenges for drill and game selection. When you’re designing a plan for a practice session you at least know the level of the players, the distribution of players in the various positions, and things like that. Camps are more akin to try-outs. You’re trying to employ activities which can accommodate for a number of variables.

Actually, in many camps there is a sort of try-out process at the beginning. That’s to assign players to courts or teams for the remainder of camp based on position, skill level, etc. It requires drills which can be used to handle large numbers of players efficiently. If you’re in a position like this, have a look at the Volleyball Try-Out Drill Ideas post.


It is very easy in a camp situation where you’re dealing with potentially a lot of players to get lazy and do something like jog & stretch. Please don’t do that! You can see my thoughts on warm-ups in general in the post Are your warm-ups wasting valuable time? Suffice it to say, I think you can do better, even if it’s just adopting some kind of dynamic warm-up. Depending on the age and skill level of the group, consider a ball-handling and/or footwork oriented warm-up.

Lots and lots of touches!

Part of running a camp is making sure the campers are happy and feel they got something out of it. Standing around for long periods doing nothing doesn’t help with that. You want to keep them active as much as possible. The more ball contacts you can get them the better. The best way to do this is to put them in small groups. That allows you to run ball-handing shuttles (like 21) and/or pepper variations such as 3/4-person in-line or over-the-net. You can also play small-sided games. Maybe do it in a tournament format to add a competitive element.

Inclusive rather than exclusive

Be careful about drills or games where players who make a mistake are bumped out for long periods of time. An example of this is the common serving drill where you have players on both sides serving back and forth and missed serves cause players to have to go sit on the other side until a teammate hits them with a serve. That sort tends to see the weaker players spend the most time sitting on the floor. A better option would be the Amoeba Drill, which flips that around (always a popular one, by the way).

Emphasize connecting with new people

Unless you’re running a team camp, you’re going to have a bunch of players who don’t know each other. That means as you design activities for the campers you need to incorporate a “getting to know your fellow campers” element. There are loads of different icebreaker exercises out there that can help. Many can be incorporated into volleyball work.

Talk as little as possible

The campers are there to work on their skills and play games – and be social. They are not there to attend a series of lectures. Spend as little time as you can get away with having them listen to coaches talk and as much time as possible on the court.

Be creative and make it fun!

Creativity can go a long way toward making for a positive camper experience. As much as we coaches might want to spend loads of time on fundamentals, the kids can only tolerate a limited amount of ball-handling work before they start to lose focus. By all means, do lots of fundamental work in your camp, but think about ways you can do it without the kids realizing you’re doing so. Using different types of games can help that, especially since the kids will be eager to play anyway.

Whether you are running a camp or just part of the coaching staff, keep in mind that as much as we might like it to be otherwise, camps are at least as much about entertainment as making players better. If you want players to come back again and/or tell their friends about it, they have to have a positive experience. This is something different than coaching a team or a training session where the focus tends to be more on challenging the players. Keep the fun element in mind and you’ll tend to end up with more satisfied campers.

Using 2-touch games to challenge your players

Once upon a time, Mark Lebedew wrote Hidden Motivation – The Sequel. The title refers to a previous post on the subject of understanding why players make certain decisions. It’s the stuff at the beginning of this one which caught my attention, though.

In the post, Mark talks about how in training he has his team play 2-contact small-sided games. This is for a couple of reasons. One is to shorten the time between contacts. Another is to get them thinking about how to score (and prevent) points in a wide variety of situations. In fact, I watched Mark’s BR Volleys team play games that perhaps were not 1-touch by design, but ended up being that way. If you watched the team play when Mark coached them you saw those guys unafraid to attack from just about anywhere on the court.

I regularly use small-sided games and/or small court games to increase player contacts. I really like the idea of reducing the number of contacts as well. Too often I see players forgo kill opportunities because they feel like they need to play 3-contact volleyball. Ever watch a player set a second ball passed in a perfect attacking position? Then there are times they send a first ball over that ends up being little more than a free ball! One issue at a time, though. 🙂

Granted, a great deal of time and effort is spent drilling the 3-touch mentality into young and developing players. At some point, though, we need to be training them to use their brains. They have to learn to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

It’s up to us coaches to not only encourage our players to problem solve, but also to ensure they feel comfortable making the errors which are an inevitable part of the learning process.

Game: Neville Pepper

Synopsis: This is a game similar to Winners but with a fixed team on one side for a set period of time, and with the ability to focus players on certain training points.

Age/Skill Level: This is suitable for all levels

Requirements: 9+ players, several balls, full court

Execution: Divide your squad up into at least 3 teams. Place one team on Side A of the court with the other teams set up in waves playing through Side B (like Winners). After ball initiation, the teams play out the rally. The team on Side A stays there for a set period of time (2-3 minutes) while the teams on Side B wave through after each rally.The team on Side A is the only one to score points. After their time is up, a different team takes over Side A. The team with the most points when all teams have gone through is the winner.


