Game-like Drills (Grills) for Club Practices
About the Serve City volleyball training philosophy
We believe in instilling each of our athletes with a growth mindset. Research shows that our mindset and approach to learning greatly impact our development and future success. That’s why we teach our athletes how to adopt a growth mindset and view learning, new skills and strategies and games, grills and drills as challenges, not threats. We want to help our athletes stretch themselves
outside of their comfort zone in order to learn, acquire and refine new skills, tactics, strategies, systems and ways of doing things and to embrace making assertive mistakes as the necessary path to player and team development.
Serve City also supports motor learning science – the study of how athletes learn and develop skill through practice. Motor learning science advocates that gamelike, randomized training, rather than isolated, “blocked” training, is the best, most surefire method for helping athletes develop their skills for their long-term development and for ensuring that athletes’ learning is retained for the long run.
Limited blocked training has some value in skill teaching, particularly when introducing new skills or reviewing skills for technical refinement, which is why Serve City allows limited blocked training in practices, but research is clear that the most growth will take place using gamelike, random training.
Applying the principles of growth mindset and motor learning will mean that our teams’ practices are sometimes a bit chaotic, confusing and ugly. But practicing these principles will ultimately help us develop better, more well-rounded volleyball players who are prepared to perform where it matters most: in a match. Serve City teams don’t practice to look good in practice. We practice to improve and to perform well in matches. Player development happens outside our comfort zones.
Mistakes in the process of learning new skills and strategies are a sign of challenge and progress and should be embraced. As U.S. women’s national team coach Karch Kiraly explains, “We are training to perform, not to drill. All of the science tells us that we do the most learning when practice looks like an actual game – which is really random and not just super controlled. That governs just about everything we do in the gym. We’re trying to make every second count in our gym as much as possible to make the most transfer we can get.”
This quote from Trevor Ragan, founder and executive director of TrainUgly.com, spells out the attitude that Serve City wants to instill in our athletes: “Believe in yourself. You are a learning machine. With time and hard work you can get better at anything you want. Take risks. Try new things. Mess up. Fall down. Raise your hand. Enjoy the pressure. Be scared but dare greatly. Let it rip. Speak up. Bust out of your comfort zone. Always remember that getting better is not pretty, that there are no gifts, and you get better with practice, period. Seek out challenges. Make it game like. Do the hard things. Enjoy every minute of it.”
Special note: Feel free to adjust and edit the drills on this page to fit your team’s needs. You know your team best. Switch things up to maximize the benefits for the athletes you coach at whatever stage they’re at developmentally.
Favorite 10 Scoring Methods for Grills
The genius behind modified scoring for your team’s grills is that you can tailor the scoring method to emphasize whatever skill(s) your team needs to work on at the time. Did your team struggle in serve receive in your last tournament? Create scoring methods in your next practice that award bonus points for 3-point passes to setter, “freezing” your platform (if that was lacking in your last tournament) or passing the ball high and off the net (if your team suffered overpasses or tight passes into the net at the last tournament). Is your team reluctant to try a new play you’ve worked on in practice in actual matches? Award 3 points for each time your team executes this play in a grill … and 2 more points each time the play results in a kill.
Here are 10 of our favorite scoring methods. But there are practically an infinite number of scoring possibilities. Be creative!
1. Can only win a point by earning the point with a kill, an ace or a stuff block.
2. Lose X points whenever the ball falls untouched on your team’s side of the court.
3. Earn X bonus points for all kills off a specific play that you want your team to refine or use more often.
4. Starters can only score a point by winning three consecutive points: 1 big point for 3 small points.
5. Can only win a rally using three contacts; otherwise the rally is a wash.
6. Lose a point for all serves and hits into the net (negative errors) but win a point for all hits that go over the net but out of bounds (positive errors).
7. 3-2-1 passer scoring: 3 points for every 3-point pass, 2 points for 2-point passes, 1 point for 1-point passes.
8. 3 points for every ace to encourage aggressive serving.
9. Can only score using jump attacks.
10. 1 point for every good defensive play: block, block touch, dig and rescue pass that keeps a rally alive.
Favorite Five Grills for Two Teams Sharing One Court
Speedball: the best full-court and halfcourt grill for getting a large group of players a lot of quality touches and game play.
4v4 (Quads): can easily be played halfcourt if you’re sharing a court with another team. Can use different alignments as well, from one front-row setter and three back-row players to two front-row and two back-row players.
Sideline to Sideline: maximizes use of your team’s half of a court so that your players can sharpen a variety of ball control skills.
Losers Become the Net: created by USA Volleyball Sport Development Director John Kessel, this grill is a fun and active small-court warm-up that gets your athletes warming up a variety of skills over a most unique net.
Short Court Tip Game: active warm-up allows your team to play 4v4, 5v5 or 6v6 cross-court over a ribbon net when you’re stuck using half of a court without access to the net while enjoying long rallies, reading, communication and touches.
Favorite 10 Grills Geared for One Team Using One Court
Split-Court or Full-Court Cauldron Competitions: ideal for creating competitiveness, accountability, energy and enthusiasm in your gym while sharpening skills.
Halfcourt Competitive Grills: gives your athletes a high number of quality touches on the ball using multiple skills in a short amount of time.
10-10-10: the ultimate ball control cooperative warm-up grill.
Coast to Coast Serving: excellent split-court serving and serve receive warm-up.
Ruckus: may be the greatest game for teaching communication.
7-0: no game better teaches the importance of all-out effort on every point.
Phase 10, Version 2: takes all the things your team needs to work on and makes them bonus points.
Hitters vs. Defense: outstanding grill for testing and refining your team defense under fire while giving your hitters and setter opportunities to improve their termination skills against a determined defense.
Speedball Deep Court Exchange: great for serving and passing under pressure in a fast-paced game.
