Synopsis: This is a small-sided game that focuses on controlled 3rd contact and can be a useful warm-up exercise.

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

Requirements: 2 teams of 3 or 4, one court, multiple balls

Execution: Enter a ball and play out the rally. Each team earns a point for every free ball or a down ball they send to the other team’s Position 1 during that rally. When the rally ends, immediately enter a new one. First team to be at 10+ at the conclusion of a rally wins.


  • To work in minimizing errors in this arena (since this is supposed to be working on control) you could do -1 for balls hit out of bounds, and -2 for balls hit into the net, or something along those lines.
  • You can initiate rallies via free ball or down ball
  • You can also initiate based on who “won” the last rally
  • The target zone for the free balls/down balls can be whatever you want
  • Players can back row attack and/or you can exclude free balls from point scoring
  • You can have the players play fixed positions, or have them rotate in some way (e.g. when they send the ball over, on a dead ball, etc.)
  • You can have a team’s score go back to zero for a ball hitting the floor with no effort

Additional Comments:

  • This game is something I developed, sort of on the fly, when I wasn’t happy one day with how the players were doing in Pro Trips.
  • If the players have sufficient skill (and focus) they can do this rather quickly in a cooperative fashion. In which case you’d probably want to progress them up to something like the Hard Drill.
  • This is probably optimally played 3v3, or 4v4 with front row setters. I’ve done 3v4 as well. You could go up to 6v6, but that would reduce each player’s number of opportunities to try to put controlled balls to your selected target area. I would personally use a rotation to keep to the 3v3 or 4v4 structure.
  • If the players tend to make a lot of errors, or simply struggle to hit the target zone, you may need to adjust the scoring objective. Otherwise, it might be go longer than you want.

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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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