How To Create Your Own Volleyball Drill

If I had to name my top three favorite aspects of coaching volleyball, it would be:

How To Create Your Own Volleyball Drill | Get The Pancakejpg

1) Helping young players develop into volleyball athletes with confidence and self esteem;

2) Constantly being challenged to out-strategize our opponents; and

3) Creating new volleyball drills.

I guess number three, creating new drills, is BECAUSE of my top two. I like to get creative at practice and create drills specific to my team’s age, level of play, potential, strengths, and weaknesses.

There’s an ART to creating a good volleyball drill!

I know it’s not for everyone. There are plenty of days where I just run classic volleyball drills (hellooooo, Queen of the Court) or use a quick drill I found online 30 minutes before practice (I’m not perfect! Sometimes I scramble too!).

But most nights, I take the time to come up with my practice plan AHEAD of schedule, and really like to dream up new drills which will PERFECTLY fit what my team needs.

I’ll walk you through my process so you can try it out for yourself, too!


Before I even THINK about drill ideas, I like to sit and reflect for about 5 minutes. If I have stats from a recent tournament, I’ll get those out and assess strengths and weaknesses. Then I reflect on the most recent match/tournament/scrimmage we had and think about these questions (in no particular order):

  1. Did the entire team struggle with one skill/strategy consistently?

  2. Was there a point in a match where we lost momentum because of a bad decision or poor skill execution?

  3. Did I make a note of anything during play? (Also, can I find that note???)

  4. Is there a concept we haven’t covered yet that I think they’re ready for?

  5. Are they ready for me to introduce a more advanced skill?

  6. Is the team doing something that works, but I prefer they DIDN’T do (i.e., sending nice high freeballs over constantly)?

You might even get overwhelmed with the answers to these questions, because there are so many things to think about! But pick one, and we’ll move on.

I’ll give you an example to follow along with, and then you can rework these steps for your own team.


Something that a lot of younger teams struggle with (and even older teams!) is not getting into defense on time. Ideally, we want our players to be back in defense before the contact is made by our opponents in an effort to send the ball over (i.e., hitting, or passing a freeball over).

So let’s say my team is struggling with freeball transition. For my example, the drill focus will be:

Recognizing a freeball and transitioning off the net BEFORE the freeball is sent over.

Your drill focus can be as broad or as specific as you want. Broad gives you more options, but specific will usually lead you to one or two drill options.

Additional examples of a good drill focus could be:

  • Adjusting to hit a set off the net

  • Serving closer to the perimeter

  • When/how to jump set

  • Swing blocking

  • Using an overhand pass (set) on high balls

  • This list is limitless…

Guys, I’m not even kidding when I say this: I have created drills to focus on CHEERING FASTER after way too many warnings from officials at a tournament. If it’s something your team needs to work on, you can make it into a drill.

(PS, that drill was pretty fun. I ran a scrimmage with only 5 seconds to cheer and serve as soon as the ball was dead. They were shagging like crazy and cheering at super speed. They got the point, and it was fun to watch how it changed their pace at our next tournament).

Again, our example is:

Recognizing a freeball and transitioning off the net BEFORE the freeball is sent over.


By that, I mean WHEN does your drill focus happen in a game.

Now, in an effort to make it more realistic and gamelike (if you have players with high enough ball control to do so without slowing the drill down) GO BACK one-two touches from what your “drill focus” is.

In our example, players are not UNDERSTANDING when to transition. They need to be in a situation where they must make that determination in order to learn!

Having your players start in base, and then transition because you slapped a ball and yelled free, doesn’t always work.

Going back one touch from the “drill focus” is the freeball. So we want to incorporate players passing the ball over the net. One more touch back, and we’re at the touch which is SUPPOSED to be the set. However, in a freeball situation, it is probably a bad set, or even a pass.

This is how we need our drill to be initiated. Players will learn to recognize the signs that a freeball is coming, and will be prepared to transition at the right time.


Since I don’t want my players practicing a bad set or bad pass on purpose, I’m just going to toss a tough ball to make them work for it, as if the first contact was a shank.

(Watch my video on the drill Fetch. I’m basically going to be doing that on the one side of the net, though slightly easier so the ball comes over 90-95% of the time).

Because my entire team is having trouble recognizing a freeball, I’ll have a lineup on the opposite side of the net. They’ll be playing their base positions for simplicity. Subs will be on the “Fetch” side of the net and will take turns sending freeballs over.

Have your lineup blindly follow your command to transition into freeball defense when you yell “Free!”. This will help them learn until they start to see it in action a few times.

Since the entire lineup is on the court, go let’s go ahead and let them play it out (aka, attempt to pass, set, hit back over the net).

Since we want this drill to move quickly, we’ll just let that ball go (or have shaggers around the court) and start again with another toss to the “Fetch” side.


OK, so now we know our “drill focus”, how to start from (one-two touches back), and how the drill will generally run.

Now we need to add rules which will give the drill a clear end-point.

Options include hitting a certain number of skill executions, timed drills or aspects of drills, total repetitions, etc.


  • Every three pass-set-hits over the net after successful freeball transition, we switch lineups/front row and back row/rotate.

  • Each rotation goes for 2 minutes. The rotation with the most pass-set-hit combos after freeball transition wins!

  • Each rotation gets 10 freeballs over the net. Whichever rotation has the highest number wins.

I’m sure you can come up with more! For my example, I’m going to go with the first example, which is just switching front row and backrow.


Let’s say I run through this drill and my team “gets it” pretty quickly. Great! mission accomplished! But I can make it more challenging, game-like, and applicable to the “drill focus” by adding a new level.

Let’s say they run through the drill and each group achieves the three pass-set-hit combos in about 3-4 minutes each. I think the ideal time to run a drill like this is 15-20 minutes, so I’m going to add another level.

NOW, instead of the “Fetch” side having to pass the ball over, I will allow them to swing at the ball if they can.

This makes the drill much more challenging, now that the players might have to get into defense for an outside hit, OR transition for a freeball. They are practicing making the DECISION to transition, which aligns clearly with our drill focus.

Assign a goal, maybe 2 pass-set-hit combos after freeball transition before they rotate again. This will probably take another 3-4 minutes each, putting me in that 15-20 minute sweet spot.


OK! That’s it! Your drill is made. Way to go!

Now quick… write it down!

Sure you’ll head into practice knowing exactly what you want to do. You know how you’re going to progress the drill and what everyone is supposed to be doing and when.

But in 4 months when you want to run the drill again, or next season when your new team is having the same problem… You’ll want the details!

When I first started coaching, I had the GREAT habit of writing my drills down… kind of.

I have court drawings, drill names, and a few instructions scribbled down. But for the most part, I have notebooks full of random notes that I do not remember making.

What 95% of my practice plans look like…

Click  HERE  to see a copy of this practice plan + follow  @getthepancake  on Instagram!

Click HERE to see a copy of this practice plan + follow @getthepancake on Instagram!

Now when I create practice plans, I write them as if I’m going to have someone else run my practice.

Does this take longer? Yes, but not by much.

But when I look back through my notes, I know EXACTLY how to run that drill again if I want to!

I also make notes on my practice plans as I go, so I know what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to be adjusted.