Around the World: enables you to work on serve receive, offense, transitions, defense and free-ball conversions to kills in a challenging and competitive grill, especially on days when your team only has 7-8 players at practice.
Smaller-Court Grills and Games
These are halfcourt, skinny court (dividing the full court into three narrow courts) and short court (halfcourt width with the end line moved up to 10, 15 or 20 feet off the net) games that can be modified in terms of scoring, number of players per court and court size as well as competitive vs. cooperative.
This can be executed numerous ways to meet your players’ needs:
● Short court (the end line at the 10, 15 or 20 foot line use tape or cones to mark out the 15 or 20 foot line)
● Volley tennis (players must deliver the ball over the net in one contact good cardio workout)
● Forearm and handset passes only
● Three contacts only (pass, set and either hit, roll, down ball, tip, pass or set the ball over)
● Two or three contacts only
● Halfcourt across the full length of the court (each rally starts with a serve)
● Competitive or cooperative (how many consecutive balls over the net can the two players deliver without a mistake)
● Singles is great for teaching players to dig up serves and attacks high and away from the net and to shuffle their feet to the ball.
Usually played short court style with the 10-foot or 15-foot line as the end line, one player starts at the setter spot a few feet off the net and their partner is just in front of the end line as the passer. The setter initiates the rally by tossing to the passer, who passes high and off the net to the setter, who sets back to the passer and then quickly runs under the net to receive a pass or set over the net from the passer, who runs quickly under the net to then become the setter. Players alternate roles back and forth in this high-energy cooperative ball control grill.
1v1+1 (Singles with a Rotating Setter)
This is singles with a twist. A setter rotates between the two sides of the court, running under the net, to act as setter for both players. This can be done as a cooperative or competitive grill on a short court, skinny court or halfcourt. With either scoring method, have players rotate every X minutes or points so that everyone takes a turn as the rotating setter.
This is cooperative singles with another twist. The player that delivers the third contact over the net then runs to the other side of the net to be setter for the third player in this drill, so each of the three players serves as setter during the drill.
This is a competitive grill in which, like with 1+1+1, the player delivering the third contact over the net becomes the setter on the other side of the net. A variety of scoring methods can be used, with each player competing against the other two players. Each rally starts with a serve.
2v1 (Doubles vs. Singles)
This can be played on a short, skinny or halfcourt. It’s especially effective if your team has a player who is markedly more skilled than their teammates; make this player the singles player as an added challenge for them.
As an added degree of difficulty, have teams rotate positions (setter to passer/hitter and vice versa) each time they deliver the ball over the net. You can modify scoring for doubles games in many ways. Here are just a few:
● 3-2-1 scoring: 3 points for winning a rally with 3 contacts, 2 points for winning with 2 contacts and 1 using 1 contact
● Earn 1 point for every good pass to setter regardless of the outcome of the rally
● 3-2-1 passer scoring: 3 points for every 3-point pass, 2 points for 2-point passes, 1 point for 1-point passes
● Can only score using jump attacks
● Can only score using standing attacks
● Setter also blocks and earns 5 points for every stuffed block
● 3 points for every ace to encourage aggressive serving
● Can play beach volleyball style with both players in serve receive and whoever doesn’t pass the serve transitions to become the setter
● Lose a point if the ball hits the floor on your side
● All attacks must go past the 10-foot line
● Can also play cooperatively; group of 4 with the most consecutive 3 contacts in 5 minutes wins.
Best if played halfcourt, you can align the players however you’d like: 1 back-row setter, 1 back-row defender and 1 front-row hitter/blocker or 2 back-row players and 1 front-row setter/blocker, for example, or have one of the 2 back-row players transition to left front as an outside hitter. Can be played cooperatively or competitively and use whatever scoring variations you’d like to implement
that day based on your team’s needs.
3v3+1 and 4v4+1
Same as normal triples or quads except the two teams share a rotating setter. This is a great option for teaching your setters to better the ball, be assertive and hustle quickly to the ball and to teach your passers to be precise with their passes to setter.
Can be played halfcourt if you’re sharing 1 court with another team or full court with a setter and 3 back-row players. Can also play it speedball or king/queen of the court style if you have 3 or 4 quads teams.
This is the ultimate ball control cooperative warm-up grill. One of our 13s teams had to accomplish all three levels in 6 minutes or less. As a reward, if a group does this, it then can play competitively until time is up. Depending on the current skills of your team, give your athletes X minutes to achieve all three of the following levels cooperatively in either 1v1+1 (singles with a rotating setter), doubles or
● 10 consecutive 3-contact series using only forearm passes and hand sets
● 10 consecutive 3-contact series using only a standing attack on the third contact (standing roll, down ball or tip if the ball is set tight to net)
● 10 consecutive 3-contact series using only a jump attack on the third contact (jump hit, jump roll or jump tip)
● If a ball goes over the net in fewer than 3 contacts, it is considered a wash; it neither adds to nor ends a rally. Players may play on.
30 Before 10
(Feel free to tailor the ratio to the abilities of your team or based on the time you have in practice.) Divide players into teams of 4. You’ll have 4 servers vs. 3 passers and 1 target as you rotate 4 players through each passing position and the target position. The 4 receivers have to pass 30 perfect passes before the 4 servers get 10 aces. If you're shorthanded, you can pass with 2 passers and make one side of the court out of bounds. Consider making 2-point and 1-point passes a wash as well as errant serves out of bounds. Serves into the net count as a perfect 3-point pass for the receivers.
Good warm-up at the beginning of practice. Court is split in half in butterfly fashion, but you only stay with your group of 5 (or 4). Each group has 1 server/tosser on one side and 2 passers, a setter and a hitting target on the other side. Server serves (or tosses at the outset to warm up their rotator cuffs), one of the passers passes to the setter, setter sets to target. Target approaches and catches or can be
a hitter and attack the set. If they hit, the server can then dig the ball high up to herself and catch it.
