One of the things coaches get caught up in is practice planning–that was the riff I started working with terrifically for this blog (there’s an old music reference there, by the way). But then I realized, there would be some people who looked at it and said, “This looks more like basic scrimmaging stuff. Geez.” I’m gonna get the argument I need more drills, need to hit balls at my players, take more control of things. Except, see, if you go wandering through internet volleyball forums (or the really cool Facebook group, “Volleyball Coaches and Trainers”), you’re going to pretty regularly see arguments over drills, ‘training ugly’ and ‘game-like practice’. A lot of it is old-school vs. new-school stuff and I know better than think I can convince old people that today is better than 1986.
But it is.
So let’s look at the numbers there, chief, that convinced me it’s better to live in 2018 than an era before iPods, X-COM, or Cubs World Series titles. The beautiful thing of this is that I now have the same number of seasons before I made a switch to after switching to game-like training–so the numbers involved are going to be basically the same sample sizes.
LLCC’s W/L Record/PCT before the switch: 201-74, .731
LLCC’s W/L Record/PCT after the switch: 208-57, ..785
So basically, you’re looking at an improvement of 5.4%. Not huge, but that’s still a couple matches per year, and you never know which ones you now get to count as wins! The one big difference is that before the switch, LLCC had never been to the National Tournament and since the switch, we’ve gone four times with three Final Four appearances and should have gone a fifth time. Over the course of a season, a 5% improvement makes quite a difference, right? Oh, yeah, and for context–I ramped up our schedule’s toughness starting in 2014, so we did better against a more difficult schedule.
Okay–but why? I actually think there’s a different factor that makes the huge difference. That’s our injury rate. I keep track of the reasons players don’t play in matches.
PRE: 1,129 individual sets missed by players / 953 sets played by the team
POST: 266 individual sets missed by players / 885 sets played by LLCC
PRE, we averaged being short 1.2 players/set on average over the course of SIX YEARS. POST, we were short 0.3 players/set. That’s a difference of 400% in reducing injuries. That’s accumulated over 1,883 sets…I don’t think this falls into the category of ‘small sample size’ folks.
So, I know the question coming and thus the blog title. “Jim, how would you create that plan?” And I’m glad you ask that question. No, really; I’m trying to procrastinate and what better way to avoid real work than write about history or volleyball?
I haven’t mentioned it here, but one of the biggest influences on me as a coach was Jim Stone. He coaches the 18u National Team now, but I got to work for him for three years while he was the head coach at Ohio State, and I don’t think in the three years I worked for him that he ever blocked drills or segments to take up a specific amount of time. Ohio State worked on things as long as they were productive–if something wasn’t working and wasn’t helping, OSU moved on. If something was going great, we kept going, extending the teachable moment.
What that means is–I don’t ‘time’ my practices. I’ve put some times below as a rough guideline, but don’t mimic them for the sake of imitation, for God’s sake! I’ve also put comments in with what I am thinking for each part of the plan. Put aside ego or hating that you’re tossing out 80% of a practice plan you spent hours thinking about and designing–extend the teachable moment, run with what is improving your team!
SAMPLE PRACTICE PLAN
USAV Shoulder Pre-Hab: We alternate days for this. I freely and fully admit this shoulder workout is 100% stolen from the USAV High Performance manual….
USAV Dynamic Warmup: We rotate through with the three different versions. Combined with the Shoulder-Pre Hab, it gives us six different warm-up combinations. Yes, this is stolen, too.
TIME BUDGETED FOR WARMUPS: 20 minutes (this is done before our gym time starts whenever possible)
50-50-50 Variation on the butterfly drill…ball is thrown from 10ft line (Zn4) to Zn1, passed from there to target (if roster is big enough, setter will set to target, passer and setter move to cover target). After 50 good passes (target is 5 feet off the net, NOT right on top of the net), thrower backs up to 20 ft from net. At this point, thrower becomes server and serves from 20ft. This is repeated from the end line. The intention of the 50-50-50 is to get passers to move/read the ball coming over and gradually warm up arms. Since all serves must go to Zn1, it also works on serve accuracy)
TIME BUDGETED FOR 50-50-50: 10-15 minutes…depends on the number of people in the drill, or sometimes we go 0-50-50 or reduce the drill length.
