Volleyball bingo is a game our U.S. coaching staff invented in 2013 to help our national team players focus on things we were working on in practice.

As it turned out, the players liked the challenge of this game, and it served the purpose we intended: reinforcing what we were most trying to improve on and placing the emphasis on the process of playing well, not on the scoreboard.

Here’s how volleyball bingo works:

  1. Coaches make up a handful on index cards, each with a task written on it that relates to something that has been a recent focus in practice. Players can pick the tasks, too. This is a good way for them to take ownership in the training process. A task might be something like: “Your team has to pick up a tip, set it and kill it off of that play.”

    If the team has been working on slides in transition from more than 10 feet off the net, a good task might be: “After the middle moves to the left to block, she has to run the slide in transition all the way across the court on the right and get a kill.”

  2. Each team picks two, three or more cards, depending on how many goals you want to include.

  3. Play. Score the game any way you like. But remember, if you’re playing to 15, the winner is not the team that gets to 15 first; it’s the team that gets to 15 first while also accomplishing its bingo goals.

Neither team is aware of what the other team’s task are, but during a timeout, a coach may ask the players what they think the opponent is trying to accomplish. This encourages them to be alert to what’s happening on the other side of the net, an important key to playing great volleyball.

Using Bingo in a Match

Volleyball bingo proved to be so popular with our team that we began doing it in actual tournaments. In 2014, when we won the gold at the FIVB World Championship, we played one opponent where we thought we had a big advantage in the middle. So we set a bingo goal of getting four kills in the middle in every set of the match.

In the first set, it didn’t happen, but then we got our passing going and Courtney Thompson subbed in and set a couple of quicks for kills. All of a sudden, everybody was energized. “Yeah! We got two! We need two more!”

We earned another kill on a quick to reach 23 points and then, after getting to 24, we won the game on a quick. Our team’s celebration exceeded what you’d typically see after a game is won, but it reflected the great satisfaction that everyone felt after working in unity to accomplish a bingo goal. Winning the game was nice, too!

One of the things I like the best about volleyball bingo is that it helps reduce the pressure on the players by rewarding the process of playing well. Ultimately, we only have so much control over the score, but we do have a lot of control over a specific goal. If the goals are met, the score will take care of itself.