If you have 12 players, a sixth player can be the blocker on the server/tosser’s side of the net. The athletes stay for a specified number of reps, such as 5, then rotate: tosser/server rotates to passer 1, passer 1 to passer 2, passer 2 to setter, setter to target/hitter, target/hitter to server/tosser. Make this a competition where teams get 1 point for every pass to setter, 1 point for every set to target, 1 point for every hit over the net and 1 point for every dig that is caught, for example.
Coast to Coast Serving
Good serving warm-up. Split court. A player serves to 2 passers on the other side of the net. Passers need to communicate and pass to a fourth player who is the setting target. Server serves 5 in a row and then sprints to the other side to pass as all players rotate one position until everyone has been in every role. Servers get 1 point for every accurate serve. If a server makes all 5 serves into the opponent’s court, they get a bonus serve.
Go for 3 to 5 minutes. Vary this according to your team’s skills and needs. Examples:
● play out each rally till the passers and setter deliver the ball over the net preferably in 3 contacts and the server digs high to self and catches it
● give servers a zone to serve to, and each time they hit the called zone they get a bonus point
● play out each serve, and if the pass/set side gets the ball back to the serving side in 3 contacts (or with a jump attack), the server gets 0 points for that serve
This is a halfcourt ball control warm-up that can be done with groups of 3 or 4 players. Each group consists of one tosser/server (tossing until their arms and shoulders are sufficiently warmed up), one setter and either one or two passers. The passer starts out passing balls at the 10-foot line, with the tosser (or roll shot or down balls) purposely tossing, roll-shooting or down-balling balls to the passer’s left, right, short, slightly deep and right to the passer in randomized fashion. The passer works on the fundamentals of passing to the setter, who is staggered to their right. (You can later have passers pass to the setter at their left.) The setter can either be instructed to set, tip, dump or pass the ball over the net back to the tosser/server or set the ball to the passer, who passes it over the net back to the tosser.
Every 30 or 60 seconds (your discretion), the coach calls out “Rotate,” and the setter becomes the next tosser/server, the tosser/server becomes the next passer, and the passer becomes the next setter. After each player gets 1 round at each position, passers move back to the 20-foot line and finish in front of the 30-foot line. (Setters can set the 20-foot passer for jump or standing hits if you choose but wouldn’t set passers on the 30-foot round. Teams get 1 point for every accurate pass to setter (or 3 points for every 3-point pass, 2 points for every 2-point pass and 1 for every 1-point pass if you choose) and could also earn 1 point for every ball that the tosser/server digs up to herself/himself and catches.
If you have 4 players per group, position the fourth player at outside hitter and work on setting to the outside and hitting from there. Give teams 1 point per successful attack as well. Teams can serve instead of toss on the 30-foot and even 20-foot rounds. The team with the most points wins.
Sideline to Sideline
If you don’t have any ribbon and are sharing one court with another team, play over an imaginary net across your half of the court. Serve from outside of one sideline to outside the other sideline, with the serve receivers just behind the opposite sideline (30 feet of distance, or the distance between the end line and net). Cut the court in half (down the middle) to make two courts so you can play two games of doubles, triples or quads at the same time. As a reward, you could have all good passes stay in place and all bad passes prompt a rotation: passer rotates to setter, setter to server, server to passer. Or play server vs. passers; set only the back row on the passing side, and play through to a dig by the server on the other side.
Losers Become the Net
If you don’t have access to a net due to sharing one court, divide your half of the court in half similar to foursquare and play concurrent games of doubles across your side of the court over two players standing in as the net. (You’d have two games of doubles going on at the same time, with six players on each short court two of the six on each court serve as the net.) If you lose two points in a row, you become the net. The fun part is the net can talk, block, turn around, heckle the players. It puts the pressure on the athletes that they will face during the real game.
Short Court Tip Game
If you’re stuck using only half of a court without use of a net, tie a ribbon from the middle of the top of the net to the opposite wall to create a net and play 5v5 or 6v6 cross-court over your ribbon, with only tipping allowed for your attacks. Creates long rallies, lots of reading, communication and touches and warms up your players for full court later in practice.
On a split court, any time the ball hits the floor, the other team gets a point, but the rally doesn’t end. Your team has to dig the ball that bounced and get it back over the net, taking as many touches as you want. If the ball bounces 3, 4, or 5 times in a row, each one is a point. If the ball ever rolls on the other side, the game is immediately over and your team wins.
Bjerring Ladders Split Court Tournament
Play singles, doubles or triples. First to five points on each court wins. Winners move up a court and losers move down. If you have an odd number of teams, the team that was off comes on the bottom court, and the loser on the bottom court comes off. Lots of touches. Play enough rounds for a team to come all the way up from the bottom to the top of the ladder.
For this 3-person drill, you have one person tossing the ball over the net, a front-row player making a move to play the ball but then not playing the ball, and a back row player who is responsible to play the ball. The front row player can do whatever she can to try to fake out the back row passer. This simulates game-like situations, particularly at the 13s and 14s levels. The players rotate positions every 5 tosses.
Divide your players into two groups. Each group gets a halfcourt. Set up two passers, a setter, and the rest are servers on each court. Serve, pass, and hit a back-row A or B attack. Good passes stay; bad passes rotate to setter, setter to server, and successful server to passer. Individual players compete against each other, keeping track of their own points. One point each for a good pass, a successful attack, an ace and a set that leads to a successful attack.
Divide the court into thirds lengthwise (skinny courts), and set the players up for doubles on the two outside courts. The setter on one side is performing a beach warm-up with a hitter on the left: hit to the hitter, dig, set, hit between the antennae in the middle skinny court. On the other side are a blocker and a digger. A “waiter” is shagging. Then the same pattern starts on the other side of the net: setter, hitter, blocker, digger, waiter. Both sides are going at once, and each hitter gets three balls. Every ball hit through the antennae is a chance to score.
