The following question came up in the Coaching Volleyball group on Facebook:

What are some of your favorite serve-receive drills that you like to run for older players? (17’s if you are wondering what age specifically)

There were a few interesting suggestions. Butterfly passing was NOT one of them, as far as I’m concerned.

One of the more interesting ones mentioned was similar to one we used when I coached at Midwestern State. Basically, you have a group of players (e.g. 6) split in half where one is serving and one passing. You can only score points as passers, to become passers the serving team has to do something. In our case at MSU they had to put the passers out of system twice in a row (included aces). The passers got a point for every serve the servers made, regardless of outcome, and we did it 2 v 2. In the group suggestion (somebody called it “Ace to Replace”) it’s 3 v 3, the passers get a point for a good pass, and an ace gets the servers over to the passing side. Either way, you run it for time.

I also thought this suggestion had some good elements:

Plus or Minus 10, get a plus one for a 3 pass and a minus for a 0 or overpass, 1 or 2 pass is a wash, need to get to +10, cannot go below 0, I have found it to be a game changer the last two years for my teams in terms of passing mentality, I try to reinforce eliminating communication errors and reducing percentage of 0s and working together as a team, if not in a great position to play the ball don’t need to be a hero but just try to make the ball playable versus trying to be “perfect”, when in a good position then can go for the 3 pass, can change the success criteria of the drill depending on the skill level of the team

My particular interest here is the bit about communication, avoiding 0s, and making things playable. There’s a specific and important focus, not just a bunch of passing reps. The issue I would have with the drill is that it likely disincentivizes the servers from serving particularly aggressively.

And that last bit is always a consideration for me when it comes to serving and passing stuff. That’s why I always want to have something where the servers have a motivation. For example, in the drill Flip-Switch while the passers are working on seam communication the servers are specifically looking to attack said seams. Similarly, the games I talked about above give the servers a specific performance objective (ace or out-of-system).

As I noted at the bottom of this post, there are all kinds of ways you can really get focused, high quality passing reps into your practice.

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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.

    1 Response to "Favorite serve-receive drills for older players"


      My specific passing drill is where three passers pass to target at the net. The team gets 10 serves and each are rated based on the 3pt value system. After 10 passes the score is divided by 10 to get a percentage. Goal is 1.8 or better.
      This same drill variance is executed from team serve receive 1-6 formations. If team doesn’t pass over 1.2 the team repeats the rotation until 1.2 or better is achieve. Servers are encouraged to serve extremely tough to challenge the team.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.