As might be expected from a coaching course focused on team development, practice planning was a subject of discussion when I did the Volleyball England Level 3 program (several years ago now). One of the bits of advice offered was to plan training sessions from the end backward toward the beginning. The idea is to lay out the progression first with what you want to do last. Then set up the preceding activities such that they build toward that last game or drill.

For example, say you want to have the team working 6 v 6 on transition as your last block for a training session. You may finish with a game like Bingo-Bango-Bongo. The question is then what tactic or skill is a step below that. It might be something like running a hitters vs. blockers drill with free ball initiation. Backing down from there could be work on quick combination plays off a free ball pass. You could use quick attack work as a prelude to that. Since accurate free ball passing is critical, it could be you start with some kind of passing drill to lay the overall foundation.

So what you have is progression that looks something like this:

  1. Free ball passing drill
  2. Quick attack hitting off free ball pass
  3. Combination attacking off free ball pass
  4. Hitters vs. Blockers
  5. Bingo-Bango-Bongo

I’m not saying this is exactly how you just work on transition attacking, of course. How you do it depends on the specifics of your situation, after all. Rather, the idea is to show the progression from simple, technical, lower intensity toward complex, tactical, and high intensity and how you can build backwards from the latter toward the former.

Basically, it’s like navigating to a location. You start with where you want to go. Then build your way back from there by asking “What do I need to do to prepare the team/players to do this step?” at each point as you progress back toward the start of training.

This is how I build my practice plans, while embedding some good psychology.

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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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