Scoring is individual (because teams are constantly changing). The hitting team each get a point if they score; the digging team each get a point if they block or if the blocker catches a ball the digger dug (they don’t hit back). After each hitter has three balls, they rotate. Setter to hitter, hitter to blocker, blocker to digger, digger becomes “waiter” and “waiter” becomes the new setter on her side. All players are rotating on one large circle.
This is a favorite grill of coaches. There are so many places to stand and teach; the waiter is a natural “teaching moment”. This is where we teach form, footwork, platforms, and eye focus. You can flip-flop the game to hit on the right, and we typically “popcorn” in
the middle, meaning everyone scrambles to a new position. We play to a time limit or a high score, whichever comes first. We may restrict the blocker sometimes, so that the hitter has to hit angle or line. We sometimes let the defense call their block (yes, with fingers behind their backs like the pros). Another variation is introducing a “free ball” from the digger to the hitter.
Split-Court or Full-Court Cauldron Competitions
Play halfcourt, skinny court, short court or full court competitive cauldrons to give your athletes tons of game-like touches and game experience in a competitive environment that tests your athletes and prepares them for the pressures of actual matches. Cauldrons also allow you to use different court sizes, scoring systems and player combinations and see how your athletes compete in a variety of
Here’s one example of a 3v3 halfcourt game format you could use in a practice.
● Play two games of 3v3 at the same time using whatever scoring system you set up for the games, such as playing a 3-minute
timed game where teams can only score off aces, blocks and kills. The four teams write down their scores on a white board. The winning teams face each other on one court and the losing teams on the other court, with you as coach mixing up the rosters for all four teams. Continue this process for three more 3-minute games, writing down the scores of each game and randomizing the teams each time. At the next practice or at the end of this practice, tally up the scores and write down the final standings for the cauldron for each player. For instance, the various teams that John Doe played for scored a total of 26 points, the highest point total of any player. Joe Jones’ teams scored 23 points, so Joe finished in second in the cauldron behind John, and so on.
Can be played halfcourt, skinny court, short court or full court in singles, doubles, triples, quads or five or six-player format, though we recommend quads for full court and triples or less for halfcourt, skinny court or short court. Two teams rally, and the losing team runs off the court while the team waiting to come on the court runs quickly onto the side of the court that the losing team just vacated and serves within a specified amount of time. Give the serving team no more than 7 seconds to serve from the time the previous rally ended in order to keep the action fast paced and give everyone maximum touches on and reads of the ball.
Teams keep track of their own score, and the team(s) waiting to enter the court should have their next server selected with a ball already in that server’s hands, ready to go. If a team doesn’t get off its serve within 6 or 7 seconds (a coach can count out the time if needed), they lose the point and the next team waiting hustles on the court to take their place and serve.
Speed Queen/King of the Court
This popular grill, which can be played full court or on a smaller court, only awards points to teams on the serve receive (challenge) side of the court. Maximize reps by giving the serving team only 6 or 7 seconds to serve the next ball. If the serving team wins a rally, they have only 6 or 7 seconds (your choice) to run quickly under the net and into serve receive position to await the next serve. Can be
played full court, halfcourt, skinny or short court with modified numbers of players to meet your team’s needs for that practice.
Monarch is similar to kings/queens, but the kings/queens side has to not only win the rally from the challenge side but receive a bounce from the coach and win that rally to stay on the kings/queens side.
3 on, 3 off
This is played with doubles, triples or quads. Three teams. Two play out a rally. Loser runs off, and winner runs on. The next serve must go up within 8 seconds after the previous rally ended. If you keep winning you keep playing. Teams keep track of their own score. Can also modify it in numerous ways, such as:
● all forearm passing or all hand setting (or a mix of only these skills)
● anything less than three contacts and you lose the rally
● must send the ball over the net with an attack or must terminate with a specific attack
● hit with your right hand only or hit with your left hand only
● one team of 2 vs. teams of 3 or 4
● permanent rotating setter who plays both sides of the net or two permanent setters
● can only hit from the back row or can only hit from the front row
Full-Court Games and grills
Can be played halfcourt, skinny court, short court or full court in singles, doubles, triples, quads or five- or six-player format, though we recommend quads for full court and triples or less for halfcourt, skinny court or short court. Two teams rally, and the losing team runs off the court while the team waiting to come on the court runs quickly onto the side of the court that the losing team just vacated and serves within a specified amount of time. Give the serving team no more than 7 seconds to serve from the time the previous rally ended in order to keep the action fast paced and give everyone maximum touches on and reads of the ball.
Teams keep track of their own score, and the team(s) waiting to enter the court should have their next server selected with a ball already in that server’s hands, ready to go. If a team doesn’t get off its serve within 6 or 7 seconds (a coach can count out the time if needed), they lose the point and the next team waiting hustles on the court to take their place and serve.
This is a variation on traditional queen of the court. There are two twists: servers must serve from zone 1 or 5 to the opponent's zone 1, 2, 4 or 5, and teams can only earn points for winning rallies off aces, kills or free-ball attacks to zones 1, 2, 4 and 5 (the four corners of the opponent's side of the court). Can award bonus points for successfully serving to specific zones. Teaches your players to serve and hit more aggressively.
Speed Queen/King of the Court
This popular grill, which can be played full court or on a smaller court, only awards points to teams on the serve receive (challenge) side of the court. Maximize reps by giving the serving team only 6 or 7 seconds to serve the next ball. If the serving team wins a rally, they have only 6 or 7 seconds (your choice) to run quickly under the net and into serve receive position to await the next serve. Can be played full court, halfcourt, skinny or short court with modified numbers of players to meet your team’s needs for that practice.
