Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Growing Kids’ Volleyball


Welcome to, your source for all things volleyball. In this article, we will explore how to create a successful and engaging youth volleyball program. With over 40 years of experience in coaching youth volleyball, I have witnessed both the progress and challenges faced by young athletes in this sport. Join me as we delve into the strategies and techniques that can help kids develop their volleyball skills effectively and have fun along the way.

Creating Kids’ Volleyball Success

Over the years, I have noticed an increase in the number of adults coaching youth volleyball. While this demonstrates a growing interest in the sport, it also presents some obstacles. Many coaches tend to teach the adult 6-vs-6 game to young children, which hinders their learning experience. Instead of focusing on the essential aspects of volleyball IQ, such as teamwork and decision-making, children end up merely watching one player touch the ball while the rest observe. Additionally, outdated drills that involve standing in line and pair passing fail to address the crucial role of the net in the game.

Pair Up and Pass/Set/Hit

To combat the monotony of traditional training methods, I suggest running practices in pairs. By encouraging players to work together over the net and engage in receiving, setting, and attacking variations, we can foster a more dynamic learning environment. For instance, partners can take turns serving to each other, starting with a setter at the ribbon/net, who tosses the ball to their partner. This approach emphasizes the importance of receiving, setting, and attacking skills from a young age. To maximize space and engagement, we can use a long ribbon/net system, allowing multiple pairs to practice simultaneously.

Two vs. Zero

One valuable exercise for improving ball control is the “two vs. zero” warm-up/game. Players work together to achieve a certain number of net crossings before transitioning into full competitive mode. This not only enhances ball control but also encourages cooperation and teamwork among teammates. By gradually increasing the level of competition, players can challenge themselves and improve their skills regardless of their age or experience.

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Loser Becomes the Net Games

Playing “loser becomes the net” games adds an exciting twist to regular practice sessions. With three or more players and no net, participants engage in 1v1 matches, with the loser standing in the middle and becoming the “net.” This game can be scaled up for larger groups, such as playing with two groups of 1v1 or one group of 2v2. By incorporating this element, players learn to keep their sets off the net, while smaller players can practice jumping as part of the “net” action. Keeping score and rewarding points for successful plays adds an element of competition and motivation.

Four Nets on a Rope Competitions

To encourage more opportunities for players to engage in doubles matches, the four-nets-on-a-rope system is highly effective. This setup allows for 8-16 doubles teams to compete on a single adult-sized court. By organizing fast-paced round-robin games, players can experience intense and varied gameplay. For larger groups, timed three-team pool games can be implemented, providing an exciting challenge for all participants. Creating a fun and action-packed atmosphere can inspire young athletes and generate interest in the sport.

Two-Contact Games

Once players have developed their volleyball skills and understanding of the game, limiting the number of contacts per side to two can be beneficial. This variant adds an element of chaos and unpredictability, providing players with more opportunities to read and react to the ball. Incorporating two-contact games for a portion of practice sessions allows players to refine their skills under more challenging conditions. It is important to strike a balance between controlled drills and game-like situations to ensure well-rounded development.

Sitting Volleyball

In situations where space is limited, such as a smaller gym or outdoor setting, sitting volleyball can be a great alternative. By utilizing a portion of the available court, three sitting volleyball courts can be set up to accommodate more players. The rules of sitting volleyball are similar to traditional volleyball, with a few minor differences to account for players’ seated positions. This adaptation allows athletes to work on their overhead skills while experiencing a different aspect of the game. It also offers an opportunity to introduce players to the Paralympic version of volleyball, promoting inclusivity and respect for diverse abilities.

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Kids Coaching Younger Kids

An effective way to solidify one’s understanding of a subject is to teach it to others. In the realm of youth volleyball, I encourage older children, around 11-12 years old, to spend half of their practice time teaching younger kids. Under the guidance of a head coach, these young coaches serve as role models and mentors, imparting their knowledge and skills to their younger peers. This approach fosters leadership qualities and creates a positive learning environment where athletes learn from one another.

Play Coed

Playing with or against older, more experienced players or those of the opposite gender can significantly enhance a player’s development. Coed play offers a unique opportunity to challenge oneself, learn from different playing styles, and improve overall skills. By diversifying the competition pool, young athletes can gain valuable experience and develop a well-rounded skill set.

Three-Team Pool Events

For larger groups and more complex team setups, three-team pool events can provide an exciting and efficient competition format. By organizing matches in a round-robin style, teams have the opportunity to compete against different opponents in a shorter time frame. This format allows for flexibility, with matches ranging from 45 minutes to best two-of-three games to 21 points. Implementing this structure promotes fair play and ensures that teams have ample playing time.

See Higher Level Volleyball

Exposing young players to high-level volleyball can be inspiring and educational. Watching professional matches, witnessing long and exciting rallies, and observing the strategies employed by skilled players can ignite a passion for the game. Organizing field trips to local high school or college games allows young athletes to see volleyball in action and connect with experienced players. This firsthand experience provides valuable insights and motivation for aspiring athletes.

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Set No Limits Based on Age

Lastly, it is crucial not to set limitations on players based solely on their age. The 2013 Thailand School Volleyball Championships serve as a testament to the immense skills young boys can display on the court. These players are not all-stars selected through rigorous tryouts; they are regular kids representing their schools. By emphasizing proper technique, ball control, and teamwork, players of any age can excel in the sport. It is important to recognize and nurture their potential, allowing them to reach new heights in their volleyball journey.


Q: How can I make volleyball practices more engaging for young players?

A: One way to make practices more engaging is to run drills and games in pairs, with an emphasis on key skills such as receiving, setting, and attacking. Incorporating fun and dynamic activities can help maintain players’ interest and foster their love for the game.

Q: Are there any alternative ways to play volleyball in limited spaces?

A: Yes, sitting volleyball is a popular option for smaller gym spaces or outdoor settings. This modified version of the sport allows players to develop their skills while seated. By creating a designated court area and adjusting the rules slightly, athletes can enjoy the game regardless of space limitations.


In conclusion, creating a successful youth volleyball program involves fostering a positive learning environment, prioritizing player development, and embracing innovation. By implementing creative training methods, such as pair-based drills, “loser becomes the net” games, and four-nets-on-a-rope competitions, coaches can help young athletes experience the joy and excitement of volleyball. Encouraging leadership among older players and providing opportunities for them to coach younger kids promotes a supportive community within the team. By removing age-based limitations and exposing players to high-level volleyball, we can inspire the next generation of talented athletes. Now it’s your turn to take the first step. Let’s grow kids’ volleyball together!

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