Competition Ideas

Top 10 Nominee
Whenever a player makes a standout play in practice -- huge kill, picture-perfect set, incredible ace, dynamite dig or block -- call it a "SportsCenter top 10 nominee". (Explain what this means beforehand as many of the girls will have no clue what you're talking about.) Let individual players do the same when they see a teammate make an amazing play. Make sure only the very best plays in your gym receive this "nod."

At the end of practice have the team or yourself or a designated player select the #1 SportsCenter highlight of the practice from among the nominees. See if this increases the intensity, energy, fun and effort in your team's practice.

Mad Hatter Event
Some Iowa middle and high schools are finding a fun way to get more people playing and introduced to volleyball. The event is called Mad Hatters and it is simple enough to run.

Everyone signs up as an individual and new teams are drawn before every round. Depending on how many courts you have you can draw numbers out of a hat or use poker chips. All players with the same number or color are a team for that set. Play one set to 25, take a short water break, record their scores on a big blank chart with their names and a bunch of other blank columns for their score difference each set (example +4 or -4) and then redraw teams. At the end total everyone’s score for prizes. You can give out prizes for the highest score, lowest score and the score closest to zero.The main advantage to this is that you DO NOT have to have a team to come out and play. This is also a great event for indoor or beach, adult or younger players! They also suggested having your current players invite their peers to come out and try volleyball then your players would be the referees for the event.

Multi-Team/Multi Court Tournament Draw Sheet
Thanks to the Palmetto RVA, this Excel spreadsheet will do from 3 to 20 team pool draws and playoffs, allowing these important smaller team size tournaments to quickly update during tournament and final results for all clubs and regions. Directions included, but it is easy to plug in and use. Download the Excel file.

3-6 Team Pool Chart for Outdoor Competition
Thanks to the Florida RVA, this Excel spreadsheet will do 3,4,5 or 6 team pool charts. Generic and easy to use. Download the Excel file.

Open Source Competitive Cauldrons
A joint project with Canada and USA Volleyball’s coaching leaders, this open source program gives some of the core drills and scheduling formats to start your own competitive cauldron for practices. Download the Excel file.

The Open Source Master Team Scheduling Excel sheet for 1 vs. 1 / 2 vs. 2 and 3 vs. 3 team formats can be downloaded here.

An Open Source Excel file of a Coaches Assessment Competitive Cauldron is available thanks to Joe Harmon of the Big House.

Email us with any corrections or new competitive cauldrons you are willing to share to help better grow the game for all kids and coaches at mvp@usav.org

Family Volleyball Options
In the 1980s, family volleyball was promoted by USAV and sponsored by Sugar Free Jello. The game was 4 vs. 4, and teams could be comprised of mom and/or dad and their children and child's friends, if there were not enough family members. As the sport has grown in the junior age groups, new ideas for families have evolved.

Father and Mother's Day doubles competitions are growing in popularity both outdoor league division and tournaments. Vail's King of the Mountain event is a good model. Friday afternoon, juniors get a clinic on by playing the doubles game with the rule differences and playing fast, fun five minute games against as many other junior teams as time permits. Saturday, the juniors play age group doubles, while parents watch or visit the area. Sunday (Father's Day), father/son and father/daughter competition takes place in 18 & under and 15 & under divisions. Fathers with two or more kids are allowed to substitute the kids freely, even point by point, as long as the oldest child's age division is competed in. Daughters can play in the son division, at the oldest child's division, while sons can play in the father/daughter division as long as they are two years younger than the age group.

Other programs have sprung up doing parent-toddler volleyball, much like the day care model using balloons, balloon balls and superlight balls like the 70 gram First Touch by Molten. Family night, volleyball takes on many forms - the chance to give the parents their own date night, as the kids play in pools of three competition is one form. At the other end, having a full participation by all family members for example groupings of K-3rd grade, 4-6th grade, middle and even high school. They learn officiating, play fun games, take part in team building exercises, and play on teams with one or both parents, and with a no-jumping rule for the parents is often used. Sitting volleyball, the Paralympic sport, is also an option. Scoring can be regular rally scoring, or "best 2 out of 3" point scoring (where the official/scorekeeper tosses in 1-2 balls after the served rally ends, so that serving does not dominate the game). Another program idea is to have the kids do clinics or even league play, while the parents are given sessions separately by the program staff, teaching the purpose of the drills being done, insights in the skills, and other programming and training ideas. Some programs have found that parents that are being taught in these sessions tend to move into an assistant coaching role within the season. The ideas do not stop at high school, but other programs have family competitions at the collegiate level, and in club alumni games, as well as post college.