25 in 5
Played 6v6 or some other combination of 6 vs. a smaller combination of players. The offensive side receives a rapid-fire series of free balls or down balls and attempts to register 25 points off attacks in 5 minutes or less. The catch is they must record at least five attacks from the right side, middle, outside, left back and middle back positions. Can adapt this scoring constraint to the plays your offense runs (i.e., at least five attacks off back slides, huts to the outside, quicks to your middle, etc.). Meanwhile, the defense tries to prevent kills and extends rallies as long as possible to keep the offensive side from reaching 25 points. Can also adapt the time allotted or the point goal (20 in 5 for a younger squad, for instance, or 50 in 10 for a higher-skilled team).
If you have 11 or 12 players, give both teams of 6 a chance to be the offensive and defensive sides.
Servers vs. passers. Two teams of four, five or six players. One side starts as the servers, taking turns serving at the opponent, and the other side is in serve receive. Receive side earns 1 point or every 3-point pass to setter and 1 bonus point each time it returns the ball in 3 contacts (or with a pass-set-hit or some other constraint that you determine beforehand). Serving side keeps serving until it A) records an ace or B) the receive side can't return the ball (whichever you choose). Then the two teams switch sides. First team to reach 21 points wins.
Can adapt the scoring method however you wish, such as awarding 1 point for each ace or giving the receive side 1 point every time the serving side misses two consecutive serves.
It's full court 6v6 or 6v5 or 5v5 with no MH or Opp. Start with different scores and one team always receiving serve until all small games are done. Play out each rally. Start each game with a different late-game score, like 17-21, 19-22, 21-24 or 23-23. Play out each game like a normal game. If you're focusing on one side, decide if you want them to come from behind or start with the lead.
Slip ‘N Slide
Play 6v6 or 6v5 starting at 17. When one team reaches 23 they have to close out the game or they "slide" back to 17, the point value they started with. Teaches closing out games strong.
Free Ball Attack
Play it 6v6, 6v5 or 5v5. If a team sends over a free ball that doesn't get attacked, that team automatically wins. Teaches free-balling aggressively to the corners and to the open spot in the defense and converting free balls into attacks.
Can be played 6v6, 5v5 or some other combination full court. Regular game except that a team rotates one position after each time it delivers the ball over the net. If you have a large team of 13 or more players, players rotate off and on at a designated position, such as left front. If playing with 5 players on one side, choose what position will be left empty. Usually middle front works best in this situation. Good warm-up grill for getting your players moving quickly, communicating and getting a variety of touches on the ball and prepares everyone to emergency set in a pinch.
6v6 or 6v5. The 6 side receives a serve, then after the rally ends we free ball to the serving side, which delivers a pass-set-hit attack at the 6 side. The serving-side setter also has the option to set back to the digger, who can only send free balls at the 6 side. Go through 6 rotations like this with whatever scoring method you want to use. The scoring variations are practically endless. For example, the 6 side can only win rallies with a front-row (or back-row) attack, or one side gets 3 points for winning a rally using a specific attack (like a quick set to the middle hitter), or a team loses a point if the ball hits the floor on their side untouched. The side with the most points wins.
Standard 6v6. Game to 25. Use a flip chart or keep score on a phone. Teams earn 5 points for a kill (no quality second touch on the ball by the defense after the hit), 3 points for a stuff block and 1 point for anything else. Those are your termination points. However, if at any time during a rally a team sends a free ball, their score drops to 0 even before the play is over.
This game forces the athletes to be aggressive. If they hit into the net, the other team only receives 1 point, but if they free ball it, they
drop to 0. Aggressive setter dumps and hitter tips can count as kills, but if the hitter tips or roll shots a great set, that can be considered a free ball.
This is 6v6 or 5v5 with players on the clock between one and two minutes. The serving side needs to win two consecutive points to enter free-ball scoring. Once they do, feed them free balls (enter the ball to the receiving team and let them pass it over the net for a free ball) for the remainder of the time. This is the only time the serving team can earn points. You will need to enter balls very quickly since they are on the clock. Once time runs out, treat it like a side-out; the receiving team rotates and becomes the serving team. Team with the most points after each team’s turn is done wins. Can vary the scoring to emphasize whatever skills you want your teams to work on, too: can only score on jump hits, must always use 3 contacts, get bonus points for kills from a certain play your team is working on, etc.
Queen (or King) of the Mountain
Divide everyone into 2 teams. One team is serving and the other has 3 passers, 1 setter and 1 target with the rest of their team ready to fill in for passers. The goal is to score 15 points before the other team. Teams score points by making perfect (3-point) passes where the setter can set to any of the 3 front-row positions, while the servers are trying to ace the passers. If the target on the passing side does not get to the pass and catch it before it hits the floor, after 3 such “strikes” the two teams run and switch sides. The target can run anywhere to catch the ball, which teaches your setters to better the ball. Once someone from the team gets back to the serving line, they can serve. Can also rotate your passers and target after X number of passes in order to give multiple players opportunities to pass and set.
Speedball Deep Court Exchange
Start with 3 passers, 1 setter and at least 1 player off the court ready to serve on each side (4v4 with a fifth player necessary, as more players works, too). You only score points on serve receive. If you lose the rally, your team serves immediately. (You can use this as a strategy to ace the other team. The fifth player needs to be ready with a ball in hand.) The winning side stays, while the losing side rotates
with a new server coming onto the court like in a game. Missed serves count as points and result in rotating and a new server, so rotate quickly. Play to 25 and make sure this is fast paced.
The best way to play this is with all back-row attacks from your passers and the setter in the front row, though you can adapt according to your needs, such as having left back transition to hit from the outside. Great for serving and passing under pressure due to the quick pace of the game, and it's fun and competitive.
This is a game of servers vs. passers. Start the score at 10. The serving team is trying to get the score to 0. The passing team is trying to reach 20. Two points for perfect passes, 1 point for 2-point passes, and 2 points for aces. Modify as needed to suit your team.
