Synopsis: This is a small-sided game that turns the Cooperative Cross-Court Hitting drill (or the rotating variation) into a competitive exercise. It has a strong focus on defense and transition hitting for the pin hitters.

Age/Skill Level: This is a drill for intermediate to advanced players.

Requirements: 8 players, full court divided in half lengthwise

Execution: Put one player each in Positions 4, 5, and 6 with a setter at the net (Position 2) on both sides. Initiate a ball and play out a normal rally with the constraint being that all attacks, etc. must be played cross-court into the opponent’s left half of the court. Play a game to a set score.

This Left vs Left or 4 vs 4 set up is the first of a 4-game progression. For the second game, move one team to their right side (players in Positions 6, 1, and 2 with the setter in 5). This makes it a Left vs Right or 4 vs 2 game. For the third game shift the other team so it’s Right vs. Right. Finally, shift the other team back so they’re playing Right vs. Left.


  • Instead of regular scoring you can go with earned points only. That’s kills and blocks.
  • Depending on the left of play and the challenge you want you can initiate each rally with a free ball or a down ball. You could have it be a serve, but that would likely drop the tempo of the game down considerably.
  • You can alternate sides when initiating a new rally, or you could give the ball to the team that just won. The latter is a good option when using the “earned points” scoring approach.
  • You can have the players rotate a few different ways, depending on your focus. One is to rotate each time they send the ball over the net. Another is to rotate at the end of each rally. One option I’ve used is to only rotate the team that lost the rally.
  • If you have more than 8 players you can use the rotation points to substitute them in.

Additional Comments:

  • You should have a plan for how to handle balls off the block that don’t go in to the active playing area. For example, you could give the attacking team a point if the ball goes out of bounds entirely (outside the court), but call it a wash if the ball lands in the unused part of the court.
  • Players tend to struggle with positioning and such when they are playing the Right side games. They might need some guidance. Or you could use it to encourage them to problem-solve as a unit.
  • Because the idea is to play a four-game sequence, and the tempo is quite high (good for conditioning), you’ll want to keep the games fairly short. At Midwestern State we generally played games to 7 with the earned-points-only scoring variation. With teams that score less often you may want to only go to something like 5 points, depending how long you want to whole exercise to go.
  • This tends to end up being a heavily defense-oriented exercise (lots of dig-to-transition) because generally there is just a single block involved (if that). Still, it can be used to work on block positioning given good feedback.

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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.

    2 replies to "Game: Side v Side"

    • Marek

      Hi John,

      I am a bit confused with your explanation of the 2nd progression here i.e. For the second game, move one team to their right side (players in Positions 6, 1, and 2 with the setter in 5). This makes it a Left vs Right or 4 vs 2 game.

      Do players on the Left side still hit cross-court into the opponent’s (Right side) left half of the court, which would mean that setter is digging in 5 and player in 6 is also digging , is that the intent ? And what about player in 2 on the Right side, what does he/her do since all hits against their side supposed to be cross-court, to their opponents left half of the court.

      Sorry but i am a bit confused here 🙂 Do you have diagrams for all 4 variants of this drill ?


      • John Forman

        Sorry for the delayed reply Marek. I clearly missed your comment when you posted it.

        The teams always attack into the half of the court occupied by the other team. So, in the initial case, all attacks are into the opposing cross court. If you flip things around so the teams are both on their right side of the court (players in 6, 1, and 2 with the setter generally working from 3), it is still a cross court game. Once you shift it to where if is left side vs right side, however, it becomes a line attack oriented game (4 vs 2)

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