Normally I’m all for keeping drill names short and sweet, but sometimes a long descriptive name helps players remember a drill better (and it makes me laugh hearing them repeat it).
But that’s not WHY I like 1 touch, 2 touch, 3 touch, Columbus (sort of a “left foot, left foot, left foot, right” ring to it, no?). I like this drill because it gets my players MOVING, and it helps players who are new to the concept of “pass-set-hit” transition from “bump ball.”
For you new coaches, bump ball is an affectionate name for teams who pass the ball back and forth over the net without trying to do anything other than pass it back over. This is NOT what we want! We want to (despite losses and frustration with the learning process) teach our teams to use all three hits as early as they can successfully do so.
SO WHAT IS COLUMBUS?
Columbus is a drill that a coach at my club taught to me last club season, and can be found on various volleyball sites online. I’m not sure who made up the drill in the first place, but it’s essentially a version of the Downball Game (video) but without the requirement of hitting a downball.
Two teams are facing each other with the coach alternating freeball tosses to each side, and the teams play it out. If the ball goes over the net, the team who sent it over rotates.
It’s pretty simple, gets your players moving a lot, and is great as a warm-up or final game before practice ends.
However, one thing I noticed about this drill (particularly with new volleyball teams or teams who are 6th grade or younger) is that players do not have any incentive to do anything special with the ball.
What I mean is that players get the reward of rotating by simply passing the ball back over, which is not conducive to learning to use all three hits!
HOW DO WE ALTER THE GAME TO IMPROVE LEARNING FOR OUR TEAM?
I’m glad you asked! I tried this out with a team of 5th graders the other night and it worked really well, so I think you could play the game with advanced 4th graders up to 6th/7th grade teams who are struggling to kick the bump ball habit.
I start the drill by letting them use any number of hits that they want. Most players will default into one touch, but you’ll notice others who try to use more than that. This may be frustrating for teams, because most who have the mindset of always sending the ball back over do not necessarily look for the second ball to be on their side, even if it’s flying right at them!
After about 3-4 minutes (or once the players have started moving and are focused in on the game, I’ll yell “2 TOUCH!” and now they know that the requirement is to get two touches on the ball before they can rotate.
I will warn you now that it might be ugly for a minute or two!
But once players have their focus on getting two touches, you will see the game change. I’m also a big fan of using peer pressure in volleyball (example: TEAM SERVING CHALLENGE) and this game does just that. If players are prevented from rotating because their teammate is not going for two touches, you’ll hear them start reminding each other and cheering for two hits.
WHAT DOES THE END RESULT LOOK LIKE?
Well, depending on how well your team does at two touches, you may or may not want to advance to three. I think it’s definitely worth trying, but we don’t want to force a drill to run that just isn’t going to work. You’ll want to remind everyone what three hits should look like (pass to the setter, set to the hitter) but if you haven’t practiced these skills enough yet it may or may not work out.
This drill is best for teams who have the basics mastered (moving to the ball in different directions, moving to set the ball, understanding how to set players from different angles, hitting tight or off the net, etc.) so this probably isn’t a day-one drill for brand new teams.
Teams with experienced players, however, would likely benefit from running this version a few times before transitioning to running the basic Columbus drill with no restrictions.
WHAT OTHER VARIATIONS COULD YOU RUN?
I’m all for creating new drills and adding variations of drills to my repertoire. Let me know how you might alter this for YOUR team! Think creatively. What does your team struggle with and how could this benefit them or emphasize a skill they do not always perform.
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