Timed grill. Teams are required to meet a goal of X perfect passes in a certain amount of time, such as 90 passes in 3 minutes for a 16s or 18s team. Another method is to divide into two teams with each team doing a half butterfly on each side of the court and make it a competition for each side of the butterfly to reach a certain number of passes first. (You can even specify just overhead or forearm passes to work on something more specific based on your team’s needs.) For a cooperative version, give your team a certain amount of time as a whole group to keep any balls from hitting the floor, such as one or two minutes. This makes the setting and hitting targets work a lot harder and everyone come together as a team to reach their goal.
This is a 6v6, 5v5, 6v4, etc., cooperative grill. Each rally can start with a serve, a down ball or a free ball. Your team has two minutes to keep a set number of balls in play. Once a rally ends, that ball can’t be used again. For instance, start with 10 balls in the cart. The team can't go through all the balls in the cart before time runs out. Alternate which side that gets the serve/down ball/free ball. Reduce the number of balls in the cart as they improve.
Monarch is similar to king or queen of the court, but the kings/queens side has to not only win the service rally from the challenging side but also receive a bounce from the coach and win that rally to stay on the kings/queens side.
Team Cooperative Pepper
This is 5v5 cooperative with no middle front. As soon as the ball is delivered over the net, that side rotates one position. Everyone has to play every position. Set a goal for consecutive 3 contacts over the net (balls delivered over the net in 1 or 2 contacts are a wash), or set the goal to be that your team has X minutes to beat its previous high cooperative score.
3 on, 3 off
This is played with doubles, triples, quads or whatever turnout you have. There are three teams. Two play out a rally. The loser runs off, and the winner runs on. The next serve must go up within 5 seconds after the previous rally ended. If you keep winning you keep playing. Teams keep track of their own score. Great warm-up drill. Can also modify it in numerous ways:
● all forearm passing
● all hand setting
● all forearm passing or hand setting
● anything less than three contacts and you lose the rally
● must send the ball over the net with an attack
● must terminate with a specific attack
● each rally must involve a back set
● hit with your right hand only
● hit with your left hand only
● one team of 2 vs. teams of 3 or 4
● permanent rotating setter who plays both sides of the net
● two permanent setters
● can only hit from the back row
● can only hit from the front row
5 Before 10
A three-hitter offense has to get 10 perfect passes with just the 3 hitters and a setter against an entire defense. The rotational defense has to dig up 5 balls and attack deep zones 1 and 5 before the perfect-pass offense puts 10 kills away.
Hitters vs. Defense
Give 3 hitters and a setter on one side two minutes to record 5 kills. Every hit into the net is -1 point. Six players are on defense on the other side working to keep them under 5. This puts pressure on the hitters to find a way to get kills while limiting negative errors. Enter balls via either intentionally short serves or free balls or down balls from the defense (not from a coach if possible) so the hitters must
work on reading and your players get the reps, not the coach.
Full court 6v6, 6v5, 6v4 or another combination. Put your defense on one side and everyone else on the other. Start tossing nasty balls all over the court, mostly to the short side (such as if you’re playing 4v6): at their feet, over their heads, high and out of bounds. The 'short' side has any option at their disposal: 3 touches, 2 touches or over on one. The object is for the short side to deliver as nasty a ball
over the net as possible. This is especially helpful for younger-age teams where opponents will send the ball over in fewer than 3 contacts. Keep score, and modify scoring to suit your team’s needs. Set up many mini-games to 7, for instance, and give everyone a chance to be on the short and six sides.
Go 6v6 or some other variation full court. Can be middle vs. middle, outside vs. outside, opposite vs. opposite or even libero or pipe or A, B, C or D attackers against each other. Example: Teams can only score points off any attack by a middle hitter. Kills are worth 3 points. A quality hit (as judged by a coach) that is defended is worth 1 point. A negative hitting error (hit into net) is -1 point. First
team/hitter to 10 points or any point total of your choosing wins.
Introduce a free ball and play it out, but no matter what happens to the attack, a coach or other players stationed with balls in hand along the net at LF, MF and RF tosses a ball right over the hitter to the players who should be covering their hitter. The diggers pop it up and they try to run another play over and over again. The trick is to keep the sequence going regardless of the result of the hit. If a ball is in the way as a result of being hit into the net, then stop the play, but encourage the players to kick that errant ball out of the way so you can quickly continue the cycle. Lots of gamelike action training the 'breathing' required for transition and cover. Set a consecutive balls goal for them initially, but once they catch on, let them set their own goal of how many successful cycles they need before switching out players.
Starting side has 0 points. Other side has 5. If the starters reach 7 before the other side reaches 11 they win. If the other side gets to 11 before the starters get to 7 they win. Teaches the starters to stay focused and find a way to win since they are coming from behind. Teaches the other side to close out a set strong when they already have the lead.
Play a regular game of 6v6, 6v5 or another variation. The starters begin with 16 points, and the reserves have 10. Start each rally with a serve, but as soon as a rally ends, introduce a free ball to the serving team. If the starters win both rallies, they get 1 point. If they win 1 of the 2 rallies they get no points, but the reserves score a point for every rally they win, even if it's only 1. First team to 25 wins.
Around the World
The side of six is in serve receive. They start in whatever rotation you choose. They have to go through all six rotations without making a negative error, returning the ball in three contacts with some form of attack on the third contact on both a serve and then a free ball, or 12 balls total (two per rotation).
This grill can be adapted many ways. For example, you can give younger teams three or more washes for the times they shank a serve. You can require older teams to attack at least once from each front row and back row attack position. Also give them a time limit for going around all six rotations, such as 15 minutes. This grill works especially well when your team only has 6 to 8 players in attendance.
