Saturday, July 28, 2012

Five Elements of Drill Design to Improve Your Practices

For coaches everywhere trying to improve their practices here's a few elements of drill design excerpted from my coaching manual written for staff at the CT Velocity Volleyball Club.

To ensure game-like drills and increase transfer coaches should very frequently include the following structures in their drill designs for practice:

Hitters attacking against a block.  A hitter’s first responsibility is to beat the block.  Whether this is done by hitting off the block or hitting around it, players will learn this skill only in a practice environment that includes hitters and blockers.  The existence of the block is essential to providing hitters with the feedback they will need to develop game-like attacking skills.  Allowing hitters to hit on an open net does not prepare players to beat or utilize the block in a game.*

Setters setting live passes.   Setters should be setting live passes, rather than tosses, from varying angles on the court so they are prepared from their practice experience to do what they will need to
do in a game.  Be sure to have passes coming from zones 5, 6 and 1 (at least) so the setters can see in practice the angles they will see in games.

Initiate balls over the net.  Drills and games should be initiated with balls coming/going over the net.  Players need to develop in practice the visual motor skill of locating a moving volleyball in space, reading its path and determining where to meet it in space and time under conditions that resemble the game of volleyball.  This means that players need to read balls coming over the net at random angles, heights and speeds because this is what happens in a game.  Since the game does not require players to play balls tossed in from the sideline coaches should not train this skill.  Balls can be initiated over the net by serves, free-balls, down-balls, spikes and tips.

Players initiate rather than coaches.  Balls should be initiated over the net by players rather than coaches because this allows the players more contacts and affords the players reading opportunities more realistic to the games they play.  A coach-toss or entry here is acceptable to the player(s) who are going to initiate over the net.  For example, if Team B is to receive a free ball in your drill, bounce a ball to Team A, and require they free the ball over the net.  This adds a free ball contact to Team A’s practice experience and affords Team B a game-like opportunity to read that free-ball from a player who is likely more similar to an opponent than is the coach.

Servers play defense.  Servers should be running into a defensive position on the court after each practice serve because that is what they need to do in a game.  This practice makes serving more game-like, reinforces the need to get into the court quickly, creates opportunities to teach the base position and can be a conditioning exercise as well.

 *Hitting on an open net may be game-like for some novice levels of play.  In this case coaches should utilize a combination of blocking and non-blocking in their practice designs.  This will promote transfer by teaching hitters how to attack against the conditions they experience in the game (no block) while also giving opportunities to develop the skills that will prepare them for the next level of play (blocking)."

[Originally published February 11, 2012]

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