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

This was our last full week of practice before starting our season.


Had to cancel this session due to pending snow. It turned out that the snow hit a bit later than expected. What can you do, though?


Not quite up to having the full group of players for this session, but getting close with 8. I had two priorities for the session. One was to get the guys working through the pre-match warm-ups they’ll be doing. For our first match next week there will be a 5-5-5-5 protocol, similar to the one used in the NCAA women’s game (4-4-5-5). When we play our home non-conference match on 3/5, and then all our conference matches, we’ll be using a 5-5-5-5-5-5 protocol. The guys suggested they want to use 5 minutes for serve & pass, 5 minutes for hitting lines, and the other 5 minutes will be triples. We practiced the shared court/own side warm-up part, plus the hitting and serve/pass segments in this session.

After that, to get the guys playing a bit, we played 2 v 2 Speedball. The rest of the session was given over to 15-point 4 v 4 games. They featured one side doing all the serving. Mostly, it was a MB/OH vs MB/RS situation, but I had a second variation in there as well. This was all to continue integrating the guy who’s first session was on Sunday, as well as to continue working on situational elements.


Still on 8 for this session, but in a different configuration. We got the knee guy back, but one of the MBs had to miss due to work. We did the pre-match warm-up again, the rolled into working on Rotations 1 and 2 (setter in 1 and 6). Along with making sure we worked through our offensive options, I wanted to get a bunch of good passing reps for the receivers. Specifically, reps we could stat for comparative purposes.

To facilitate this, I needed to make sure all the passers got in there – including all 3 of our DS/Libero types – and that our passers faced our stronger servers. That means I flipped people back and forth, sometimes didn’t have the full 6 players in, or only had 1 of the two OHs in there. I also gave the guy who would be our back-up setter should anything happen to our starting guy a few reps. That also let said starter serve some as well.

After that, to get us hitting against blockers in a competitive fashion, we played narrow court 4 v 4. Since we only had the one MB, I had to get a bit creative. On one team I had one libero, the setter, our OPP, and the MB. On the other team I had our to OHs, a libero, plus the guy doing the back-up setting. The latter was limited in that he wasn’t supposed to hit or block. We played 4 games 22 v 22 style. For the second set of games I flipped the two OHs on the one team, and the Setter and OPP on the other.

At the end of practice I had to talk to the guys about focus. While not as bad as the previous night, toward the end there was a definite lack.


No practice this day. Instead, I had an evening zoom talk with my assistants. I wanted to go over match responsibilities and a few other things.


Similar practice approach to Wednesday. We made a tweak to the pre-match warm-up we’d been doing. It occurred to me that we were going to likely have more limited balls available to us. That means in the hitting lines warm-up in particular we needed to incorporate more ball retrieval, so we made a change to accommodate.

From there we again worked on a pair of serve receive rotations, and getting stats for the passers. I was really happy with the servers. They were really going after it and putting the receivers under pressure.

Since it was our first time having 9 players in the gym at the same time, I finished the session by letting them play Winners 3s.

On the fun side, we did Media Day before practice. The guys (and I) all got their head shots for this year. No team photos this year, but a few of the guys did some additional shots.


Unfortunately, back down to 7 for this session as a couple guys had to miss because of work. After returning to the stability work at the start of the session which we’d left out to work on the pre-match routine, we had a bit of a patch-work practice. I introduced them to the Player Winners game. In fact, I went beyond that and had them, after a while, play it on a diagonal (4 to 4).

From there we did a bit of “get it in” target serving, then rolled into a bit of situational offense vs. block.

Opposition scouting

I watched part of two matches during the week. One was a pair of teams from our conference playing each other. The other was a match between the non-conference opponents we have in our first two matches going against each other. Neither match was very good. Both were pretty lopsided and featured some bad volleyball.

I actually gave the team the homework of watching that latter match. Now I have to worry about them getting complacent against Wednesday’s opponent (though probably not next week’s).

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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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