Set the Standard
Starters vs. subs. Ten served balls to each rotation. The subs go first in serve receive, and the starters defend. However many rallies out of 10 that the subs successfully first ball side-out becomes the "standard.” The starters have to beat the standard in order to win the grill for that rotation.
Example: Rotation 1 vs. Rotation 1, and the subs successfully first ball side-out in 6 out of 10 rallies. The starters have to win 7 out of 10 rallies to win that rotation.
Roll the Dice
Go 6v6 or 5v5. Get a regular 6-sided dice. Subs roll first. Whatever they roll is the rotation they have to receive in. Starters roll next; that's the rotation they have to defend in. Then they switch roles. Play the best of 3 or 5 points for each match-up. Record the scores for each match-up.
A vs. B
Go 6v6 or 5v5 full court. Side B serves the whole time. Both teams rotate each time side A earns a point. From points 0-15, side A can only hit back-row attacks. Anything else is a point for B. From points 15-20, side A can add in front-row tips and rolls. For points 20-25,
side A can use any type of attack. Side B can score points in any way.
Play 6v6 or 5v5 full court. Give your A team a sequence of plays they have to complete successfully to score. For instance, they might have to complete a slide, a pipe attack, and a 31 in order to score 1 point; this could be consecutive if they're that advanced. This forces your A team to have to play better and follow a game plan and allows the B team to narrow the possibilities of what's coming
when defending. The B team can score on every kill or A team error or could have to accumulate a certain number of little points to earn a big point. There are all sorts of ways to adjust the scoring and difficulty levels.
Big Point Little Point
This 6v6 grill is a variation of a wash drill that handicaps the wash scoring in order to make it tougher for the starters and competitive for the subs if they are not quite as good as the starting rotation.
Here’s one example: a 3-ball wash drill with one served ball and two roll shots entered by coaches from the sideline over the net. Whoever wins the rally gets the next roll shot. The subs must win 2 out of the 3 rallies to earn a big point. The starters must win all 3 rallies to win a big point. Everything else is a wash. Your side gets to rotate every time you score a big point.
Beat the Ball
This is played as 6 versus however many players you have remaining on your team. When the side of 6 makes an unforced error, the "ball" gets a point. If you win the point, the side of 6 gets a point. Play for either time or points. The goal is to have more points than the ball does.
The Chosen One
This is full-court 6 vs. however many players you have left. Play games to 5 points. You as coach dictate where the first set has to go for each short game, such as to the side of 6’s middle hitters, opposite hitters, outside hitters, or pipe attackers. If the first ball has to go to the middle, every other set before the rally is dead can go anywhere else. Points for the side of 6 can only come from the Chosen One’s kills.
This is a fun and challenging grill to 10 points where teams can only score on a specific play in whatever order you come up with. Here’s one example:
2. Kill by an outside hitter
3. Kill by an opposite hitter
5. Pipe attack
6. Setter dump
7. 31 middle hitter kill off a quick set
8. Tip by any attacker
9. Any back-row attack off a 3-point pass
10. Any front-row jump kill off an out-of-system set
Phase 10, Version 2
Take all the things your team needs to work on and make them bonus points in addition to the normal one point for winning a rally. Then play 6v6, 5v5 or whatever combination you have at practice that day and keep score, with the first team to 60 winning.
0-9 points: serve to 1 spot
10-19 points: back-row swings to 1 and 5 spots
20-29 points: serve to 5 spot
30-39 points: outsides hit line
40-49 points: serve to any front-row zones
50-59 points: quicks and high sets to middles
Print out the bonuses on a piece of paper and post them on the pole covers for each team to see. Each team is responsible to look at the sheet and communicate to their teammates what they should do. You can even make 1 sheet of bonus points for one team and 1 sheet of different bonus points for the other.
Each team is given 3 ways to earn points. For example: a kill by an outside hitter, a stuff block and a jump serve from zone 5 to zone 5 for an ace. You can write up 3x5 cards with different scoring options made up for the teams to pick from. Each team is playing to win their 3 points first, but they don't know what the opponent’s points need to be. It helps create some competitiveness and strategy on
Start 21-21 playing 6v6 or another combination full court. A team wins by reducing the score. The first team to 0 wins. Play a regular game, but your passers get points for passing a 3, 2, or 1-point pass. You reduce your team’s score by the numeric value of the pass (a 3-point pass is worth 3 points), and winning a rally reduces a team’s score by 1 point as well. Serves into the net add 1 point to your score.
Play full court to 25, but once a point is lost you repeat that situation and give the player and team one more opportunity, especially knowing what happened. For example, if your opposite hitter hits a back set into the net, immediately enter a free ball to their team so they have an opportunity to successfully run the same play. This gives your players more reps at something they've not yet mastered. If the second opportunity (like the back set to your opposite hitter) did not yield success, then the game goes back to initiating the rally with a serve.
Start with a joust at any front row position. The winning side gets 7 free balls to earn points. If the other team stops them by getting 3 X's (points) first, they receive a serve. If they then win the serve receive point, they steal all the points earned in the original 7. If the original team wins the service point, it's a wash and nobody earns a point. You could also give bonus points for winning all 7 free-ball
rallies with no X's.
7 Small 3 Big
Coaches enter down balls, and play is normal. When a team gets to 7, they yell BIG and their score flips to 10. When a team gets to 17 points, they yell BIG and their score flips to 20, and 27 flips to 30 for the win. The catch is if a ball hits the floor without a touch by the defense, the offensive team yells WASH and the defensive team has their points taken away back to the last big point earned (example:
14 goes back to 10).
Can be played full-court, halfcourt or any type of split court. Every touch in a rally adds a point to the pot. The team that wins the rally gets the pot. First team to 100 points wins. The counting by the players or coach makes it loud and draws focus to each touch and increases the intensity of each rally.
All Bets Are Off
Explain that the three contacts per side rule is gone. You can play as many as you want (4, 5, 6) or as few. The only object is to score on the other team. The defender’s job is to read, and make the play.