  • You can vary the amount of time a team spends on Side A.
  • You can use fixed setters if you don’t have enough for each team to have one.
  • Points can be as simple as rallies won, or you could count them based on specific areas of focus (digs, block touches, certain types of attacks, serve receive pass quality, etc.)
  • The ball can be initiated in various ways, either to Side A or Side B, depending on what you want to have the players working on – defending, free balls, serve receive, etc.

Additional Comments:

  • If you want longer rallies you can shrink the court, opt for back row attacks only, and/or add more players. Whether longer rallies is desirable may depend on your training objective.
  • Along with positive points earned, you can apply point deductions for things like overpasses, lack of communication, etc.

Game: 7-point Rotations

Synopsis: This game focuses on serve reception and gives considerable attention to weaker rotations.

Age/Skill Level: This game is for all levels.

Requirements: 2 teams, full court, one ball

Execution: This game is actually played as a series of mini-games. In each game one team serves every ball and both teams stay in one rotation for the whole time. The first team to score 7 points wins the mini game and gets to rotate. They serve the next mini game. The losing team stays in their rotation and is the receiving team for the next mini game.


  • You can play for more or less than 7 points, depending on whether you want to lengthen or shorten the rotations.
  • Bonus points can be employed to focus on certain things. For example, 2 points can be given in the case of a stuff block, an ace, a successful quick attack, or a first-ball kill.
  • You can play until one team gets through 6 rotations, until both team get through 6 rotations, for time, or for some other objective.

Additional Comments:

  • Because this is a serve-initiated game it will tend to be played at a slower general tempo than games such as Bingo-Bango-Bongo where a new ball is initiated as soon as a rally ends. That could result in lower intensity levels, depending on the team. This is something which must be considered and accounted for in practice planning.
  • Since a team cannot rotate until it wins a mini game to 7, you can easily see situations where one side has to play multiple mini games in the same rotation in a row. This has the plus of concentrating reps on weaker rotations, but has the risk of frustrated players struggling mentally.
  • Also, because a team can win mini games as the serving side without ever having to do serve receive in that rotation, you may want to have a plan for making sure those “missed” rotations get at least some reps.

Game: Scramble

Synopsis: This coach-initiated game is good for working on a variety of out-of-system type situations.

Age/Skill Level: This game is for all levels.

Requirements: 2 teams, full court, several balls

Execution: This is a coach-initiated game. Each rally begins with the coach playing a ball to one side. The rally goes on per usual from there. When the rally ends, a new ball is immediately initiated.


  • Russ Rose at Penn State uses a variation in which he puts in 4 balls – with the ball going to either side – then has both sides rotate.
  • The balls can be initiated all to one side for some given period of time (30 seconds, 1 minute, etc.)
  • Score can be kept to make it a proper game that finishes with a specific objective being met.
  • This is suitable for small-sided play.

Additional Comments:

  • You can use this game to focus on certain aspects of the game that your players struggle with – balls off the court, balls in the net, etc.
  • To encourage full commitment to keeping the ball off the floor you can do something like adding time or extra balls if a team lets a ball drop without sufficient effort.
  • If you make the ball you initiate the first contact – meaning the players must get the ball over the net in only 2 contacts – you will have something akin to the Virus game.

Game: Virus

Synopsis: This is a game which encourages better out-of-system play and decision-making on one side, and good recognition of play development on the other side.

Age/Skill Level: This game is for all levels.

Requirements: 2 teams, full court, a few balls

Execution: This is a coach-initiated game. Rather than starting with the serve, the coach puts in a ball which represents either the first or second contact. The side receiving the ball then has the remaining contact(s) to get the ball over the net. Play is as normal from there.


  • The ball can either be initiated to the winning team to make it similar to standard game conditions (and to benefit the rally winner), or balls can be initiated on an alternating basis if there’s an imbalance between the teams.
  • You can rotate when a team wins a rally after having lost previously (like siding out) or after a specified number of rally wins.
  • Bonus points can be incorporated.
  • This game is suitable for small-sided play.

Additional Comments:

  • If a variable number of contacts is to be allowed to the receiving team, the coach should yell that out when initiating the ball.
  • Only allowing teams a single contact will tend to work on good free ball and down ball execution (assuming a good initiation). Allowing two contacts can bring in attacked 3rd balls if the initiated ball does not require too much scramble/chase.
  • If you’re looking to encourage aggressiveness in the 3rd ball (get a swing or down ball rather than free ball) make sure failure of execution is not overly penal.
  • If you’re looking to discourage certain types of plays (free ball to the libero, for example), you can have a penalty.
  • Make sure to not just focus on the ball-receiving side and what they are doing with the third ball, but also on the other side in terms of their recognition of free ball, down ball, or attack and the appropriate defensive positioning.
  • By only rotating when a team is able to win a given number of rallies, you can focus most of the playing time on the weakest rotations.
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