No matter the team’s proficiency, age, skill, or level of play, every volleyball coach must run offensive drills to increase their team’s success at the net. Whether the goal is to improve accuracy, aggressiveness, or number of kills, it’s imperative to target the offense to score the maximum amount of points.
7 Volleyball Drills
The following are seven proven drills that will help increase your team’s offensive aggressiveness, timing, footwork, and kill percentage.
1. Plus, Minus, Zero.
A favorite drill among many of us college coaches is a simple way to break down our front row hitting and assign points to help drive the lesson home.
Positions & Equipment: Side 1 of the net: Outside hitter (OH), Setter, Coach with the cart of balls. Side 2 of the net: Full team of 6 sets up in defense.
Please start with the OH in their defensive position. Coach (standing in the two spots on the court) will hit a downfall at the OH. After the dig, the OH immediately transitions out to hit. Setter will set the OH a four-ball (high and to the outside). The OH will hit the ball and attempt to hit through or around the blockers to get the kill.
- If the ball is not dug – It’s a “plus”
- If the ball is dug to setter – it’s a “zero”
- If the ball is blocked – it’s a “minus”
Continue with the same hitter for ten dig-set hits, often stopping to discuss what she can do better to gain the kill or “plus.” Move through all hitting positions, Middle Hitter (MH) and Right side hitters (OPP), and keep score for each player. Depending on the age group, use these scores to add punishment or prize at the end.
2. Call the Ball
This is a simple offensive drill meant to get your hitters used to call for different types of sets.
Positions & Equipment: Side 1 of the net, three hitters, one libero or DS, and a setter. Side 2 of the net: Coach with ball cart
The coach will toss a free ball over the net to the DS, who will pass to the setter. As the ball makes its way from DS to Setter, hitters must call out what type of set they want. Some options are:
- OH: 4 – High and to the outside
- Shoot – Medium height fastball
- 32 – Ball set between MH and OH
- MH: 1 – Quick middle set
- 2 – Middle set, medium/high height
- Back 1 (or 7) – Quick backset
- OPP: 5 – Medium height backset
- 9 – Higher back set near the antenna
There are also switch plays and the ability for the MH to hit a back five slide. However, to keep it simple, have each position calls for a position-specific set.
The coach must pay close attention to each hitter as the ball is passed to the setter. If one-hitter does not call for a set during any particular pass, they are immediately replaced by a new hitter. Continue through this drill for a minimum of 10 minutes. Or until all hitters have had their chance at the net.
3. Arm Swing Isolation
Best for younger players, this drill is meant to work on a hitter’s arm swing and ball contact
Positions & Equipment: Net side 1: Jump Box or hitting platform, Coach and cart of balls. Net side 2: 3 blockers
Begin with any hitter on the box vs. a triple block. The coach will toss a high ball directly in front of the hitter who only needs to swing and make downward contact on the ball. A hitter must hit off the block or around the block. This is a fast-paced drill that enables the hitter to swing multiple times, working on how the hand contacts the ball, shoulders, and ball placement direction.
Give all your hitters a chance to be up on the block and often stop to help give feedback and correct feet position on the platform.
4. Turn Go Hit
Great for working on block jumping, footwork, and hitting transitions.
Positions & Equipment: Any hitter (OH, MH or OPP) and a coach with a cart of balls
Start with the hitter in a blocking position at the net. The drill is initiated by the coach slapping the ball. The hitter must do a full block jump, land on two feet, then use hitter transition footwork to get back behind the 10-foot line in time for the coach to toss up a set. The hitter will then use attack footwork to approach and hit the ball. Upon landing, they will reset into a defensive blocking position at the net in time for the next ball initiation.
This is meant to be a tiring drill. Because as the athlete tries, their footwork starts failing; they get lazy and tired and need correction.
I’ll run this about 10-15 times in a row with my youth athletes before moving onto the next hitter, taking quick breaks to correct them as they go. I average about 20 set tosses with my college team and only critique them at the end of their set.
5. Target Practice
They are practicing effective roll shots or tips to a specific target.
Positions & Equipment: Hitting lines, setter, the coach with the cart of balls and plastic cones.
Make a square out of 4 cones in the following spots on the court: 1, 5, 2, and 4. You can use empty ball carts or chairs as well. The coach will toss a ball to the setter from the same side of the court. Hitters must call out the set they want, and the setter will set one of the three hitters. The hitters must either roll shot or tip so that the ball lands in one of the “targets.” The hitter must shag their ball quickly and rejoin the end of their line.
This is a continuous drill, with lots of balls flying around at once, so with my youth athletes, I make sure to space out my tosses to my setter so that I do not risk girls who are shagging their balls being pummeled by their teammates swing. You can also add a progression to this drill and put three blockers on the other side of the net, which will add some difficulty.
I like to add a point system to the different targets and keep score. The highest score at the end of the time limit is the winner!
6. 10 Foot Attack Progression
I use this specifically with my high school teams to work on footwork, ball contact, and arm swing.
Positions & Equipment: The whole team in a single-file line starting on the end line. Coach and a cart of balls.
The tossing technique for this drill can be classified as “cautious rapid-fire”. Start about 10 feet in from the end line onto the court. Toss balls high, approximately 15-20 feet in the air. Girls must use their full approach footwork, jump, and swing high to make ball contact high enough to get it over the net from the backcourt position. They must run and shag their own ball, placing it in the cart before rejoining the line.
Toss continuously until each player has gone through about five times, then move the cart up another 5 or 10 feet and begin tossing again.
As you progress forward, help your players note the difference in your players’ approach footwork, speed, and arm swing when they contact the ball. Correct any player whose balls are being hit into the net and why.
Next, you’ll move to the 10-foot line and eventually the net. By the end of this progression, players should be hitting harder, snapping their wrists better, adding topspin to the ball, and making better, wider contact with the ball.
7. Run Offensive Plays!
One of the best ways to run an effective offense in volleyball is to use plays. They could be simple plays like having all three hitters go up to hit so the blockers can’t tell who the real hitter will be. Or you could add a higher level of complication by running an inside-out play where two hitters switch and hit at a different point of the net.
The object of running offensive plays is to keep the opposing team guessing. If you set the same hitters on the same types of balls, the defense will expect it and be set up before your hitter even contacts the ball. Run plays, have your hitters hit quicks, and backset often! Create and help your team learn your plays early so that after enough Practice, the setter is comfortable enough to call them out without a coaching prompt.
There are dozens of offensive volleyball drills that a coach can incorporate into every Practice to be more successful at the net. These drills must be taught at a pace that coordinates with the athletes’ age so that you give your team the best chance at success!