A poster in a an online group asked members how much they trained infrequent elements of the game. We’re not talking about something like making a pancake dig. Rather, they were referring to events that require a bit of creativity in skill and/or execution. It’s the sort of thing that might only happen once in a tournament, or even a season.

Obviously, we’re not going to explicitly spend any real training time on things that probably won’t happen. That wouldn’t be a particularly efficient use of our time. What we can – and should – do, however, is train the kind of problem-solving mentality required in those kinds of instances.

How do we do that?

Put the players in game situations and introduce constraints that force them to do things differently than would otherwise be the case. A very simple example of this is playing 2-touch. There the players have to figure out how to create scoring opportunities off the first contact. (See How We Learn to Move for more about working with constraints.)

Here’s a more complex example.

Play a game where the first two contacts cannot be with hands (no setting). Then set the scoring such that a team gets bonus points for scoring off a 1st tempo ball (i.e. quick attack). Or perhaps the pipe/bic if that’s something that features in your team’s offense. Then let the players figure out how to do it with bump sets.

If you find they aren’t really even trying, you can go one of two ways. Increase the bonus or shift the scoring so the only thing that earns a point is the faster plays.

I should also note that if you use game-play frequently in your practices (e.g. small-sided games) the players will inherently experience a lot of different scenarios. When you see an opportunity for them to think outside the normal patterns – like attacking a 2nd ball rather than setting it – make sure to point it out, ask them questions, and otherwise get them thinking in a new direction.

6 Steps to Better Practices - Free Guide

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter today and get this free guide to making your practices the best, along with loads more coaching tips and information.

No spam ever. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

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.

    1 Response to "Training the infrequent"

    • Kelly Daniels

      Really loved this post as the teams I coach we always run somewhat out of system (OOS) rallies. My teams really like our ‘Scramble’ play. Coach tosses the ball way out of system and the team has two contact to play the ball over. We do have constraints where backrow much use a specific attack technique to send the ball over. What really gets them excited is when the rally is initiated by a joust and the two contact to get the ball over. We usually require a jump attack on 2nd contact after the winner of the joust. Regardless of the winner of the rally the score is a wash if not a jump attack.
      Then we have where the teams rally with the first ball contact is with the hands. If first contact is not with the hands, the 2nd contact must go over the net. What I’ve found out is that teams really communicate so they can get three contacts or get the ball over on 2nd contact, so they don’t automatically lose the rally.
      Keep the post blogs coming. Enjoy reading and getting good ideas to use in my gym.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.