Defense Without A Middle Blocker

No matter what age you coach, you’ve probably seen it happen. Maybe it was in the middle of a long rally, or happened on the first attack. It could have been due to a deceptive jump set, or just a misread of your opponents attack.

What am I talking about?

When the middle goes up to block with the setter/middle, and the set goes somewhere else.

In other words… your defense becomes a lot less effective.

Run this drill to practice your team’s reaction to this common mistake.

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Teach Defense To Your Team

Think back to the first time you were learning a new position. One of the most challenging aspects of learning this new position was probably where to go for defense. Not only do you need to know WHERE to go, you need to learn WHEN to go and how much area you cover!

Players can easily get overwhelmed in this stage of their development, but it doesn’t need to be frustrating! By using this quick and easy drill, I’ve taught players as young as 6th grade how to transition into defense.

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Easy Drill To Teach Your Passers To Read The Hitter

According to Coach Karch Kiraly, (U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team Head Coach) the most important skill in volleyball is to learn to read the ball.

This is one of those answers which is simple in theory, but very, very challenging in practice. You can’t just TELL players to read the ball. Heck, half of them probably wouldn’t even know what you meant (and of course, they’d just nod their head and go with it until you called them out).

In order to play volleyball well, you need to anticipate where the ball will go. This has recently become a point of pride for coaches who yell at their teams for diving (they wouldn’t need to dive if they read the ball correctly). Which… they’re not wrong! But we need to make sure we teach players to read and anticipate before we expect them to eliminate any dives or rolls.

This drill teaches players how to read the hitter through simple, repetitive plays that draw attention to movement patterns, helping players learn faster.

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Volleyball Drill Classics: The Butterfly Drill

In today’s drill, I’m going to share the first “Butterfly Drill” I learned as a player, and explain how you can change it using variations (my favorite thing to do).

The butterfly drill is named after the shape of the action. That one took me a long time to figure out, but it is now glaringly obvious.

Essentially, butterfly drills are meant to keep the action rolling, with player-initiated contacts, constant movement, high energy, and LOTS of running (so fyi, this is a great conditioning drill that still incorporates a lot of volleyball).

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Volleyball Drill Classics: Queen of The Court

If there’s one volleyball drill that just about EVERY volleyball player will play throughout their career, it’s Queen of the Court (or King of the Court/Monarch of the Court depending on who you’re coaching).

Queen of the court is a top volleyball drill because it…

  • is fast-paced

  • is FUN

  • is competitive

  • is good as a warm-up drill or to end practice with

  • can be played with as few as 8 players, and up to 16 (or more) per court

If this sounds like a must-have for your coaching binder, I’d have to agree with you. Not only is this a good volleyball drill for practice, you can use it at open gyms and volleyball camps!

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Freeball/Downball Drill: A Fast-Paced Scrimmage Alternative to End Practice

Once we start to get towards the middle/end of the season, it can feel like you’ve been running the same drills over and over again!

Add a fresh new drill to the end of your practice! This is one of my FAVORITE drills to end practice with, because it is high intensity, competitive, fast moving, and mentally challenging for the players.

This drill works best for 6 vs 6 situations (either against your own team or with a similar team you would normally scrimmage against), but can be modified to 5 vs 5 if needed.

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4-Minute Team Warmup Idea For Volleyball Tournaments

You’ve put in HOURS of practice, have gone over every rotation at least two dozen times, and think you’ve worked out the best lineup for your first tournament.

You make sure everyone knows where to go, when to be there, and what is (and isn’t!) allowed in the facility.

Everyone gets to the court relatively on time, and the girls start passing the ball around until it’s time to get started. And suddenly you realize… You don’t have a warmup planned.

This warm-up gets everyone moving and working primarily on the skills they’ll need in their main position, and I’ve liked how well it has worked with a few of the teams I’ve coached in the past.

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Setter Out: A Drill for Setter/Libero Practice

One of the worst feelings as a coach is when you watch your team struggle with something you FORGOT TO TEACH THEM.

“Setter out” is one of those things. Most coaches think they can just say “Setter out!” and then their players will get it. While the concept is simple, players will need to practice this skill before they fully understand what you mean.

The best part is… this is one of those * CLICK * skills that, once players understand, they’ll be unstoppable!

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Feel The Burn: The Passing Drill That Keeps Players LOW

“Stay low!” “You’re standing up!” “Use your legs!” “Shrug your shoulders!” “Get down!”

You know you’ve said one (or all!) of these phrases before. But if you find yourself saying it over, and over, and over again, maybe verbal feedback isn’t working?

