Saturday, 13 Jul 2024

I Need Some New Drills!

As coaches, we are always looking for new and effective ways to enhance our training sessions. Whether it’s through online resources or in-person coaching clinics, the word that catches our attention instantly is “drills.” And it’s no wonder why – drills play a crucial role in developing skills, improving techniques, and toughening players.

When I started my coaching journey, I remember being excited about Bob Bratton’s book, “300 Plus Volleyball Drills,” and eagerly awaited the release of its sequel, “400 Plus Drills.” Fast forward to today, and a simple internet search for “volleyball drills” yields over 30 million results. Coaches are constantly seeking new drills, ones that challenge players and promote better technique. It’s safe to say that drills are like drugs for coaches; we just can’t get enough of them.

But here’s an interesting fact: when asked how many drills the U.S. National Team coaches do with their teams, the answer has consistently been around “10-15.” It may seem surprising, especially considering their level of experience. However, the reason behind this lies in the principle of specificity in training.

To achieve the most effective learning environment in the gym, consider the following points:

The Importance of Starting with the Serve

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Think about it: every point in every match begins with a serve. Yet, how many of our drills actually start with a serve? The answer is, not enough. Starting drills with a serve helps players focus on an essential skill that forms the foundation of every game.

Incorporating the Net into Drills

In every single play during a match, there is a net between your team and your opponent. However, many drills are practiced without a net, which can create a false sense of confidence. To promote effective learning, it’s crucial to incorporate the net and blockers (at higher levels) into drills. This way, players learn in a more realistic and game-like environment.

Moving Beyond Tossing Balls

Traditionally, coaches would stand in front of the net and toss balls all over the court for players to practice defense. While it may seem like a good idea, it doesn’t truly reflect the realities of the game. Players end up getting good at reading the coach’s tosses rather than actual hits. To facilitate effective learning, coaches should aim for more game-like scenarios that mimic real-life situations. This allows players to develop skills that directly translate to reading tips, touches off the block, and attackers’ approaches.

Keep the Ball Flying and the Learning Flowing

During practice, it’s important to keep the ball constantly in play. This means maintaining a high level of engagement and teaching throughout the session. Pull players out individually if needed, but ensure everyone is actively participating. Games like wash scoring and speedball provide more contacts per hour compared to traditional scrimmaging or queen/king of the court. More touches on the ball result in more learning, and that ultimately leads to more success on the court. You can even amplify the learning experience by introducing a second ball into the drills. This approach allows for twice the learning in the same amount of time.

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Creating Game-Like Scenarios

By establishing a core set of 10-15 game-like drills, you can introduce scoring variations to keep the athletes engaged. This makes the learning environment competitive and as close to reality as possible. Remember, every serve and rally played in a match results in a point being scored, so scoring should be an integral part of every drill. When your gym culture reaches the point where players ask, “Coach, how do we win this one?” without needing explicit instructions, you know you’ve created a strong and competitive training atmosphere.

With these principles in mind, you can elevate your coaching game and create more effective training sessions. So here’s to a great season ahead, and thank you for your dedication to coaching!


Q: What are some effective drills to improve serving skills?
A: To improve serving skills, try incorporating drills that focus on different types of serves, such as jump serves, float serves, and topspin serves. You can also set up targets on the court to encourage accuracy and consistency.

Q: How can I make drills more game-like?
A: To make drills more game-like, ensure that they closely mimic real match scenarios. Use realistic equipment and incorporate elements such as the net, blockers, and teammates. Introduce scoring and competitive variations to keep the intensity high.

Q: Are there any specific drills to help with reading tips and touches off the block?
A: Yes, there are drills that can help players improve their ability to read tips and touches off the block. One effective drill is to set up a small-sided game where players focus on defending against tips and touches. You can also incorporate block-coverage scenarios into drills to simulate real match situations.

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In the world of coaching, drills play a crucial role in player development. Whether you’re a new coach or an experienced one, the quest for new and effective drills is never-ending. However, it’s important to focus on drills that create the most effective learning environment.

Starting drills with a serve, incorporating the net into practices, and moving beyond simple ball tossing are key elements to consider. Keeping the ball flying and introducing game-like scenarios with scoring variations further enhance the learning experience. By following these principles, you can elevate your coaching skills and help your players reach their full potential.

So, here’s to a great season with exciting and impactful training sessions. Embrace the power of drills, and thank you for your commitment to coaching!

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