Volleyball Drill Classics: Dead Fish | Fun Serving Games

If you are a new volleyball coach, you’re in for a treat! Whether you’re getting ready for your first volleyball practice or are in the middle of your first season, I’ve got a fun and easy volleyball drill which your team will LOVE!

Dead Fish Volleyball Serving Game.jpg

OK, so…. Let’s just get this out of the way real quick...

Yes: The drill really IS named “Dead Fish” haha.

I’m not EXACTLY sure why, but I know it has existed since my first season of PLAYING 12U club volleyball. If you’re searching for a fun game to play at practice that will help your players work on their serving accuracy, Dead Fish is a fantastic option. Young teams ALWAYS love this drill, but older teams needing a break from hard practices will also enjoy it on occasion.

Don’t be surprised when you tell your team that you’re going to play Dead Fish and they start cheering and chanting “Dead Fish!” lol.

There are a couple of variations of this drill, so I’m just going to explain the version I grew up playing (which I think is the best version anyway) .

DRILL SETUP

Split your team into two teams. They will be competing against each other, so make sure each team has at least one or two strong servers (although leaving it up to chance could yield some surprising results)!

Make sure each player has a ball  to start, or if you have the luxury of multiple ball carts for your court, you can give each side a ball cart.

OK, you’re ready to start!

RUN THE DRILL

Each team will begin serving, and if the serve goes into the net or outside of the court, that player must go to the other side (where her/his teammates are serving) and lay on the court (I’m assuming, like a dead fish) until a teammate hits that player with their serve.

If the player is hit, they are “rescued” and may return to their team’s side and begin serving again.

The game ends when one team (due to missed serves) runs out of servers and has a court full of dead fishes.

Depending on the serving prowess of your team, this could be a short game or may last 10 minutes or more. With younger players, I usually see this game last 2-3 minutes. For that reason, I usually make it best 2 out of 3.  

RULE CLARIFICATIONS

Since this drill is a classic, you’ll probably have players who have played this serving game before. Because there are so many variations of this game, you’ll want to explain the rules beforehand. Here’s what you need to decide for your team:

What do players do when they have to go to the other side for missing their serve?

Some coaches have players sit, others have them lay down. Up to you!

Are players allowed to move when they’re on the ground?

I say no, but if your team is TEENY volleyball players, then maybe. The entire point of the drill is to work on serving accuracy, so if they can move…. That doesn’t exactly work on accuracy does it? I usually say “booties don’t move” if they’re sitting. Laying down reduces the scooting (which is why it’s my preference). But again, up to you!

Do the “fish” have to catch the ball? Or just touch it? Can it bounce first?

Again, we’re working on accuracy, right? No bouncing! I usually say touch, catching might work for older players who are sitting, but younger players… I’d be worried about their developing hand-eye coordination and taking a volleyball to the face. Just saying!

Can more than one player be rescued at a time?

I say yes! If you only have to touch the ball, then multiple players have an opportunity to touch the ball while it’s in the air. This probably doesn’t work on accuracy as much, but adds some laughs to the drill so I like allowing this.

Do players serve all at once, one at a time, or what?

I like a free for all, it keeps players engaged (whereas lines tend to kill fun) and adds a little chaos. If you want it to be slightly more high-pressure or competitive, try one at a time, with teams taking turns.

Can players hit the ball away from the other team.

I’m just going to say no. There will be WAY too many “hey, that’s not fair!”s and “Coach, she took my ball!”s. No interference, or else the whole team gets to go back. That’ll teach em :)

So as you can see, the game is fairly nuanced. But if you set it up with the rules in place BEFORE you start, you’ll be all good!

Alright coach, now you know what Dead Fish is. Run this at practice tonight and I hereby officially knight you as a TRUE volleyball coach!

PS: This is a great volleyball serving clinic drill, so feel free to use this during the last ten minutes of your clinic! If you don’t have enough for two teams, you could also just have everyone serving to one side. It takes the competition out of it, but younger players like it regardless (because it is seriously fun).

PPS: If your players are having a hard time keeping the game going for more than a minute or two, feel free to jump in and play too! You could also have your assistant play. Sometimes it’s good to let your guard down (as long as you’re still coaching and not serving hard at 10 year olds!) and play some volleyball with your team.

Good luck, Coach!