The following question came in from a reader. It’s regarding what to do when personnel constrain your options in training. In this case it’s in terms of setters on a team running a 6-2 system:

Here is the problem: I have two setters that are the two of my better all around players so we play a 6-2. In practice when we do 6 v 6 drills and games I am left playing 5-1 due to only the two setters. How does one get around that situation when there are no other setters available?

We all face problems like this one at times. I have a few questions in this particular case:

  • Do you have other more developmental setters in the squad you can use in limited setting roles?
  • Do you have an assistant coach who can set the B side in 6 v 6?
  • Is there an external player you can have in training sometimes to set?

In other words, have you explored all the options for identifying or bringing in other possible setters to help out when you want to work your starters together? If not, then definitely see what you can do there. If so, then we have to be creative in terms of structuring things, setting priorities, etc.

In this case I would suggest that at times it is appropriate to focus on these better players being setters. At other times focus them on being hitters. That would allow you to have them work on more facets of their games in the 6 v 6 situations.

For example, sometimes you want your other players to get the best sets so they can work on attacking development. At other times, though, maybe you put the focus on more of a scramble type play. That’s mainly out-of-system play and quality setting is actually something you don’t want happening a great deal. Or maybe you just focus on working the top players as hitters and have them train their attacking with the lower quality sets necessarily coming from the other non-setters in the team.

Of course playing small-sided volleyball games is great for working on all-around skills for all your players.

To specifically work the starters playing together, set up games where the non-starters can be competitive. You have to do this without requiring quality setting. For example, you could do a wash drill/game where the B side could serve every ball and scores a point if they can get a good swing from the A side’s first ball over (as well as on an ace, block, or A team error). This puts the focus on getting a first-ball score for the A team. Another option would be to have the B side get an attack off a tossed ball to start each rally. The A side would then have to defend and transition.

The idea in both cases is to give the B team a motivation to play with intention and competitiveness even though they are clearly undermanned, while at the same time allowing you to focus on certain types of play with the A team.

It’s almost always best to use your 6 v 6 games in training to focus on something specific rather than just letting the players go like it’s a regular match. If you’re creative about setting up those priorities and finding ways to work with available strengths or on certain weaknesses you can often find ways to adapt things to the personnel you have at hand. It takes a bit of creative thinking, though.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager for Volleyball England (overseeing the national team pipeline systems), 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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