Probably the greatest game for teaching communication. First team to 99 points wins. Teams earn 1 point for every time they loudly and effectively communicate during or even before and after a rally. For example, Team A serves the ball deep to zone 5. Team B, the serve receive team, would call DEEP (+1 point) and IN (+1); the setter calls HERE (+1), the passer deep in zone 5 says MINE (+1). As the pass is in the air heading to the setter, each of the hitters then calls for their sets (it’s 6v6, so hopefully it’s +4 or +5, or 1 point for each hitter), so before they have even hit the ball over the net, team B should have scored 8 or 9 points.
Bonuses can be added as well for celebrating a kill/block/ace/point enthusiastically (+1), encouraging a teammate who makes an error (+1), calling out seam/line/short/deep responsibilities prior to the serve (+1) and a player who is afraid to set actually setting the ball to a hitter or a player who doesn’t normally try to hit line actually hitting line (+1). Coaches will need a flip chart, a calculator app or a
pen and paper to keep points in this crazy game that gets quiet teams communicating more effectively than ever.
Each team picks a number between 1 and 10 or does rock-paper-scissors to see which side gets 23 and which side gets 17. Then we play it out. Play this several times or as time allows. Teaches how to finish off an opponent when you have the lead and how to play tough and rally from a deficit.
Draw a bingo card with a specific skill or action written in each square of the card, like “kill off a middle quick”, “setter dump for point”, “block assist”, “pipe attack for kill” and “service ace to zone 5 or 1”. First team to cover the board wins. Or play it as Volleyball Tic Tac Toe and the first team to get 3 squares in a row wins.
Play a modified version of Connect 4 on a whiteboard. Zones 1-6 go across the X axis and increasing number of kills up the Y axis. Every time someone gets a kill in a zone, one of the athletes will quickly mark the board, then report back to her team which zone they need to hit next. Your players will learn that it's tough to get kills in 6, seams are the way to go, and which players hit well to which zone.
This is 6v6. Use any rotation scheme or extra rules or constraints you want. Play a game to 7, but if a ball hits the floor on your team’s side of the court untouched, your team loses all its points.
Make a list on a whiteboard of the different spots that the two teams need to hit, tip, set, and serve to. (Outside attack to the high seam, setter dump to zone 4, back row attack to either corner … the list goes on.) As each team achieves a task, coaches cross it off the board. You could use painter’s tape to mark the spots and use specific shapes for each task,such as a triangle for the spot where the setter
needs to dump to zone 4.
Servers vs. Passers
Team A serves at Team B. Team B is trying to get a total of 21 points in serve receive (3-point, 2-point and 1-point passes). If Team B gets aced, the teams switch.
Cool as Dice
One team gets 1 pair of dice and the other team gets 2 pair. Teams roll to see what number they get, then only tell the coach the score their team has to reach so that your opponent doesn’t know what score your team has to achieve. Play to those points. This game creates tension and a sense of urgency on the court.
Version 1: Bring a deck of playing cards and remove the aces, twos, threes and fours. Split your roster into two equal teams. Each team draws a card from the deck. They need to score that many points in order to win. Both teams see both cards.
Version 2: Team A draws a card and shows Team B. Team A doesn’t see their own card. Team B draws a card and shows Team A without seeing their own card, either. Both teams know their opponent’s goal but not their own, which makes them push extra hard, especially if the other team is close to winning.
Version 3: Team A draws a card to determine the score it must attain to win and looks at it but does not show Team B. Team B does the same thing. This makes teams sprint for points, knowing the goal they need to attain.
As coach, choose a specific action that automatically results in a team losing the game. Example: a serve into the net, a hit into the net (as opposed to a hit long), a ball hitting a team's floor untouched or an overpass. Only you know what the action is. Neither team knows. Play until one team performs this action. When a team does this, they lose.
You can also play Russian Roulette from the opposite perspective: Choose an action that automatically results in one team winning a grill. For example: a pipe attack, slide attack or any attack for a kill that your team struggles to perform but is working on learning; an ace deliberately served to zone 2 or 4; or any stuff block at middle front. This can also be done with the score: choose a certain number that, when reached, automatically gives that team the victory. (It could be a small number like 2 or 3 or a larger score up to 27.)
This game can be played 3 v 3, 4 v 4, 5 v 5 or 6 v 6. It is regular game play. Teams play to 25 and win by 2. Rotate normally. On the whiteboard, write out the following:
Team A Team B
These are the “starting scores” that the teams get to pick from. Once a team selects their starting score, you circle it and put it on the flip score. Play the game out, and the winning team gets to cross off their score and choose a new one. The losing team is stuck with their starting score until they win with it. First team to cross off all of their starting scores wins.
As an example, let’s say that Team A picks 21, and Team B picks 18. The game gets played out, and we’ll say that Team A wins 2522.
Team A then picks (again, as an example) 19. The next game would start at 1918. If Team B wins that game, it then gets to choose a different starting score. If it loses again, it starts the next game at 18 again.
Choose random numbers for each team that are less than 25, but are hidden from them. Since teams don't know their score, it could be game point at any time, so they have to always play hard, ratcheting up match-like intensity.
Works for any court size or number of players. Points are only scored for kills, blocks and aces. Everything else is a wash.
6v6 or 5v5. Can use your hands or forearms on the first two touches, but the third touch must be only with the forearms. The coach either throws a ball in and then introduces another ball when team A sends the first ball over or enters one ball in on both sides so that two balls are in play at once. This forces teams to work on communication.
Coaches vs. 6
This is a good grill when your team is short on numbers at a practice. The coaches can throw a lot of different things and situations at their players, from purposely playing every ball over on 1 to sending a variety of different types of serves and locations at them. The coaches also celebrate and high five and do all the things you want your athletes to do, which fires them up and teaches them how to
react between rallies.