SERVE-RECEIVE: (15-30 minutes, depending)
- Serves going both ways, two or three passers, target (or setter+target), rotating every 60 seconds or so…servers are working on serving passing seams or specific zones, passers are reading server, setters are getting reps–and target will switch set of emphasis as well.
- Servers, three passers, non-setter setting+target. More passing practice and setters need to know how to pass, non-setters need to ball-handle.
- Serve, passer/hitter, setter. Serve comes over, whoever passes must also hit the set. (We will also do this where the passer cannot be the hitter)
- Serve, pass/hit/defender, setter. Competition–rotate after 3/5/10 points. Score a point for an ace OR a kill. Kill = hitter hits it and three defenders on other side cannot get two touches total. Hitters now have to think passing AND hitting, but also need to think defense immediately, work on reading a hitter’s approach, judging the set, etc
SPEED BALL: (15-20 minutes)
I won’t describe this. If you don’t know it–think Queen of the Court on steroids…finding examples of Speed Ball is easy. By the way, you increase player contacts with the ball by something like 60% this way. We play games for time OR to certain point totals. Rules change with every game–they are explained once only; I want players to pay attention (yeah, good luck with that).
- Variation 1: Net serves = back to 0.
- Variation 2: No setting allowed, contacts must be forearm OR attacks
- Variation 3: Can not hit with dominant hand
- Variation 4: Aces count 3 points
- Variation 5: Tips to a specific location count extra
HITTING AROUND/OFF BLOCK:
This can also be done with live blockers. With the coach putting it over the net, we get a pass, set, swing, and players covering. You can have a player serve it over, but we do it this way so the focus is on the hit/cover, etc. I want balls put in certain places to start the drill and my players don’t have the skill (and we don’t have the time for them to get it) to do it. …and sometimes I don’t have enough players tall enough to put up a serious block…
This will take 10-15 minutes–more if it is going well
ROTATIONS: We will play 6-on-6, working on our six rotations–this will include serve-receive, as well as defense. A coach will toss a ball in, the player immediately free-balls over to the other team…we want aggressively placed freeballs, not just lollipops to the middle where it’s easily played.
15-30 minutes daily for most of the season. In the week before play starts, we’ll spend more time on this. At the end, we spend less.
BASKETBALL (named because the eventual scores look like an NBA game *and* because you score 1-3 points per play): This is a game with two full teams, played in either two 10-minute halves or four 6 minute quarters. Ball is entered by coach to Team 1 who freeballs it to Team 2 to play it out. This will happen for the first two quarters. At the half, teams switch sides and Team 2 freeballs to Team 1
Points are scored differently each day we play… Variations:
- After 6 hitting errors in a quarter, your opponent is in the bonus and receives 2 points for all further hitting errors the rest of the quarter (or half if you wish)
- 3 points for quick set kills / 2 points for tips landing in Zn 1 / 1pt for all others.
- 3 points for RS kills / 2 points for tooling the block / 1 pt for all others
- 3 points for BR attacks / 2 points for setter dumps / 1 pt for all others, bonus 1 pt each time someone on the other team dives unnecessarily instead of remaining on their feet.
Players get a drink break at the half.
The drill really works on transition and provides a ton of contacts. We play this about 75% of the days. At the proper pace, this drill also serves as great conditioning–players don’t get time outs, they don’t sub…they are out there the full length of the quarter, so if they are struggling–the other team gets to take advantage of that. It can add quite a bit of ‘chaos’ and the unexpected–good things in my opinion.
Basketball usually takes 30-40 minutes to play, depending on length of quarters and how long you give for the halftime break.
And that’s a two-hour practice designed to be ‘game-like’ as much as possible.
So…now it’s time for camps to start. That means rather than the weekly pace I’ve been able to keep up is going to change to once every other week. Though I’ve put this up in places like ‘Volleyball Coaches and Trainers’, I may not remember to do it–camps occupy most of my focus now before our LLCC pre-season begins. That means–click the ‘FOLLOW’ button. That’ll get you a notification when something else pops out of my brain and on to your computer screen!!