This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2014-15.

The big focus of this training was to try to set up some line-up decisions for next week’s match. The team is going to be without its captain and starting OH2, leaving a large gap in the roster in a number of ways – particularly in passing and defense. A couple of options were available to address this, some involving more radical line-up changes than others. I needed to evaluate a couple of players in particular before making any decisions.

Believe it or not, for the first time in weeks we had all 15 players in training. We were in the bigger gym, but that’s still a lot of players for one court. I had them start off with 5-player over the net ball-handling shuttles – first forearm passing, then overhead passing – to get them moving, then had it shift to a 5-person over the net pepper. Messy.

From there I had them do some target serving after a warm-up spell. The focus was on deep serves. I wanted to do make use of the larger gym to work in serving & passing, but rather than do it in drill fashion I opted for winners 4s as the next exercise since it would feature lots of serving and 3-player reception. I started them off hitting back row, then about halfway through switched to on the net. As I’ve done a few times now, I enforced bump-setting only to continue their work on being calmer and more controlled in playing second contacts. I allowed the server coming in on the challenge side a re-serve if they missed their first, with instructions to be aggressive with the first ball. This served a few purposes. First, it encouraged the players to work on stronger and/or more strategically placed serves. Second, it enforced the idea of not missing consecutive serves. Third, it put increased pressure on the receivers.

From 4s I moved to the 5s I used a bit last week, with each side having an OH, MB, and S in the front row, plus defenders in middle and right back. Setters were fixed, with the one who’s team won the rally staying on/moving to the winners side. The intensity level was poor, though, and I called a break after a relatively short period of time, during which the captain got on the team’s case.

To try to up the intensity I next did Scramble, with the likely starters for next week’s match going against the rest. I went four times through (switching front and back row each time) with each side receiving balls for a minute. Could have gone longer, but I wanted to leave time for some regular game play. Scramble served it’s purpose, though.

I had them finish off with the same teams in a speed play standard game. By that I mean once a rally was finished the players quickly reset for the next serve and I would feed a ball into that player while the one from the last rally was cleared away. There was also a 3-serve rule such that if one team served three points in a row, after the last one they were finished and serve went across to the other team. This let us get at least twice through the rotations in about 15 minutes.

While there were a number of things I wasn’t happy with in terms of continuous development point, there were a couple of specific areas of immediate concern which I was happy with. First, the most natural replacement for the captain in OH2 played much better than she’s done of late. If she repeats that next week the team will be in pretty good shape. Second, the first teamers really dominated the second teamers for the first time all season, which suggests the stuff that clicked into place while winning Wednesday’s match wasn’t just a one-off.

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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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