This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

With a Cup quarterfinal coming up this week, the main thing I wanted to focus on with this session was serve reception – something I’ve talked about spending more time doing recently. This being a shorter session (90 minutes), I had them go straight into serving work after dynamic warm-up. This was about getting shoulders loose for what was to come, so once they’d gotten warm I just has them serve 10 good deep balls, timed.

From there, since we had even numbers, I had them do a servers vs. passers game. I split the team in half with passing skill in mind. I then had one side serve to the other, with the latter having 3 passers and a target on the court (passer becomes target, target moves to the line to fill in to pass). Each of the servers did five serves, making it 30 total in this case. I kept a running score based on the passing score system, with missed serves equal to a 3-pass. After both teams went through as passers, I had the losing team do court sprints equal to the difference between the scores (1 point difference = 1 sideline-to-sideline sprint).

I actually had the team go through the servers vs. passers game a second time to spend a bit more time on passing. Interestingly, the servers got more aggressive the second time around, and it resulted in markedly lower scores for the passers.

I spent the rest of training with a 6 v 6 game. It was something new I’d thought up which would have a heavy serve receive focus rather than the more over-speed and wash type games we’ve done a lot of in recent weeks. I had the team play 7-point mini games. A rally win was worth a point, but if a team got a kill on a first ball (initial serve reception for the passing team, initial defended ball for the serving team) or got a stuff block they got 2 points. One team served every ball. The first team to 7 rotated and became the new serving team. What I liked about this structure was that it forced more work for serve receive rotations where a side was struggling.

Generally speaking, I think it went well. There were some frustrating elements for the players, as you’d expect when a team is stuck in a rotation. Of course the intensity and tempo of a strictly serve-initiated game isn’t going to be the same as one where scramble or other type balls are fed in quickly on dead balls. The players operated at a good intensity, though, and I was pleased about that.

This game also gave me a chance to take long looks at certain rotations to get some ideas for improvements in serve reception formations, etc. I intentionally didn’t optimize things in this drill for player developmental purposes, but as we approach Final 8s in a couple weeks I’ll be working on just that sort of thing.

At this point I’m waiting to find out what’s going to happen with the second team’s Cup match this week. Might be Wednesday. Might be Saturday.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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