USA Volleyball’s response to COVID-19 and guidelines toward Return to Play.

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USA Volleyball’s response to COVID-19 and guidelines toward Return to Play.

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IMPACT training provides a long list of scrimmage scoring options. Some coaches mistakenly read this as “all you do is play games” with supposedly no focus on technical skills. The assumption is since it is not a coach-controlled training environment, it must not be technical. Nothing could be further from the truth. When the coach is out of the game/grill/drill, they are free to be a better observer and teacher – able to see the pre/post contact reality the athlete is reading and give accurate feedback/feedforward about the skill performed.

There are related reasons why we do small-sided games like Doubletime Speedball or even the classic “Monarch of the Court.”

If you only have one ball in the air above your court, the most game-like training you can do is play the game, 6 vs 6. Not pieces of the game, the whole game, as you are just learning with one ball in use.

Coaches like Speedball and Monarch because:

  1. It starts with a serve, much like every point of a match.
  2. It teaches the essential “Winners Stay On” mentality of a match, a tournament and in the end of a season.
  3. The players get to cover more court and read though the net, just like reality.
  4. These games create “teachable moments” where a player rotates out and the coach can fine-tune a technical point that is unique to one player.
    • Everyone else continues to improve while you instruct one person.
    • When team sizes are 3- or even 4-a-side, you can keep guiding discovery with one player while his or her team returns to action simply competing with one less 
    • If playing with teams of only two, let the one player compete alone, passing-setting-attacking to themselves, as you teach the teammate off the court as long as necessary.

Players like Speedball and Monarch because:

  1. The team size is smaller so they get to learn by doing more, not watching.
  2. It is over the net, so they know they are learning the reality of the game.
  3. It is scored, and
  4. It is FUN.

Taking the last key points into account, creating scoring that is fun in a 6 vs. 6 situation means I will learn in reality and increase my deliberate practice/play that is happening. In both the MiniVolley book (on pages 64-80 including warm-up and cool-down games) and the USAV IMPACT manual, I shared many dozens of ways you can change the scoring. Let’s focus on scoring options that use the games we played as kids.

Tic Tac Toe

Wash score. When a team earns a big point, they get to write their X or O. Win three points in a row, you win this game.

Chutes & Ladders

There are many variations of this classic board game. On your whiteboard, the coach writes the points you MUST win or else you chute back in scoring an amount and points you MUST win which shoot you forward in scoring a certain amount. One of those points is GAME point of course. How far you slide/rise is determined in several ways – the roll of the dice (1-6 point movements), the drawing of card from a deck which has more lower numbers than high, but does have high cards (jack is 11, queen 12, king 13), or a pre-set number on each (different “length” ladders and chutes).

Battleship

Each team tells the coach where their two ships are on an A-E and a 1-10 grid axis. You let them guess after they win each little point by calling out the letter/number combo. You can track the errors on the board, or you can make them remember.

Connect Four

Win a point, win a checker to drop. Once a team connects four in a row, they win.

Hangman

Win a point, get a guess. The fun part about this scoring is that a team who scores lots of points but can’t guess the letters right, can lose to a team who guesses correctly sooner with fewer points scored.

Double or Nothing

There is a fun way to discover the personalities of your team by selecting the “gambler” for each team who determines as you go forward, whether you cash in your points scored or risk it all in the upcoming rally. Double the points scored 1/2/4/8/16/win or set your own points pyramid of scoring (1/3/7/11/15/24 for example). Bill Neville has a version called “Bank” where the “banker” determines if you risk or go on where you open the bank by winning a point, then get free balls sent over to you by the other team which you risk or save.

Yahtzee & Bingo

These two games require you to create a sheet or whiteboard information in advance and then play to fill in the spots/win the bingo game. Yahtzee requirements might contain different sets, digs in specific places, blocks, or serve locations and aces.

Connect the Dots

Have two players make a dot outline of a drawing that requires a certain number of lines to complete. You win by completing the drawing and being able to see the masterpiece.

