Team set-up is also crucial in designing good practices. As a coach, you must decide how to keep teams “even” or “competitive.”
For example, if you have your starters vs. your non- starters (Team A vs. Team B), modify the scoring or provide a handicap such as starting the drill or game with a score deficit for the starting team.
Although there is definitely value with getting your “starting six” in sync and playing well together, it won’t do them any good if they are constantly out-serving, out-passing, and out-hitting their teammates in practice. They can develop a false sense of confidence and competence. It is crucial that your players see what they will see on game day from their opponents as much as possible during practice sessions. For example, hitters must get dug and blocked in practice so they will know how to react and adjust on game day.
I also think it is important to make sure players play with different teammates. If you are keeping a competitive cauldron, it is imperative that you give athletes the opportunity to prove themselves in many different situations and with different teammates. It will tell you a lot when you see some athletes continually winning no matter who they are playing with and some players that can only win in certain perfect scenarios.
You want the competitors that can compete with everyone and in all situations to be a part of your starting six on game day. It sometimes is not the obvious answer. But know this, “a rising tide, lifts all ships.” As a coach, it is your responsibility to put your athletes in as many situations in practice as possible so you have the answers you need and you know which player(s) has the ability to raise the tide and the level of players around her.
Options for Entering the Ball
No matter the drill, its focus or content, the ball needs to be entered into the melee somehow. It is best to do it in a way where the athletes are in control and it best represents a gamelike scenario. There are several options for entering the ball, including:
• Joust at the net
• Free ball toss or “send-over” (allow one side to send a free ball over)
• Down ball from coach
• Bounce to side (“last ball” attack)
• Toss to back row for an attack
• Bounce to setter for second contact
Once the ball has been entered into the drill, it is up to the players to see it through to the conclusion. If the drill is gamelike, then similar conclusions will be made during the most crucial moments of a match, as well.
Above all, coaches must be organized in practice, but always flexible and adaptable. Keep goals and objectives clear and allow drills to be as player-centered as possible to promote a sense of ownership and responsibility on the part of the practicing team members.
Know your team and its specific needs – be creative in modifying drills to address particular strengths and weaknesses. Keep a white board nearby so players can see the scoring systems and keep goals in focus as they play.
Finally, do all you can as a coach to keep a competitive, gamelike atmosphere. If you accomplish this, your players will not only experience a high degree of skill transfer, but will become complete volleyball players, both in practice and, more importantly, in matches – from start to finish.