I know this may not be the typical type of question you get, but I have been a fan of your blog for several years and I was wondering if you had any advice for our team. I am the head coach of a Men's College Club team at a relatively small school. We are currently in our preseason and have played in a few tournaments so far this year. We have had some success, but always seem to fall short against good teams. We have some talented players, but I feel that we are not doing enough to improve their talents in practice and get the ready to face high level teams. The issue is our starting 7 have come from good high school and/or club programs and have very good attacks (and relatively good setting and passing) whereas the backups and 2nd team are newer to the game and are coming along, but really aren`t able to be competitive with our starting 7 in practice. We do a number of drills with hitting and blocking as a team, but I feel that the starting 7 or 8 are not really gaining much from practice.
My question is: do you have any advice or drill on how to work on defense (blocking and covering balls of blocks) without really having strong players on the other side of the net to practice against? We do butterfly drills and have starters block hitting lines, but we are not able to really challenge our starters.
I played on the same team for years and just started coaching the team last year, so I do not have any other experience coaching at the college level (I am an assistant for a local high school team). Any advice you could give would be helpful.
Thank you for your email and I am happy to try to help. As you may well have discovered, men's and women's volleyball are two completely different animals.
A few thoughts:
1. Never ignore ball control drills; especially for the younger/newer players. Men's volleyball suffers from the attack/block mentality, but not being proficient with standard ball control will be a subtle killer in practice and matches. Always strive to monitor and/or set up ball control drills, even something as called pepper. Too often in today's VB world, pepper drills are quickly ignored. Pepper is the best way to get maximum repetitions in a short time segment, and you can quickly switch partners/pairings to encourage the lessor player to gain skills from the better player.
2. Try to stay away from 6 on 6 drills, because you don't have 12 deep; instead take the 6 on 6 drill and break it down. For instance, have the 2nd side just focus on ripping serves to pressure the 1st units receive and attack, then put staff on the block stands in LF, MF, RF to mimic a block ball (no matter what the attack of the opposing player). This forces the 1st unit to pass, set, attack, cover and transition. You can quickly build from one cover ball to unlimited. Also, you can force transition defense by putting the 2nd unit in attack lines, then after the 1st unit attacks, toss a ball to the 2nd unit setter to mimic a perfect dig; this forces the 1st unit to quickly get into transition defense and allow sthe and unit to have perfect ball to reattack.
3. Do 3 on 3 ball control drills across the net and mix the groups; encourage a certain number of 'across the nets' with a penalty if they fail (sit ups/push ups). You can always vary the drill by making it implemented with a serve or free ball, only setting one attacker, only hitting one zone, no hitting, etc.
In summary, break down the game into segments, to mask the lessor player abilities, and always do ball control drills.