How do you become a superstar service-returner? Simple answer: "Either you need to be able to see the future, or you need to be explosive with your first step," says Greg Young, strength and conditioning coach for the nationally ranked Wisconsin Badgers women's volleyball team.
Since Young's squad isn't stocked with members of the Psychic Friends Network, he trains his athletes' first-step quickness to boost their defensive prowess and ability to return would-be aces. Combined with weight room work and lateral jumping drills, Young's Multiple Cone Reaction drill enhances the team's speed of explosion and reaction time.
Multiple Cone Reaction
Set up three cones in an equilateral triangle, five yards per side
Assign numbers 1, 2 and 3 to cones
Start in athletic stance in middle of cones
Reacting to partner's call, sprint to indicated cone
Breakdown at cone, sprint back to middle, and react to next call
End the rep with one last sprint
React to 3-4 calls per set for 5-8 sets
Coaching Point: Explosively push off the ground as you start each sprint. Run in straight lines and don't round the corners as you move to and from the cones.
Spice up the drill:
Add a fourth cone
If you are performing the drill well after two or three weeks, add a fourth cone to make a square. You'll have to think harder when there are more options.
Add more calls
For example, your partner could call "one, four." Start in the middle of the cone pattern; sprint to Cone 1; sprint to Cone 4; then sprint back to the middle.
Do the math
To keep his athletes thinking, Young has them do simple math to determine which cone they're sprinting to; for example, he'll tell them to divide whatever number he calls by two.
Use flash cards
Once you've got the math down, add visual cues. Write numbers on colored cards corresponding to the colors of the cones. React to the cone based on the color of the flashed card.
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