This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2020-21 season.

Another week were we never really had the full set of players in practice, forcing some creative work to maximize development of those we did have.


We were down our MB-turned-OPP for this session, so just had 7. I had them do a few minutes of pepper to warm up a bit, then introduced the 2 v 2 Side Switch game. It’s not the easiest game to get a handle on, so it was no surprise they took a while to get the swing of it. Once they did, though, you could see them trying to figure out together how to be successful. That was a big part of my motivation for doing the exercise. An adjustment I think would help it go better from a sustained rally perspective is to narrow the court or go 3v3.

After some serving where I had them work on tough serves, we shift to working on sideout offense. I ran them through a bunch of different configurations of hitters and blockers so our setter could work on offensive options, timing, etc. We always had blocks up. For example, I started with the two OHs as the only attackers. The front row one hit through 4 while the back row one ran the pipe. I used my two MBs to block middle and right on the other side.

Unfortunately, in the latter part of practice on of the OHs hurt his knee during a block jump.


More of essentially the same. After the stabilization circuit I had them do a Winner’s version of short court doubles (3m line, full width). We then went to 3 v 4 back court attacking with rotation every time your side sent the ball over the net to get the arms going a bit more. From there it was on to Flip-Switch, but with 2 hitters this time as we had 7.

Unfortunately, we lose one of the guys an hour in for work on these days, which I’d forgotten about. I’d planned on doing some 3 v 4 offense vs. defense stuff, but that went out the window. As a result, we did more of the partial serve receive offense work we’ve been doing consistently. There was a block, but no game element.

I finished with a game, though. It was the 6 against my assistants serving in a game to 25. Basically, if the team got a kill on a good attack, or the assistants missed their serve, the team got a point. Otherwise, the assistants did. The team rotated each time they got a point, except on missed serves. It ended up being, I think, 25-22 to the team.


This was mainly a setting and hitting practice. I had 7 guys, one of whom (a MB) came off the prior session worried that he wasn’t hitting well. To help him out, and to give the setter some more reps to work on timing, we did a lot of pretty basic pass to attack. Basically, everyone hit the same tempo ball – 1s, 31s, Gos, what I guess we’re calling Blues (92 in the old USA system) and pipes. It wasn’t a super long session, with an 8am session ahead the next morning – especially have a couple of guys got a little gimpy toward the end.


Serving and passing was the major focus for this session. I had them do some 3-person Over-the-Net pepper to start. There were some struggles, and I had to have some sharpish words for them about body language, frustration, supporting each other, etc. After that I had them do a 3 v 3 diagonal pepper along the lines of Side v Side. The attitude and energy was better.

They did some straight-up serving for a bit after that, then we played a servers vs. passers game. I split the group (only had 6) in half. One trio started off serving, the other trio passing. Each group did both and we kept and aggregate score across the two rotations. Servers got a point for an ace or overpass. Receivers for a 3 pass. Each rotation featured 20 in serves, so misses didn’t count either way. I wanted the passers going aggressively. That went pretty well. The guys enjoyed the competition and it was closely matched.

We did a couple of variations of serve receive to attack after that, then I had them play a back row attacking, narrow court triples game to finish.


We added a new body to the team for this session – a returner who finally got his act together and got cleared for participation. He’s an OH, so he adds much needed help there. Unfortunately, because of their jobs, neither of the guys who’ll likely be playing MB were available. That meant a heavy pin orientation to the session. Not a bad thing, really, as we need to get the addition up to speed quickly with only 10 days until our first match.

After having them do some 3 v 0 on half courts to get them nice and warmed-up, I introduced them to the Hard Drill. They only managed to get to 4 in a row, but I didn’t run it overly long since we were only 3 v 3 (no designated setter). From there it was a bit of serving, then Flip-Switch to get in some serve and pass. That then transitioned to some receive-to-attack to work on a couple different different situations. I finished them up with a 3 v 2 version of 22 v 22. We played through all 3 of their rotations for both sides serving.

Looking ahead

We’re not heading into the phase where we can go 6 days a week, like the normal season schedule. Of course, this being Winter in Buffalo (and anywhere in the US this year, seemingly), the weather is looking likely a factor. Our Monday session coming up is looking decidedly at risk of cancellation.

Anyway, we’re up to 9 on the roster now. Fortunately, the guy who hurt his knee didn’t end up doing the kind of damage that was thought initially. He could be back in training fairly soon, though no doubt in a limited scope. We might yet add a 10th, at least part-time, which would be good for doing stuff that at least approaches 6 v 6.

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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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