Here’s a common request from a member of a coaching group in Facebook.

Looking for blocking drills. Specifically for middles working to get to the pin. Thank you!

Coaches are always looking for ways to get middles quicker closing the block. I’m going to break things down, but first I need to say something.

You don’t need a new drill.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, there are two basic limiting factors for middles when it comes to closing the block – physical capability and reading.

Physical capability

This is the sheer speed of movement. How fast can the player get from point A to point B? There are two ways to improve this. Get them in the weight room to become more explosive, and make sure their technique – especially their footwork – is efficient. You can do this to a limited degree with isolated reps. To really firm it up, though, you need to work on it in a coordinated environment with other blockers, and at game speed in game situations.


As I’ve written in general terms about getting quicker, this is likely the area where you see the biggest gains. The better a middle is at reading and anticipating, the better they’ll be at initial positioning and reacting as quickly as possible to the set. This needs to be dedicated work with you helping them learn what to watch. That’s why simply repping out footwork patterns, or blocking in a situation where there’s nothing to read, is nowhere near good enough. The reading can only happen in game-like situations, or at least when the hitter gets game-type visual cues.

Put it all together

So the bottom line is that to make MBs faster closing the block we need to make their movements as efficient as possible through footwork and other training, make their movements as explosive as possible via strength training, and maximize their reading skills. Simple enough! 🙂

By the way, it’s also worth noting the role blocking strategy plays in how well a middle is able to close the block. But that’s a topic for another post.

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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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