Volleyball is a sport centered around speed, power, quick responses and fast directional changes. To excel at the game, you must work on your reaction time. According to the strength and conditioning coach of the University of Washington women's volleyball team, Daniel Jahn, players need to move rapidly in lateral, vertical and horizontal directions all over the court. There are some drills you can do that will enhance your innate reflexes and increase your reaction time.
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Try a shuffle warm-up combined with a reaction drill to increase your directional speed and response times to plays. For the warm-up, stand in a quarter-squat position and face right. Shuffle to the right for 10 yards, then pivot in a half-circle and shuffle to the left. Keep your eyes and head up and complete two sets.
Have your coach or a teammate face you on the opposite side of the net for the reaction drill. Look for her hand signals telling you to sprint left, right, forward or back; your partner should change directional signals every three to five seconds.
Practice a variety of quickness drills to build speed and hone reflexes. Set up two cones about five yards apart and use a crossover step to cover the space between the cones. Touch each cone as you reach it, moving as quickly as possible.
Set up four cones in a square, each one roughly seven yards apart, to do a box drill. From the bottom left cone, sprint to the top left, then shuffle quickly to the top right. Circle this cone and then backpedal to the bottom right cone before shuffling back to the starting point. To make this drill more challenging, have a partner blow a whistle periodically, at which time you must leap as high as possible to work on your vertical jump.
Play tennis or racquetball, practice juggling or play catch to increase upper body reflexes. Though these may not seem volleyball oriented, such activities will work on your hand-eye coordination and thus will serve you well on the court.
Sit in a chair and hold out your arm, spacing your index finger and thumb an inch apart to try the quick hand ruler catch with a partner. Have your partner hold a ruler just above your fingers. She should drop it after giving you the “get ready” signal. React as quickly as possible to catch the ruler between your fingers. To make it more challenging, have your partner hold the ruler higher or have her increase or delay her drop time after giving you the signal.
Work your lower body reflexes with an assortment of exercises like laser feet or clock feet. For laser feet, assume an athletic stance and have a coach or teammate point a laser pen at the ground near your feet. Your goal is to step on the light, even as your partner quickly changes its position.
Set up cones or pieces of paper numbered one to twelve in a large circle for the clock feet exercise. Stand in the center and have a partner call out different numbers. Sprint to that number, touching the cone or piece of paper when you arrive. Lower body drills like these will work on speed, directional changes and overall reflexes as you respond to the changing command – all of which will help you in the game.