Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Creating and Growing Great Volleyball Programs

Starting a successful volleyball program can be a fulfilling endeavor that requires the passion and spirit of one person to begin. In this article, we will share a decade’s worth of ideas to help any and all programs thrive and grow. It is important to emphasize the number one principle in this journey: volleyball is a team game, especially for the kids.

Coaching to Learn

One valuable approach to developing the skills of both players and coaches is to incorporate coaching opportunities within the program. In Japan, practices are led by older elementary kids, who coach younger children for a portion of the session. This model has proven to be beneficial for some clubs, as older players routinely coach kids younger than themselves. By implementing a system where older players regularly coach younger kids, clubs can create a positive cycle of mentorship and skill development. In addition, reaching out to youth outside the program through initiatives like monthly practices or jamboree events can contribute to the growth of both the youth program and the sport as a whole.

Little Brothers-Little Sisters-Little Friends

To foster a sense of community and provide additional coaching opportunities, programs can offer training sessions for younger siblings and friends of their players. These sessions can be conducted once or twice a week for short periods of time, allowing the younger children to learn and play the game alongside their older counterparts. The team sizes and court dimensions can be adjusted to accommodate the younger players, and older players can participate to improve their skills and provide guidance.

Family Volleyball Options

Family-oriented volleyball options have evolved over the years, offering opportunities for parents and children to participate together. Father and Mother’s Day doubles competitions have gained popularity, where families can compete in different divisions based on age groups. Other programs have introduced parent-toddler volleyball using balloons or lightweight balls, creating a fun experience for both parents and children. Family night volleyball can range from casual games to full participation by all family members, encouraging bonding and teamwork. These options extend beyond high school, with family competitions in collegiate and club alumni games.

Pools of Three Competitions

Pools of three competitions provide a middle ground between single match leagues and standard tournaments. By organizing three teams per pool, events can be completed in a shorter time span, allowing each team to play multiple matches. This format offers a better overall experience for participants, ensuring that all teams have a fair chance to compete and improve their skills. Pools of three can also provide an opportunity for league play, where teams can participate in matches on weeknights or weekends, accommodating families’ schedules.

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Round-Robin All-Court Competition

Creating a round-robin competition can be achieved by rotating teams on one court or by dividing a larger space into multiple courts. The concept is simple: each team plays against every other team in the round. This format maximizes playing time and provides a fair and comprehensive competition experience. By utilizing multiple courts, more teams can participate simultaneously, allowing for increased player engagement and skill development.

Add Boys

Encouraging boys to join volleyball programs can enhance overall participation and provide a balance to predominantly girl-focused programs. Adding boys to coed training programs or creating separate boys’ teams can broaden the scope of a program and offer new opportunities for growth. By collaborating with middle and elementary schools, programs can help establish boys’ teams and facilitate interschool training and competition.

Add Extenders to badminton courts

Making use of badminton courts can provide excellent volleyball training opportunities, especially when utilizing extenders to adjust the net height. By raising the net, these courts can be transformed into suitable spaces for younger players, allowing them to learn and practice the game effectively. These modified courts offer a more accessible playing environment and facilitate skill development in a fun and engaging way.

Create Wall Standards

Creating wall rope standards is a cost-effective way to increase the number of available nets in a training area. By attaching ropes to wall-mounted eye bolts, you can easily create additional playing surfaces. This approach allows for flexibility in net height adjustment and enables players to engage in various training activities. Implementing wall rope standards maximizes training space and enhances the overall training experience.

Start Beach Programming

Beach volleyball provides a unique and enjoyable experience for players of all ages. Creating beach programs, whether on sand or grass, allows players to play two vs. two and learn through experience. Playing in a less structured setting promotes problem-solving and self-directed learning. Letting the game teach the game can be a valuable and fun way to enhance skills and foster a love for the sport.

Short Court

Playing short court games inside the 3-meter line offers an exciting and dynamic training opportunity. Full width doubles or triples games, with teammates rotating in and out, can serve as an excellent warm-up or training exercise. Short court games maximize player engagement and allow for efficient skill development, making them a valuable addition to any training session.

Vary the Net Height

Modifying the net height can create diverse learning opportunities for players of different ages and skill levels. Lowering the net improves overhead play and reaction time, enabling younger players to experience success. Raising the net challenges older players to adjust their strategies and improve their spiking skills. By manipulating the net height, coaches can cater to specific developmental needs and create a well-rounded training environment.