Virus

There are many variations of this concept. You might get “sick” and start shanking balls all over the court if it comes to you, or you distract a player, attempting to break their concentration as they do a skill. As this blog is about scoring, the deathly illness is something that you know as a coach (e.g. a shot you want to get rid of using so much), but the players do not know what shot/action it is. When they do it and the team is “deadly infected” they have one chance to save the game, by getting 3-4 free balls in a row, otherwise the team loses/is dead. You can also do this in a positive way, where you WIN the match (ride on the carousel), no matter what the score, by performing the “grab the gold ring” shot or action.

Boxes

Put up a small grid of dots on your white board. The object is to finish a fourth side of a box, claiming that box for your team. Each time a team wins the rally, the player closest to the board runs over and connects two dots, ultimately working to make boxes. The fun part? No delay in serving is allowed. While a player is putting in a line, the team plays 5 vs. 6. Score more points, make more boxes and win!

Football

Played in four timed quarters and a modified version of sideout scoring: you only score points if you receive the serve. A first-ball sideout kill is a touchdown (seven points). Any longer rally must be won by a backrow attack and is a field goal (three points). If a team scores points during a rally, the other team will serve back to the scoring team. If the serving team wins the rally, the other team will now serve to them. A safety is scored when the ball is served into the net.

Base/Softball

You play six innings (rotations). The pitching (serving) team is working to get three outs. The team “batting” gets a home run for a kill on the first net crossing. If not killed, the number of net crossings determine the base runner position (second net crossing kill is a triple, third a double, fourth a single). The pitching team gets an out if they kill the ball on their opponents. The pitching team gets a double play for an ace. The batting team gets an infield double for a ball served into the net and a walk for a ball served out long.

Golf

Not a 6 vs. 6 game but a serving accuracy one. Put hula hoops as the holes and chairs or ball carts out as hazards. See who can land a ball in the hoop with the fewest number of serves. Change the hoop placement and hazards to play more holes. To add more competition, place a cone in the hoop for a “closest to the hole” contest.

Blind Man’s Bluff

Thanks to Pat Madia via Volleyball Coaches and Trainers for variations on a classic. Each team selects a card from a regular deck, and that’s how many points they must score to win, even if the numbers aren’t the same. There are several variations; in one, both teams can see both cards, simulating a typical game scenario. To get more process oriented, teams only know their target score OR the opponents’. In true Blind Man’s Bluff spirit, each team picks a card, but only the coaches know what each team must score. Not knowing puts all the pressure on one thing; winning every point.

Monopoly/Risk/Candyland

These can be season-long scoring games where you record/tape down the previous results. You want reps, not waiting around for decisions, so you serve right away and let the chips fall where they may in part. Thus Candyland, a childhood favorite of my daughter’s is the simplest and fastest game. With Risk/Monopoly you should predetermine what purchases/army numbers you will risk each day. Let the kids determine other variations in this board game scoring, you will be amazed at what they come up with. A single-game Risk battle with fewer nations is even possible – rather than the whole world which is a season-long version of course.

Don’t Drop the Egg

A fun warmup sure to liven up a gym. Played in teams of two or three between the three-meter lines, and on both sides, all but one player on each side holds a ball. The serving team serves, and before a player on the other team may receive the serve, they must toss the ball they’re holding to a teammate. No player may hold a volleyball and touch the ball in play, so teammates constantly throw the held balls among themselves before touching the one in play. Play continues until either the ball in play or a held ball touches the floor.

Winner Stays On/Loser Becomes the Net

Another warmup perfect for those without a net. There are three teams of one or two players each: two are playing during a rally, and one serves as the net. The two playing teams each get three hits to get the ball over the “net,” which can move sideways and jump in order to block shots with their outstretched arms. The team that wins a point stays on the court, and the losing team trades places with the net. Play continues until one team reaches a pre-determined score or for a set amount of time.

What other games can you think of to help score a 6 vs. 6 or other sized game? The chance to win a childhood game is fun for all ages. Please comment with your suggestions and additional games from your youth examples!