In Sally Kus’s book, Coaching Volleyball Successfully, she talks about working with young kids. Her specific focus is on developing a pipeline for older youth teams (school, Juniors club, etc.). The advice, though, is universal and much applies to working with older beginning players as well as youngsters.

Make sure it’s fun

The first thing we have to do with those new to volleyball is to make sure it’s fun. You won’t keep the players focused for very long, or see them come back, if they aren’t enjoying themselves. What fun means will vary, of course. You won’t do the same things with adult beginners as you would with a bunch of 12 year-olds. As with any other type of presentation or activity, you have to make it fit your participants.

Forget about wins and losses

The last thing we need concern ourselves with when working with a bunch of volleyball newbies is the score line. The focus instead needs to be on developing the skills, movement patterns, understanding of the rules, and the mentality to play proper competitive volleyball. Concentrating on the winning and losing at this stage will only tend to get in the way. It puts undo pressure on the players. Further, it potentially leads the coach to weigh the results of matches over developmental needs.

Reward them for playing volleyball properly

Let’s face it. Beginner games often degenerate into sending the ball over in one touch. That being the case, we need to reward them for things other than scoring points and give them alternative goals. Players will quickly realize that three contacts on their side is three times as many opportunities to make a mistake. The result is volleyball which looks a lot like tennis with six players on the court – serve and volley.

One of the things Kus mentioned doing is keeping a second score along side the primary one when playing games. This is noted on the volleyball game scoring alternatives page. This score is for the number of times each team did something developmentally positive. For example, a pass-set-hit sequence. If you can get the players focused on whatever your objective is and not the actual scoreboard, you can go a long way.

As coaches of young and beginning players it is our responsibility to focus on teaching the right way to do things. That includes rules, 3-contact play, and working on skills. If we can do this in an enjoyable fashion we’ll have players ready to take the step to the next level when the time comes.

See also Lessons from Belgium for youth volleyball and Thoughts on youth volleyball structures.

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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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