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Build a Sand/Grass Court

Investing in a sand or grass court provides a dedicated space for players to practice and enjoy the sport. Setting up regular practice sessions and inviting players from different schools and programs can lead to mixed, coed, or single-gender games and foster a sense of community. Creating opportunities for players to play and organize their own games and leagues encourages independence, teamwork, and creativity.

Start an Elementary School or Middle School State/City Championship

Organizing a state or city championship for elementary and middle schools is an impactful way to promote volleyball and bring different schools and programs together. Providing a designated playing venue and scheduling the event at the end of the school season encourages participation and supports the growth of the sport. Collaborating with schools and physical education teachers can enhance the success of such championships and foster a love for volleyball among students.

State Games

Participating in state games or state-level competitions can serve as a valuable experience for players and programs. State games offer an opportunity to meet and compete against teams from different regions, fostering friendly competition and promoting the sport. Encouraging participation in state games can strengthen programs and contribute to the overall growth of volleyball in a specific area.

Bjerring/Competitive Cauldron Tournaments

Bjerring or competitive cauldron tournaments provide a unique format that promotes friendly competition and skill development. By changing partners for each round and playing short games, players can gain experience playing with and against different teammates. This format encourages adaptability and exposes players to various playing styles. Bjerring tournaments are an effective way to evaluate players’ abilities and determine their impact on the team.

Four- and Three-person Leagues

While many programs focus on 6-person teams, exploring four- and three-person leagues can offer additional playing opportunities and increase learning outcomes. Limiting team sizes to four players with only one or two substitutes allows more players to participate on the same court space. Adjusting the court dimensions to accommodate these smaller teams, programs can create a fast-paced and engaging training environment.

Become a Starlings Sister Club

Partnering with organizations like Starlings USA, which focus on providing opportunities for at-risk girls, can be a meaningful way to impact the lives of young athletes. By becoming a sister club or starting a new program, volleyball programs can empower and support these girls, using volleyball as a vehicle for life lessons and personal growth.

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Parent/Child Teams Competition

Hosting parent/child teams competition can strengthen the bond between families and foster a sense of camaraderie. These events can be organized as doubles tournaments or triples, allowing families to compete together. Implementing a round-robin format or flighting system ensures that each team has an enjoyable and competitive experience. Parent/child teams competitions can be organized on various surfaces, including grass, sand, or indoors, depending on the availability of facilities.

Physical Education Teaching

Incorporating volleyball into physical education programs offers an excellent opportunity to introduce the sport to a wider audience. By providing students with the chance to learn and play volleyball during PE classes, programs can enhance participation and engage more young athletes. Implementing stations and game-like activities ensures that students have a positive and enjoyable experience while developing their skills.

Thirty Kids and Two Volleyballs

For programs with limited equipment, creating stations and alternative training activities can accommodate a larger number of participants. By dividing players into groups and rotating through different stations, more children can actively participate, even with limited access to volleyballs. Incorporating conditioning exercises, invisible ball stations, or using different types of balls can provide a unique and engaging training experience.


Recognizing and rewarding players for their effort, improvement, and character can contribute to their motivation and dedication. Small rewards such as sprayed-painted objects, glow-in-the-dark stars, or personalized jerseys can serve as tangible reminders of their achievements and encourage continued growth. Tailoring rewards to align with current events or movies adds an element of excitement and fun to the program, further enhancing the overall experience.

Score Flippers & Self Referee

For grassroots-level events and competitions, simplifying officiating and scorekeeping can reduce costs and increase player involvement. Utilizing a score flipper or having players call out the score can eliminate the need for official scorekeepers. Similarly, having only one referee or allowing players to self-referee promotes a sense of responsibility, fair play, and player engagement.

Night Competition

Hosting night competitions, either on well-lit fields or under specialized lighting, can create a unique and memorable experience for players. Dusk-to-dawn tournaments or glow-in-the-dark events provide a distinct atmosphere and allow players to showcase their skills in a different setting. These nighttime competitions can be organized for different team sizes and surfaces, promoting inclusivity and fun.

Implementing these ideas and strategies can greatly enhance your volleyball program and contribute to the growth of the sport. By providing diverse opportunities for players of all ages and skill levels, programs can foster a love for volleyball and create a positive and engaging environment. Remember, the key to creating and growing a great volleyball program lies in the passion, dedication, and teamwork of everyone involved.