Never Be a Child's Last Coach

“There are many ways to define success for a volleyball coach. Wins. Improved technical skills. Perhaps your athletes moving up to the next group or starting high school or earning a college scholarship. Here’s another measurement when coaches evaluate each season … how many kids play volleyball again the following season.”

John Kessel

Longtime coach and retired USA Volleyball director of sport development

From "Never Be a Child's Last Coach"

Lesson Plans for Teachers and Coaches

USA Volleyball has created lessons plans that give you core gamelike drills to teach volleyball’s core skills of:

  • Hitting
  • Overhead Passing/Setting
  • Serving
  • Forearm Passing
  • Blocking

Specificity is the most important principle for learning a motor skill. Most drills violate this principle many times over. At some level, the fact is that a net is what every third contact must clear, and every first ball is received coming over from. Using a net is the best option, but you can also use a rope, ribbon, a person or even a court line to make these gamelike.

Two reminders:

  • Random training is superior to blocked training
  • Whole training is superior to partial training

The average player contacts the ball for about two seconds each three-set match. The rest of the time, they’re learning when and where to position themselves to “better the ball;” to produce a hit that benefits the team. As such, practice can and should look random and chaotic while learning happens. Dr. Richard Schmidt, professor of motor learning, often queries “Are you practicing for practice, or for performance?”  Traditional, non-gamelike, partial drills usually look less chaotic and are in general are easier to achieve “success.” Teams then look good in practice but cannot perform well in the random and chaotic nature of a game. Random, guided discovery training is better retained and more successfully executed during a match.

Other important considerations are scoring and time. Gamelike drills can stay the same, but is up to the teacher or even the kids to vary the scoring. This is found in both a separate handout and in the MiniVolley book itself. Examples include:

  • How many out of X – so players can keep track of how they are able to do at the start 0-1 out of say 10, to the final goal of 10 out of 10
  • How many in X minutes
  • Highest number in a row
  • Getting X good before the other group gets to different Y goal

Time matters from a motor learning point of view based on the principle of massed vs. distributed practice. More gamelike drills of a shorter time length are better than doing just a couple of grills for a long period.

Finally, view the most updated Society of Health and Physical Educators standards (SHAPE) if you are a teacher.

Each of these lesson plans include:

  • Gamelike-as-possible drills (aka Grills)  – The ball rarely going back and forth but changing distances, starting points, angles, ball height flights, and player movement demands.
  • Use of the net (rope, ribbon, band or a person included) as often as possible.
  • Multiple skill training variations  – Gamelike means the combination of three hits, so quickly move to hitting or passing or setting drills which are pass-set-hit or dig-set-hit or  serve-serve receive – set combinations,  not just single skill drills.
  • Scoring tracked by the players – The teacher needs to teach, not track the scoring/achievement levels. Use a whiteboard not just to share what the day’s practice objectives are but to help track scoring.
  • Time – So that the training fits into the allotted class time.
  • SHAPE standards addressed –  written just by number(s) – eg 1.2 and 2.4 or whatever standards you feel they are addressing.

Elementary School

Middle School

High School