This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2020-21 season.

It finally happened! First week of real practices. I should note that along with having to wear masks at all times, the players were supposed to maintain social distancing on the court. Mainly, that means I could not set something up where there would be front row attackers facing a block (or there being any multi-player blocking).


Unfortunately, our middle was missing as she was still trying to get her medical clearance sorted out (though she had her test results). So I only had 7 of the 8 available. My big focus was on simply seeing what we had.

Being limited to only an hour, I only really did three main activities. We warmed up with an over-the-net pepper in groups of 3 and 4. I started it off with pass-set-set, then had them progress to pass-set-down ball.

I then spent most of the rest of the session doing a 3 v 4 back row exercise. The 4 side had a front row setter. Each team had to rotate every time they sent the ball over, and I flipped people between teams, so everyone played all positions. Each rally started with me tossing in to one side – often to a player as a kind of 2nd chance.

We finished up with some serving.

Most of the coaching I did was organizational rather than technical.


We still didn’t have our middle and one of the sophomores missed the session due to illness, so it was only six for the session. That being the case, I made the focus more skill oriented than was Monday’s. I had them do a serving warm-up, then some corner target serving. Next up was Passing Triplets with a focus on deep balls. That let me have a look more closely at their individual passing, especially the movement aspect.

Those two initial exercises were basically prep for Flip-Switch, which I did for 2-minute rounds. I set it up with one player at target and one on the other side of the net to collect balls from the target and feed to the servers. As expected, they struggled to keep track of where to go, but to me that’s a feature rather than a bug. It forces them to use their brains and communicate with their partner.

We finished with a half-court 3 v 3 version of the 22 v 22 game. Time limits only let us get through a half round.


Finally had all eight available players cleared and in the gym. The focus was to continue to evaluate their skills, with the additional element of getting some competition mixed in. I did that by making Brazilian volleytennis one of the initial exercises. As happens with most teams, they struggled with things at the beginning, but it got better as time went on.

Next up was Rotating Cooperative Cross-Court Hitting. This was really good for letting me see the players do all the rally skills. They definitely focused better when I gave them a target of continuous 3-contact sequences.

After that, I had them play some 4 v 4 along the same lines as the 3 v 4 they did on Monday. I finished with some serving.

Definitely a difficult practice in terms of the degree of struggle going on. Energy levels weren’t up to where they’d been earlier in the week. Going at 7:30AM didn’t help, no doubt.

Looking forward

I definitely learned a lot about the group from these three sessions. I want to use the remaining 5 sessions we have before Thanksgiving to drill down in a few areas. Some players need to be put in more sustained setting roles to see who might be suited to fill that need. That will, of course, mean more time spent on attacking. Serving and passing are the other two areas I want to dedicate more attention to with what time we have left.

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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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