In this prior post I talked about covering for the 15s coach at Charleston Academy for three practices. I was the Technical Director for the club, so oversaw all the coaching. Each of these sessions were nominally 90 minutes long. I say nominally because that’s the actual time block, but you have to account putting up and taking down the net, etc. So really they were probably more like 75 minute sessions. The third of the three sessions was actually even shorter because of player photos before the start.

Before running the sessions I talked focus with the team’s coach. His main priority was simply evaluation of the group post-tryouts. I had a further priority of starting to develop an understanding of seam responsibilities.

First session

This was the most complex session of the three. I only had the 8 players selected, and the team’s assistant coach to help out.

Exercise 1: Touch & Go to warm them up, begin work on communication and cooperation, and get some competition going. The players touched the end line after playing the ball.

Exercise 2: Brazilian volleytennis to keep the themes going from the first activity.

Exercise 3: Serving. I first had them doing a warm-up, then moved them to doing some target serving.

Exercise 4: Competitive version of Rotating Cooperative Cross-Court Hitting. I went with the version we often used in my time at Midwestern State where only earned points count. In this case that means just kills and blocks.

Exercise 5: Back row 4s wash mini games. One team served to start each play, then the winner of the first rally received a down ball. They had to win both rallies to earn a point, and we played games to five before rotating and flipping the service side.

Second session

We had three additional players for this session to bring the count up to 11. I also had two additional coaches to help out. Along with the focus on “whose ball” I added in aggression in serve and attack based on what I saw the prior practice.

Exercise 1: 4-player Over-the-Net Pepper. The team’s assistant filled in to make up the three groups.

Exercise 2: Serving warm-up

Exercise 3: Speedball. One of the additional players was a setter who was doing some individual work on the other court, so there were 10 for this activity. We played doubles on a half court.

Exercise 4: Winners 4s with fixed setters. Taking out the two setters involved left nine, so perfect for 3-player teams. We did a progression, starting with back row attack only. Then it was front row for left and right, but still back row for the middle. Next was front row for left and middle, with back row only for right. The last variation allowed everyone to hit front row.

Third session

This time we had four additional players, and again I had the two extra coaches (though not the assistant). We kept the focus on the “whose ball” and aggression elements.

Exercise 1: 3-player Over-the-Net Pepper to warm-up.

Exercise 2: 22 v 22 Game. We got through rotations 1 and 4 in full, but had to go more quickly through 2 and 5 because of time limits.


You’ll notice a very heavy game orientation to these sessions. Given the priorities I noted above, I didn’t feel much need to run technically-focused drills. The games allowed us evaluate the group and to concentrate on our key points. It was all about keeping our feedback mainly directed on those elements. Yes, there was some additional coaching involved (positioning, for example), but mainly we were encouraging aggression (which was much better after the first practice) and good coordination in reception and defense.

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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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