One of the biggest mistakes I see new coaches make is that they focus on teaching a skill in a controlled environment, but unfortunately this doesn’t translate well to game scenarios.
In a match, you’ll never have someone toss the ball to you, exactly where you’re expecting it, over and over again. In an effort to get my players used to MOVING and EXPECTING to move to the ball, I came up with this simple passing progression drill. It’s a perfect “beginning of the season” drill and is great as a skill check-up drill later in the season as well.
Pass to the target from a toss (on the same side of the net) to the “Freeball Defense” position.
Players will start on the court in defense for a freeball (usually splitting the backrow into two halves, covering the left back side in the video demonstration).
Have a line waiting off to the side ready to jump in as soon as the pass is completed. After passing, the player will run to the end of the line.
Have players go through and pass 5x each.
Transition from “Base” position back to freeball defense. Pass to the target from a toss on the same side of the net.
Players will work on their footwork to get back to defense, and will practice transitioning quickly before passing the ball. I teach “step, cross, hop” footwork for movement all over the court, but some coaches will just have players run to the spot they need to be, others will have their team shuffle. There are pros and cons to both, so do whichever seems right for your team.
Very important. In this progression, make your players yell, “Free!” as they are transitioning off the court. This will help to reinforce good habits for gameplay.
Again, have each player move through the line, passing 5x each.
Transition from “Base” position back to freeball defense. Pass to the target from a toss OVER the net.
Now we’re getting more gamelike, as the ball is coming over the net at a trajectory similar to what it would be like in a match. Of course, there’s still a bit of a difference because in a game, the ball would be unpredictable, so if your team is more advanced, make this a little more challenging by moving the ball around on the other side of the court when you toss/pop it over.
Again, players are yelling “Free!” as they transition, and we’re focusing on them facing forward the entire time. We don’t want them to turn and run, because then they are more likely to lose sight of the ball.
5x through, then rotate.
Transition from “Base” position back to freeball defense. Pass to the target from a DOWNBALL over the net.
Depending on how you choose to have your team defend again a downball (or backrow attack), you might have your player move to a slightly different area on the court. With my younger teams, I keep it simple and have them move to the same spot that they do for a freeball.
You’re going to hit them ball at your players, and they will learn to adjust their passing form for harder hits.
Once you go through 5x each, you’re done! You could also add on more progressions, or do the same thing for right back position, but the progressions as they are will take about 10-15 minutes. Adding more or running through it again in one night might lead to boredom and lower performance, so if you want to try different progressions, I suggest you save them for the next time you run this drill!