Does your team need to work on moving their feet, communication, and teamwork? Want to add a competition to practice early on? Run the Passing Ladder Challenge at practice tonight! The Passing Ladder Challenge works best in groups of three but can be altered depending on the number of players you have and the group size you’d prefer. In this example, let’s use 3 groups of 3.
This drill is best for players who are beginner-intermediate skill level from 1st grade to 8th grade and can be changed by using the variations listed at the end of the article.
Understand where you are on the court, and adjust your passing power accordingly.
Communicate with your team after every contact.
Cheer on teammates.
Compete against other groups.
Separate the players into groups of three.
Have one player per group stationed at the net with a ball (the tosser).
The other two players in the group will line up behind the endline facing their tosser.
The first rung on the ladder is a deep pass, or a pass coming from the back third of the court.
The second rung is in the middle of the court, where backrow players typically begin for serve receive.
The third (and final) rung in the Passing Ladder Challenge will be at the 10’ line.
Run the Drill:
Have the tosser toss to the first rung, and only count the pass as successful if the tosser does not have to take more than one step to catch it. It must also be above the height of the net.
The next player steps into position to pass from the second rung, where the tosser tosses to next.
Finally, the first passer rotates up to the third rung and passes a toss from there.
Once the tosser successfully catches the third pass, they switch with the off passer and restart the drill by passing from the first rung. This completes one round, which the team must all count together.
Finish the Drill:
End the round after a certain amount of time (1-2 minutes to start) or after a group gets to a certain number (4 times through). Once you see the pace of the drill and level of competition, you can alter how long to make the challenge last. I would start by ending after a team gets to three, three times through. This would take about 10 minutes for intermediate 5th - 8th-grade teams, so adjust based on your own team’s skill level.
Have the players move up the ladder and back before earning a point and switching tossers.
Have each player in the passing group make a successful pass from each rung before moving to the next rung.
Turn it into leapfrog, and have the players hop over their crouched-down teammate to move up a rung.
I’m a big advocate of teaching a skill before having your team compete, so I would recommend reviewing how to move to the ball in a short 5-10 minute session prior to running this competition.
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Give your team incentive to win the drill if you are struggling to reveal their competitive side. For my teams who are not motivated as much by competition, a reward like not having to shag for the rest of practice or not having to put everything away at the end of the night will usually inspire motivation.