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USA Volleyball

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Lesson Plans

Greetings Teachers and Coaches,

First off, a BIG thank you for your work on behalf of the kids and for collaborating here to create the best  gamelike, age appropriate (yet not limiting) fun lesson plans.  

Simply put your suggestions into the comment section – noting what age group(s) you think the idea will enhance their experience in learning this challenging but great team game.

Each suggested addition to these lesson plans will be reviewed and responded to.

The art of teaching means we give you here the core gamelike drills, known as grills, to teach the seven core skills of volleyball.  We first and daily teach spiking, coupled with overhead passing/setting. Next comes serving, a closed motor program that athletes of any age can successfully perform at a high level with practice. Then comes the forearm pass, which for younger players can be a painful experience, but having been “hooked” by hitting, overhead passing and serving, they will get through this short painful stage.  Defense is like forearm passing, and we close with blocking, a skill only learned if the athlete is already tall enough to get their full hands or more above the net.

After a CAP III course where we went through every drill book in any language found in our USAV resource library, some 50 books in all – which included some titled “400 Plus Volleyball Drills” and “300 Plus Volleyball Drills” – we found nearly drills were simply not gamelike.  At that same clinic, a wise and experienced coach from Hawaii asked then Olympic team head coach Doug Beal, “How many drills do you do Doug in a week?  to which he responded – I have about a dozen gamelike ones, I do all year long, I just vary the scoring or where I start the drill from.”   

Why does this matter? In learning a motor skill, for a beginner or an Olympian, the MOST important principle is SPECIFICITY.  The vast majority of drills created simply violate this principle on too many levels. 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.  So while using a net is the most specific and gamelike option, using a rope, a ribbon, a person or even a court line is as gamelike as a drill can be.

You now can go on the internet and  a search for “volleyball drills” and get nearly 5 million choices. Sadly  99% of them are DRILLS, and NOT gamelike.  So apply the gold medal standard “What if you became the Olympic gold medalist at this drill – would it help you be a better volleyball player?” Sadly the answer almost always is…no.

Two important facts in learning a motor program to remind all teaching sport are that random training is superior to blocked training, and whole training is superior to part. The game of volleyball is a rebound contact sport wherein the average total ball contact time per 2 out of 3 match is about TWO seconds per player. The rest of the time each player is learning when and where to be to contact the ball at the right place and time in their next contact. So practice can look pretty random and chaotic as the learning takes place.  In the end,  Dr. Richard Schmidt, professor of motor learning, often queries “Are you practicing for practice, or for performance?” as traditional, non-gamelike, part, blocked drills usually “look” less chaotic and are in general are easier to achieve “success.”  Thus you have players and teams who look good in practice, but that cannot perform well in the chaos, competitive, scored, and random nature of the actual game. This is in part due to the fact that random and guided discovery training is far better RETAINED, than when teaching is done blocked with extrinsic learning training.

Two other important considerations are scoring and time. Every game kids play has a way of scoring, ans so should every drill – thus we call them “grills” as in Gamelike-Drill.  The Grill 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 hand out 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.  Meanwhile time matters from a motor learning point of view based on the principle of massed vs. distributed practice.  Simply put, more grills of a shorter time length are better than doing just a couple of grills for a long period.

Finally, CLICK HERE to get the most up-to-date list of the current National Association of Sports Physical Educators (NASPE) – a part of AAHPERD  - standards.  For those of you who are school teachers, not junior club coaches, we know you need to include this factor in your lesson plans.

So in each of our lesson plans, you will see:

As 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.

Using the net (rope, ribbon, band or a person included) as often as possible.

Multiple skill training variations  - As gamelike means the combination of 3 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.

NASPE Standards addressed -  written just by number(s) – eg 1.2 and 2.4 or whatever standards you feel they are addressing. 

We look forward to seeing your additions to the lesson plans.  Please also let us know when you think your grill or idea should be added in a season – early/middle/late.  You can also email your suggestion(s) or ask any questions on this topic to john.kessel@usav.org . Thanks for your help in growing the game together!