Here’s a first day back session I did with the Medaille men’s team in their first session for 2021. I only had 4 guys for a variety of reasons. Thought it might be something readers could take some ideas from.

I had a three focal points. First, given that none of them has done anything like sustained volleyball training since mid-March, starting to build up the player’s conditioning and fitness was top of the list. Second, I wanted to start to make some evaluations of things we might need to focus on as we progress. Finally, I want to given them a chance to shake off some of the ball-control rust.


I had the players do two rounds of 6 exercises, each 30 seconds in length. They were designed to target the shoulders, lower legs (knees/ankles), and core.

  • Front raise
  • Elbow up-downs
  • 1-foot side-to-side jumps
  • 1-foot broad jumps
  • Crossing sit-up (e.g. twist so the right elbow goes outside the left leg)
  • Supermans

The jumps were for distance rather than speed. The focus was on stable, soft (quiet) landings.

Block jumps

Next up was some blocking footwork. I had them do a progression of simple single shuffle blocks to double-shuffle blocks, then step-cross blocks. The main objective for me was to see where they were at in their technique. I wanted a sense of future areas for focused attention.

You will probably not be surprised to hear the guys were pretty tired by this.

Block to transition

Extending on the blocking, the next thing I wanted to see was their transition footwork coming down from the block. First I had them do a minimal block jump, then transition off to prepare to attack.

Then we introduced a ball.

In two groups of two, I had them block, transition, then attack a toss from one of my assistants. They were instructed to make controlled swings for the corners. We did this both in Position 2 and 4.

Defense to transition

Finally, some ball-handling!

I had them do a 2 vs 2 cooperative exercise where one player set and one was in Position 4 (later Position 2). The objective was to get to a sustained rally of 10 time where there was a successful dig, set, controlled attack to the player on the other side defending in 4. I had the players flip positions on their side after a given time.

The thing I was mostly looking for here was their transitions after digging, but also wanted to see what their ball-control looked like.


I was going to lose one of the players shortly by this point, so I had them do some serving. Initially, I just let them free serve. After a couple minutes, though, I had them work on deep serves to Zones 1 and 5.


Having now lost one, I moved the guys one to a 3-person reception exercise. Just a simple serve & pass with my two assistants serving. Again, the main idea for me was to do a bit of evaluation.

3 vs 0 pepper

I wrapped things up with a final exercise to add a bit more conditioning and to have them do a some more ball control. Since there was only the three, I had them do a 3 vs 0 pepper. This is where the players play both sides of the net. Once a player touches the ball, they switch to the other side, with the third contact going over the net to one of the now-waiting teammates.


Overall, I probably did a little more jumping than I’d intended. There was obviously a lot of it in the early part of the session with activation stuff. Then they has transition attacking swings. There was also a bit more when they were serving. Most of those jumps weren’t the higher intensity variety, though, so I’m OK with how it went. And we didn’t have a lot of high intensity arm swings either.

Though I had a 2-hour block, I think the session only went about 80 minutes. Didn’t make sense to push things beyond that at this early point and will so few bodies.

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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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