For many of you, the middle of the season is upon us (or fast approaching), and with that, boredom can start to set in. The number of new drills and concepts which you’re teaching your team has probably dropped, and not only is your team feeling a lack of fresh energy, but you’re feeling it too!
This part of the season is my least and most favorite. When the monotony kicks in, it can feel like there’s nothing you can do! BUT! When you finally think of a fresh take on a drill or come to practice set on pepping things up, that’s when the magic happens.
One way I like to give my team a boost in the middle of the season is to start incorporating offensive plays. This means running quick sets, trailers, etc. I’ll tell you right now… I don’t care how pretty it is. In fact, this entire section of practice (10-15 minutes maximum) could be a total disaster and I’d still call it a win, as long as my players are smiling and laughing.
Fun Learning Beats Serious Reps
In my experience, when my teams are enjoying themselves at practice, learning new skills, and leaving the gym sweaty and gulping down water, THAT is what successful seasons are built from!
Rep sessions are great, don’t get me wrong. Players need to get a lot of touches on the ball and they need to practice each skill a high number of times to perform said skill well under pressure in a game situation.
The difference between the two isn’t in what’s being taught, its in how it affects your team’s motivation levels.
I haven’t talked a lot about burnout here on Get The Pancake, but with the year-round volleyball players are participating in these days, it’s a serious concern! My own personal experience with burnout came after too many back-to-back school-to-club volleyball seasons. And that was with a summer break!
I think you get my point here… Have fun at practice, lighten up, and let your players be silly. When they’re learning plays with a new team, the timing will be off, the sets will be off, and just in general there will be a lot of flailing limbs. But the laughs are what your team needs in the middle of a season, so I say go for it!
How To Include Your Backrow in Your Offense
Front row shouldn’t get to have all the fun! There are a few ways to include your backrow in your offense, and let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like seeing the face of your 4’6” left back light up when she starts getting kills in matches!
Back row players are usually an afterthought for a lot of setters. They’ll get set if the pass is far off the net, or they might be a last resort. Usually, the third ball going to them is unexpected and therefore results in a poor hit, or worse, a pass.
But things are about to change! You are now going to start running plays where your middle goes in for a hit, and your left back, middle back, or right back are able to step up and take a swing from the backrow instead.
Why This works In a Game
The middle is now working as a distraction to the other team, and is going to go through the whole approach, including the jump and the swing. Except… She’s not getting set!
The set will still be somewhere in the vicinity (the closer you can get to being directly behind the middle or right side, the better!) but a backrow player is going to come and hit the ball instead!
Now, the opposing team (especially the first time you run this play) will be setup for a middle or right side attack, and the blocker will probably go up to block your attacker. When the blocker comes down without the ball being hit yet is when the other team gets confused. Some will even start to stand up straight and start looking for the ball to be passed over the net. This is when your defensive player gets to shine and come from the back with either a downball or a backrow attack.
Because the team is not ready for it, often just getting the ball over and in (with a little pace!) is enough for a kill, or will at least force a passing error. And this is my favorite part: When the front row, who is used to getting all the glory for their hits, all turn around together and start clapping and high-giving your backrow player.
How this Changes Your Season
Your players all show up to practice wanting to get better (whether they show it everyday is another story). So when you are able to teach them something new like running a play which tricks the other team, their desire to get better will be met. They’ll want to keep working on this new play, and may even start creating their own versions of it.
There will be excitement on the court. And even if your team isn’t able to win in a match, giving them small tasks like this one will give them something to aim for. And if they can do it in a game, it will give them a sense of pride and accomplishment, no matter the outcome.
The atmosphere changes at practice when you are introducing new ideas and strategies to your team, not just working on the same skills everyday. Mix it up tonight and see how your team does with running plays!