Pools of Three Competitions
This format is an important middle ground for maximizing play per event, and can be used in several ways. Single match league events, is found most commonly in kids sports, and generally takes less than an hour to compete, plus travel time to and from the event. Standard tournaments of pools of four take 10-or more hours to compete, with half the pool getting just three matches, or about three hours of play during the entire day. In pools of three tournaments, you can stage 3-4 groups in a single long day with the competitors playing three matches in a 3-4 hour time span. In pools of three seeding rounds, a tournament, such as a father/daughter day-long event, can break out the teams into finishing flights of 2-0, 1-1 and 0-2 pool record teams, and provide a much better finish to the event for all competing. In pools of three league play, you can stage a league niter, with as many matches played in a normal weekend tournament for most, on a weeknight, from 5:30-8:30 p.m.. This allows kids and family’s time for homework after school, dinner and family time. Hold it on a Friday night, and you can even start a bit later, with less impact on family life. Indeed, when such city leagues are held, the parents can get a movie night or time to shop, while the kids are playing or refereeing nonstop.

You can also set aside longer practices from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. once or twice a month. The first three hours your teams run the three team pool tournament for younger kids - for 3,4, or 6 person teams, providing refereeing, direction and coaching. Then your team practices for 1.5- 2 hours. Still half the time of a tournament, and packing in both teaching to learn and learning to play in the same half day. This same three team pool concept can be used to run "short" tournaments for more local area teams, where the family only has to give up half their Saturday or Sunday, not their whole day as four and five team pools create. Of course, an event can have six teams on two courts, with a one match cross over happening after the pool is over and the losing team of the first round stays to referee the final match.

It is also the practice of some regions, like Heart of America, that some teams want to play hard and long, so they have events with pools of six on three courts- with no referees, just the old way of "honor calling" each contact and the play. The teams get in FIVE matches, in essentially the same number of hours. This is a different form of a half-day tournament.

Round Robin All Court Competition
Many programs are not aware of the easiest way to create a round robin competition. The same concept that is shown below can be used to make entire gyms of courts become one big round robin event. The games are played in 1-10 minute time spans, depending on the numbers of courts and teams in the round.

For a four-team round schedule:

1v4 - 1 (highest seed if known) vs. 4 (lowest seed if known)
2v3 - 2 (second highest seed if known) vs. 3 (third ranked team)

Then KEEP team No.1 in the same place - on the court or in the schedule and rotate the rest of the teams counter clockwise, so the next round is

1v3
4v2
and finally
1v2 (the highest seeds battling at the close of the round)
3v4

Now that that concept is seen, you can do the same on a single court, divided into four kid-sized courts for eight teams by setting up two nets longways down the middle of the regulation court. The courts are about 4 meters wide by 4-6 meters deep.

8 7 6 5
__________________

1 2 3 4

 

When you whistle to end the game and move to the next "match," after 1-10 minutes of play (ties at the whistle play one more sudden death point), you would then get

7 6 5 4
___________________

1 8 2 3

 

And so on...

Create Wall Standards
The BEST and least expensive way to double the number of nets in your training area is to put up wall rope standards. What you do NOT want to do is put an eyebolt in at the "right height" but instead to put one eyebolt up high, at 10 feet or so, and another one on the floor baseboard. Then simple trucker's knot a rope from the top to the bottom eyebolt, flush against the wall. Now you can tie your double long net/rope (as you are going down the middle of your regulation court, at a distance of at least 70 feet or more) to the rope on the wall. To change the net height, just slide the net rope attachment knot higher or longer up the wall rope. Slanting this rope from one wall to the other for varying ages (and height players) is also encouraged.

Short Court
A great warm-up game is to play short court. Play inside the 3 meter line and use the full width of the court. You can play using doubles or triples. You can even play with an entire team of 6, with teammates rotating in, and the team rotating after every net crossing. Score cooperatively and try to beat the highest rally each time a ball is entered.

Vary the Net Height
Changing the net height, or use a different net variation, can make for many great options. You can use badminton nets, ribbon, rope or even tape. In many of these options, you can slant the net/rope, with one side being higher than the other, to allow for kids of different heights to have different challenges.

The first option we suggest is to lower the net or rope, and play the game of sitting volleyball. String rope about a meter high down the center of a regulation volleyball court, with the regular net not up. If you have put up rope standards on the walls down the middle of the court for other training as noted above, you can just use those to anchor the nets/ropes to. If not, you can have two kids holding the rope sitting in chairs, and changing the chair sitter/holders every few minutes.

