In the Going next level with “winners” games post I talked about how you can use winners-stay-on game structures to work on a variety of things. This is all part of the broader idea of using small-sided games and the benefits of doing so. I’m a big fan of them.

After publishing the “next level” post, though, I came across an interesting article from a basketball coach. It is titled “Questioning A Games-Based Approaching in Basketball”. I thought it was a challenge to the idea of training in a mainly game-oriented context. That actually wasn’t the idea, though. Instead, it was something I think is valuable to think about in volleyball as well.

The coach authoring this basketball article talks about his experience looking at training techniques from soccer – specifically the use of futsal. It led to some thinking about how a similar set of concepts – faster play in smaller space – could be applied to basketball training. A specific quote caught my attention as it relates to volleyball.

“In basketball we usual construct small-sided games to 3v3 or 2v2 and use the half court setting. This doesn’t restrict the playing space at all, in fact, it expands it drastically per player. Thus making the practice easier for the offense, and their perceptual skills, than what will be expected in a game setting.”

Volleyball coaches love to have their players play games like triples. It increases contacts per player compared to playing 6s. At least that’s the idea. But does it really? Probably up to a certain skill level it does. What about when the attackers are stronger, though? In that case I think you reach a point where, as the quote above notes, it simply becomes an easy offensive exercise.

So how do we address that? Simple. Shrink the court.

I do this all the time with my teams. When you reduce space you make it harder on the offense. That increases rally length. It also forces the attacking players to adapt and come up with new solutions to the problem of scoring.

This isn’t to say there isn’t value in playing on the larger court. There is. The inverse of making things easier on the offense by having fewer defensive bodies in the same space is that it makes it harder on the defenders.

It all comes down to the area of focus. If I want to work on defense I will force the players to cover more area. It encourages the development of reading skills and coordination. If I want to work on attacking I will constrain the defending space and/or add more defensive players (e.g. extra blockers).

Rules and space are two major drivers of the training effects you derive from any game or drill. Keep that in mind as you draw up your practice plan.

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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.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.