That’s why I like to run the drill “Feel the Burn!” Players get immediate feedback that signals they are standing while passing the ball AS IT HAPPENS.

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How To Create Your Own Volleyball Drill

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

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!

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Under Pressure: Passing Challenge Drill To Identify Top Passers

Warning: This drill could result in hurt feelings.

Now, in volleyball, most of our drills should focus on building teamwork and team chemistry. I don’t believe there are any other team sports quite like volleyball, and you need buy-in from every single player in order to be successful.

That being said, sometimes you need players to face reality.

Yes, we all support one another, and yes, we’ll shake off mistakes as they come. But at the end of the day, there are players on your team who are better at hitting, serving, passing, etc.

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Run a Half-Court Round Robin Tournament at Your Next Volleyball Practice

Although I’m big on creating drills to suit my team and their specific needs each season, there’s a classic drill that I always make time for! 

Running a half-court round robin with your team is a simple way to let your players lighten up a little and enjoy competing against one another. Best of all, it’s pretty simple!

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Jousting in Volleyball

You know when those guys on horses are charging at each other with those big sticks and try to knock the other one off the horse first? Well, we do that in volleyball too!

Of course, there are no horses involved, and we really shouldn’t be making contact with the other player. Jousting in volleyball is when a ball is in that weird gray zone of “is it coming over the net, is it not?” 

Ideally in his situation, your player will jump up to hit/block the ball instead of just stand there are and watch it drop (even if it’s on the other side of the net! We still want to be ready).

And I pity the fool who stands and watches while the opposing team goes up to smack it, almost certainly winning the point unchallenged.

Let’s breakdown a joust, shall we?

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1 Touch - 2 Touch- 3 Touch - Columbus

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.

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Switch Up Practice Tonight: Include Your Defense in Your Offense

For many of you, the middle of the season is upon on (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.

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Teaching Your Setter To Set Along The Net, Not To The Hitter!

There are certain drills you run at practice throughout the season because they get your team moving, cheering, and they’re relatively easy and fun… 

This is not one of those drills.

So, why would you want to read more? Because! This is a drill you only need to do ONCE and you’ll have a new team. This is a drill that inspires those *click* moments that I live for as a coach.

This drill is particularly effective at teaching young setters (think 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade) how to set along the net, instead of to the hitters. 

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Pre-Made Practice Plan: Serve Receive and Using Three Hits

Last night I had practice and thought it went.... great! Going into it though, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. See, I had run a practice with this team last week, and my plan didn't go as I expected. I was expecting a group of players who didn't know each other very well, and that was NOT what I got. Here's what caught me off guard:

  • All loud and friendly (except two quiet players),

  • Already established friend group (again, except for the two),

  • Fundamental skills were decent, but in a game setting, everything went out the window, and

  • A lack of understanding of how to use all three hits. It was like watching tennis!

I think this is something you'll see in a school setting more often than a club setting, just because in a school they all see each other every day, and in club, they usually come from different schools. 

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“Hitting Survivor” Tricks Your Players Into Being Better Hitters and Passers!

Think back to the mid/late 2000’s, when Survivor was the biggest TV show out there (at least, it dominated the screen in our house every Thursday night)! Essentially, there was a large group of people who had to face challenges and, one by one, they were voted off. There were plenty of twists and turns along the way, and tons of drama. 

OK, using those concepts, I’m going to teach you a volleyball game using these same principles! (Except the drama part… I’d say there’s humor, but no drama lol).

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Hit The Spot – Easy Serving Game To Learn Zones on the Volleyball Court

Learning how to serve to zones on a volleyball court can be intimidating for young players. In youth volleyball and middle school volleyball, often times the girls are working on just getting the ball over with lots of power! They might not feel ready to start working on serving to zones yet, but that is why we have fun games! To make it less intimidating!

Hit The Spot is a fun team drill, meaning there’s less overall pressure on the individual, but at the same time, there’s motivation to get their serve to the right spot. Players who have are ready to start serving to zones will enjoy this game as well, because they will often carry their team and feel a sense of pride in their serving.

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High Rep Serve Receive Drill

How many times have you gotten STUCK in a bad serve receive rotation? Either one of your players is having an off-day, or the server on the other team is just picking you apart. No matter what the reason, it stinks to be stuck there. Waiting, praying that the other team will just miss their serve and let you move on! Instead of trying the tactic of "wait and see," switch to being proactive!

This high rep serve receive drill will help your team understand the options they have when they can't get out of a certain serve receive rotation. Even better, if you coach them through it correctly, they'll often times make the change before you even realize it's time to switch things up!

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