January 13, 2008

Volleyball Practices - How to Make them Better!

Part of Recruiting is going to watch Club Volleyball teams practice. I actually prefer to watch a team practice than play in tournaments - the practices allow me to spend more time observing the many different attributes of a Potential Student Athlete. Unfortunately, the mass majority of Club Volleyball practices are not very good.

Club Volleyball is the next level up from High School volleyball and the bridge to College Volleyball. No matter how easy a training regimen will be for a College team, it is hands down better than most Club Volleyball sessions. It is more than just the College athletes being physically and mentally more mature, it is the preparation of the coaches.

My overall impression of Club Volleyball practice is one of poorly used time. Too often, players are standing around, coaches are figuring out what to do next and everyone is just going through the motions. While this may well happen at any number of College programs, most will be much more organized, efficient with their allocated time frame and the players are well rehearsed about how the practice should and will be conducted.

A few College suggestions for Club Volleyball coaches:

1. Come to practice with a written, detailed plan for that evening's practice - drills, amount of time per drill, players names associated with each drill, what drills to cut if time is running out, what drills to add if you have more time, what the goal is for the practice and each drill; be completely thorough with everything that is supposed to happen.

2. After a preliminary 'meet and greet' time with players and amongst players, start the practice at the appropriate time - this immediately sets the tone for the day.

3. Demand that the players move quickly in each drill and quickly into the next drill - it is comical to hear a coach say "hustle" to shag or get a drink, then the players just walk around, yet the coach does nothing to reprimand them - words don't work.

4. If the player's are not following the most basic instructions; hustle, shag, quickly get a drink; the most routine volleyball movements - then there should be a penalty. I like to start with sit-ups and move quickly into push-ups. Sprints don't work, anyone can run - but female volleyball players do not like push-ups.

5. Take enough time to completely explain how the drill will work and the focus (reason) you are doing the drill, then move into it quickly - don't waste time finding balls, talking to an assistant, letting the players wander into their supposed spot - move quickly into the drill.

6. Engage in drills that make volleyball sense. I recently watched a drill where the Club coach had a player serve, then run to left back to dig a hard driven ball, then chase a tip from left back, then hit a ball front row. What part of this drill did not make sense? The front row attack is illegal, based on the first three touches - the players should have hit back row, that would have made sense.

7. Keep as many people actively touching balls and engaged in drills. In the above mentioned drill, there was one person working and 10 people standing around watching/shagging. This was a poor use of practice time, when a team only goes once a week for 2 hours. Find ways to take a slow, individually orientated drill and make it a multi-person, fast paced drill.

8. Save the 'memorandum' part of the practice for afterwards - information on the next practice, next tournament, uniforms, etc., should all be handled after the training session is done.

9. As the practice is progressing and immediately after practice, make notes on your written practice plan about what worked, what could be made better and ideas for the next training session. During and after practice are when the volleyball 'juices' are flowing, so take advantage of them to create even better training sessions.

One way that College Volleyball and Club Volleyball are similar is in only having a limited amount of time per week to practice. Colleges do a good job of making each minute count, while most Club teams should be much more effective with their time.