When I first started coaching, I was steadfastly focused on two things, fundamentals and drills to coach fundamentals. I’m still a huge proponent of fundamentals, as fundamentals need to become habit, but fundamentals are more than skills. This is another subject. The topic of this blog is volleyball drills.
Mary Wise said it best in her book Volleyball Drills for Champions, “Drills are like recipes. With the right ingredients and directions, anyone can cook, but it takes a master chef – or a master coach – to mix and vary ingredients to suit the needs of different individuals.” Drills are obviously important, but how the coach structures the drill, runs the drill, provides feedback, and the overall gym culture is paramount to the drill. A coach can introduce a simple Butterfly Drill (diagram below), explain it to the players, and grab a seat on the bench to watch the drill. Or a coach can have a whiteboard of the Butterfly Drill prepared before practice that diagrams the drill with a few direct focal points, show a fluid demonstration of the drill with experienced older practice players, pull a player out of the drill for a moment to provide technical feedback, and have the drill end with a particular goal. Which coach will succeed? Maybe both.
The art of coaching is knowing your team. Maybe a team that figures out how to make a drill succeed with little direction will be the team that figures out how to beat an opponent in a match. Maybe a team that is detail oriented needs a whiteboard demonstration to provide confidence. The keys are balance in coaching and consistency. The players need to know (in most cases) what to expect each day they step into the gym.
The Volleyball Butterfly Drill is a staple in many gyms and is still one of my favorites. I like it because it is a great warm-up drill that has a lot of flexibility, if you are creative with it. Often times I’ve seen many players sigh and roll their eyes when a coach says, “Butterfly Drill”, but a drill is what you put into it. The Butterfly Drill can be a fun drill. Here is an explanation of the drill:
The Butterfly Drill is a great basic drill that requires all players to perform all skills. Next add variations to make the drill more fun and challenging. Variations can include a goal of 10 hits in a row by a team before a 5 minute time limit. If that is too easy, 10 hits in a row that must go past a designated line in the corner of the court or maybe a tip in front of the 10′ line. Add in a blocker or two. Add in that the serve must be a short serve in front of the 10′ line or all serves must be jump serves. All passers must pass overhand. There should be a team on the other half of the court running the same drill. Make it a competition. The first team to 10 in a row in the deep corner. When it becomes a competition, you’ll be amazed at how fast the players rotate between positions. They will be having fun too.
Here’s how I am creative with this simple drill to add a greater, more game-like competitive twist. I have servers from both teams on the same end line and passers and setters from both teams on the other side of the net. The court is split length-wise with an antennae in the middle of the net. On one half of the court, Team 1 will serve straight ahead to Team 2’s passers and setter. The Team 2 passer, passes the ball and then hits the ball from their setter. After the hit, the passer/hitter becomes the setter and the Team 2 setter shags the ball to serve against Team 1 passers on the other half of the court. The goal is for one team to hit 10 balls in a row into a deep corner of the court. A missed serve will count as a hit in for the other team. I call this drill Butterfly Races. This drill provides tough serves as one team is serving to the other, game-like pressure where the serve needs to be in, ball control for passing, setting, and hitting with accuracy, and great competition. I also usually require each team jump serve too Did you get all that? Its about being creative and having fun with these drills.
Drills are what runs a practice, but drills should not run the practice.