In the 2008 Olympics, the coach of the United States men’s volleyball team suffered a tragedy and couldn’t attend the first three matches. At first, the team buckled in a battle against Brazil, the reigning champion. However, U.S. rallied to win the gold. The communication between players was a key component of their victory. Drills can help players to become better communicators while practicing offensive and defensive techniques.
Before you start drills, establish a system of communication between the players. Design the system to minimize the time required to explain a call-out. Simple words can abbreviate feedback, which makes match play and practice more efficient. In addition, these terms will be interpreted by players as directions or critiques rather than negative criticism, helping to maintain morale on the court. For example, common call-outs used in volleyball are “tight” for balls set too close to the net, “high” for balls set too high for the attacker or “deep” for balls set too far away from the attacker.
Hit and Talk
Perform a hitting drill in which players have to count contacts with the ball. These drills improve communication and ball control. For example, begin a triangle drill in which two teams of three players each -- setter, outside hitter and middle back -- line up on opposite sides of the net. The coach throws a free ball to the middle back of one team. The middle back passes the ball to the setter, who then sets it to the hitter. She performs a hit to the opposing middle back on other side of the net. The opposing team executes the same pattern: pass, set and hit to the middle back on the other side of the net. Each team calls every contact with the ball, counting up to 25 contacts. The drill’s objective is to be the first team to call 25 contacts.
Call Out and Defend
Defensive players must read opponents’ movements unfolding on the court, such as a ball sequence, and communicate it to teammates to ensure proper coverage. Drills can improve communication while helping players to hone defensive techniques. For example, begin a digging drill by placing boxes at each outside hitting position on one side of the net, which is designated as side 1. Six defensive players line up on the opposite side of the net, which is side 2. Have a feeder toss a ball to an attacker on side 1, who then hits the ball over the net to side 2. A defender has to dig the ball up at least 1 foot and direct it to another defender. The second defender sends the ball to the feeder on side 1. Have the players call out on every contact to encourage communication. For each cleared ball, score one point. After every five points scored, the defenders rotate positions. Continue the drill until the side 2 team reaches 100 points.
Get Vocal and Rally
A rally drill can inspire players to deliver loud vocal calls and promote collaboration. For example, begin with two teams of six players positioned on each side of the net and assign a coach or feeder to each team. The coach on team 1 throws a free ball to team 2, who then must pass, set and attack. The players on both teams have to shout out the next letter of the word “rally” every time the ball goes over the net. Once the match play has hit the letter Y, the teams try to terminate the ball and score a point. The first team that accumulates seven points wins. Teams must communicate constantly to their hitters, informing them whether to keep a ball in play or terminate it.