Volleyball is a complex, fast-paced game. In fact, few other team sports require such intricate individual skills to be performed at such a highly reactionary level, all the while forcing six individuals to cooperate within a confining perimeter of 9×9 meters. As a result, volleyball continues to evolve into a game boasting the ultimate combination of speed, coordination, efficiency, teamwork, synergy and simplified complexity.
To be sure, the intricacies of the game of volleyball are not determined in the throes of competition. Rather, they are uncovered while a team is in practice. Over the years, hundreds of coaches have debated how to run a practice and what will prove to work best for each team. Following are my thoughts on practice and how it should be implemented, no matter the level of the players involved.
Matches are Won in Practice
Competitive, gamelike practices ensure that matches are not new or unfamiliar situations to the six players working together on the court. Therefore, coaches have the responsibility to create gamelike environments in practice that promote the transfer of skills to the desired outcome.
Drills and games in practice should reflect the same high level of competition, along with the myriad stressful situations of a live match, because the more transfer, the more a practice reflects a gamelike situation. Ultimately, a team is better prepared when it is familiar with a particular situation because the players have been exposed to it in practice.
Because competitive volleyball is such a reactionary sport, skills manifest themselves best as a complex series of acquired habits. Coaches must ensure the habits gained in practice are actually ones that will assist players in the game itself and not prove to be a hindrance.
A quality practice is one where players learn something transferable to the game. As coaches, we want practices to facilitate the performance of learned skills in actual match situations. Therefore, the only true gauge of the efficiency and success of practice sessions is the athletes’ performances in a match.
There are many players who are “game players” and not practice players. Coaches want to put all of their players in situations where they are enjoying the competitiveness of practice alone and the match is just another opportunity to showcase that competitiveness.
Create a competitive atmosphere in each and every practice and you will have higher skill transfer to matches. Get your team to work hard and compete hard all week so that when game day arrives they can just put on their party hats and play!
Check out my upcoming blogs for more information on how to prepare a well-designed practice and guidelines for designing drills and games specific to the needs of your team!