October 18, 2010

Volleyball Position Specific Training

Hi Coach,

Thanks for being such an amazing resource!

I've decided to run position specific practices with my HS JV team for an extra 15 minutes or so after our regular practices, and let everyone else go for the day. That way, I figure, particular positions can get extra reps in or work on footwork without taking away from our everyday, very much needed, team practices. I notice that when I have to give notes or make adjustments in practice for my Setters, or my Middles, or my Outsides, everyone else sorta glazes over and we lose our momentum, so I want to keep things moving a quickly as possible by addressing those issues in special sessions.

Do you agree that this is worthwhile? And do you have any suggestions on particular drills that would be most beneficial for the particular positions?

Right now I plan on working on the Setters' footwork coming out RB or where ever they happen to be hidden in serve receive (and not stopping at the ten foot line to watch the pass, and then chase it!) and reading the hitter better in order to either hold her line or release earlier.

With my Outsides, we have a problem with them not transitioning outside the court and deeper in order to get behind the ball. The curl off really well on defense, and read tips, but once the ball is on our side they stay stuck where they were on D and don't shuffle outside to prepare for a strong approach. This leaves us with the set going past them on the 4, and them trying to chase it and freeball. :-(

My Middles are still a little slow transitioning into offense off the block, and are running into my Setters as they try to get to their hitter's mark (some of them are even backpedaling instead of turning and burning! Argh!) so I know that they need to work on that footwork so that it's instinct for them.

Do you have any suggestions? Or thoughts on what to do with Liberos and Opposites? I'm planning on having the Opposites come with the Setters, but I'm not sure which group my two Liberos should join.

I hope that you are having a great season, and thanks again for the information--I reload your page daily to see what's on your mind!



Thank you for the compliments on the site. I believe your new focus for position specific training is valid. As teams get deeper into their season, the more they should be focusing on positional training and less on team aspects. In a very broad sense, I believe season training should be this sequence: Individual, Team, Position. This is based on the premise that players need Individual skill work coming in from summer vacation, then after the individual skills are back, the Team work must quickly come because competition arrives even quicker, and as the season progresses there are so many matches being played, that a return to skills and drills is beneficial but more along the Positional lines as opposed to individual.

I encourage your efforts to keep as many players active as possible during a practice. I don't like having 3 players in a drill and 10 players just watching/shagging. The ability to keep as many players as possible active depends on the number of courts, number of coaches, number of balls, how big is the gym, etc. As a coaches, we have to be creative in finding ways to involve the largest number of players in constructive skill training.

When you do have a practice day which is dominated by Team focus, having additional post-practice time to target certain positions is a good plan. I know a number of college programs which routinely bring their setters in 30 minutes before the team arrives. Sometimes in the pre-season, we will train in waves with two positional groups at a time while the other positions are running or on cardio machines.

The skill segments which you have illustrated for your listed positions are spot on and in fact, are the some of the same things I am working on with my SA's. A few additional specifics to consider:

1. Setters - Work on the setters not broad jumping when they set; this is a common mistake which is caused by the setter still in movement when they set (either forwards are backwards) as opposed to moving and then stopping to set. When they jump forward or back ward while setting, it gives or takes away momentum into the set which causes the ball to go long or fall short, and it creates a bad physical positioning relationship with the middle blocker on quick attacks.

Also, after blocking, the setter needs to turn to find the ball before moving automatically off the net (if your setters are in a 5-1 offense). Too often setters block and start moving away from the net before even seeing the ball which easily turns perfect digs to the setting area into bad digs because the setter is now moving back towards the net.

2. Outsides - Emphasize footwork patterns to correct their transitional attack movements. Put a cone where you want them outside the court where they start their attack, then make them do the complete transition and attack footwork pattern with no ball. Then add a small ball/tennis ball and have them do the complete footwork pattern with throwing the ball at their attack point. Then add them digging and easy tossed ball and transitioning into attack with no set, then add the set, then add a hard hit ball. As you can see, there is a building sequence to this training style. You have to re-establish the physical patterns of movement to break the mental laziness of not taking the correct transitional approach to attack.

3. Middles - Same exact protocol as the Outsides with their transitional footwork. Start with just footwork, then add a small ball, then add an easy ball, then add normal ball. Again, you have to build the physical movement patterns so the poor mental habits don't stay dominant.

4. Opposites - Should be doing the same footwork patterns as the Outsides. I don't like to separate my Opposites, because I just consider them Outside hitters who play on the right side. To this end, my Opposites and Outsides do the same training on both ends of the net because I am not too sure when I may put my left side to right side or the reverse based upon an opponent's hitter or blocker. It is all about match ups in college volleyball; trying to match my best blockers against their best hitters and my best hitters against their weakest blockers.

5. Liberos - This is the skill position which should be constantly touching a ball, even if it is just peppering while others are in training. What should be emphasized is the Libero taking both seams in passing (dominant to her right and left), and always being comfortable going to and along the ground. Liberos must be quick and strong sprawling and rolling with no hesitation. This is not always the case because the gym floor is hard and sometimes it is just easier to 'opps' a ball every now and then. This absolutely cannot be the case, the Libero must be constantly trained to dig, dive, roll, sprawl, slide, grovel, grind, etc.

I would platoon your Liberos primarily with Middles and Setters. The Outsides/Opposites should be doing their own passing, digging and ball control sequences. The Liberos should be passing/digging for the Setters and Middles.

For any and all positions, just about any drill you do which breaks the position into specific skill sets will be beneficial. The key is to break down the position into its components; movement into attack, transition away from the net, transition into attack, moving to the right to defend, moving to the left to defend, turning this way, turning that way; anything you can do to create targeted training will assist in positional development in your post team practice training times.

Good luck!

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