What you have are THREE almost regulation sized sitting courts - which are 6 meters wide by 5 meters deep on each side. The endline and 3 meter lines are now the sidelines for courts #1 and #3, while the 3 meter lines become the sidelines for middle court #2. The rope running down the center of a 9 meter wide regular court, means the endlines now are 4.5 meters, just half a meter off regulation, and fine for everyone playing, no need to extend it. Tie a sock or a let a flag football flag hang down over the court edge as the "antenna" and kids will play for a long time. It teaches you to play overhead much better, and the shortened court speeds up your reaction time. Play using team sizes of 4, 5 or 6.

The next option is to play on a tennis court. Many places in the world plays outdoors on concrete if they are lucky, or on dirt. These fenced in courts are GREAT outdoor training places for youth and junior volleyball. String TWO nets or a long rope, linked together down the middle of the tennis court, anchoring to the fence, and leaving the tennis net up as a divider net for the two courts. Chalk on the court any sized court you want, just have a 2 meter buffer zone between courts, and from the sideline to the fence. Kids programs are easily ran in such a training area, weather permitting.

You can also just have the kids play over the tennis net, letting them really pound and spike like Calvin and Hobbes (new names?). Give them one bounce. Playing over a table with a balloon ball even works. Letting the younger boys hit on a women's height net is important when kids are young, as they want to have the fun of spiking down, so all lowered nets allow this and "capture" kids the way the dunk does in basketball.

Finally, put the net or rope up higher. For girls, putting it up to men's height means the players learn arm swings that hit the ball in over an about 8" high block, the height of the majority of younger players get their blocking hands above the net. When I played with the Denver Comets pro team, my coach/teammate Jon Stanley (father of 2004 Olympian Clay Stanley), had us hit over a pair of linked badminton nets which were strung from antenna to antenna. This long net was about two feet high on the sideline, and dipped to 18 inches in the middle for those quick hitters. We all learned an arm swing that hit over a two foot high block and into the court, a VERY valuable way to swing for an attacker.

Competitive Cauldron Tournaments
This best practice takes your whole team or group. Play doubles and have them change partners every week. Play short games to 10 points or just for five minutes. Play can be done on two narrow courts per net (with a 2 meter buffer between the two courts), that reach full length. The teams that are out can "referee" each game. If you can run two nets down the middle of a regulation court as noted in this article and done for youth games, you can put up four courts and have all playing each round. After that partnership round is over, track the number of wins and losses in each of the rounds by each individual. Over time, you will see who plays the best, no matter who their partner is. Some programs pick their top six starters based on this information, other coaches come to learn that certain players need to be on the court due to their "winning" capabilities, even if their technique is not as perfect as a coach might desire. A separate Competitive Cauldron spreadsheet template is available from USA Volleyball for one, two and three person tournament formatting.

Four and Three Person Leagues
Every program primarily focuses on the 6-person game to maximize their court space and player numbers. However, there is a way to get even more players on the same court space, while doubling the amount of learning. Make the team sizes no more than four a team, with only one or two subs. If a team is short a player, have the team lose a point when that "ghost" player's turn for service happens, but don't make the team forfeit. Put up doubles courts down the middle of the court and use the 3 meter and end-lines as the court sidelines. Space permitting, extend the regular sideline to a deeper end-line with court tape, and use corner dot markers or any other sport boundary line.

Night Competition
Dusk to Dawn tournaments are popular in some of the faster growing regions and are normally held for coed, two to four person teams. They are played on lighted softball fields and created with nets and crossed 2x 4s of 6 foot length for standards, or of course using the excellent portable court systems for sale.

Another very fun idea for all ages is to have a “Glow in the Dark” competition. The 24 inch black light fluorescent tubes in holders are about $25 each on eBay from party stores. You will need at least four of them, mounted into vertical stands if you want be able to move them around to various venues.

The Ohio Valley Region wisely noted that "football is for Friday nights in the fall; basketball is for Friday nights in the winter; we need to make volleyball for Friday nights in the spring." Take these ideas herein, and create a tradition of Friday night volleyball in your area, from 5-10 p.m. If you are doing junior events like six teams on three courts, or three team pools, the parents will also be able to have something special; a night out as a couple without having to get a baby sitter for their child!

VolleyMall Competition
Find a place where there are multiple sport courts and transport one of the courts to do clinics and competition in a local mall. Joe Garcia of USA Wallyball has been working on getting a portable plexi-glass court for the same use in malls. Put up the portable mesh netting and a court with water barrel weighting, and you can get kids to play in front of peers, parents and grandparents. You should look into doing this also based around "wellness programming" and fitness for kids either during or after school, an area the Intermountain Region of USAV is leading the way in.