“All kids need is a little help, a little hope and somebody who believes in them.” – Magic Johnson
Big declaration: We think a college national champion, a five-time professional world champion and three-time NBA MVP probably knows a thing or two about athletic achievement. Now that you’re nodding along, let’s add a few factors into Magic’s equation for successful youth coaching–fun and engagement.
The two go hand-in-hand in our book, and we’re steadfast in the belief you won’t get the latter without a lot of the former. Most kids arrive at a new sport with some kind of mix of excitement and angst over their ability and how they’ll be perceived by peers. With that in mind and with a little help from Magic’s motto, always put fun at the top of your coaching to-do list.
Now that we have some disclaimers out of the way, let’s turn our focus to what you’re here for as we unveil our five highly engaging volleyball drills for middle school students.
The Service Drill
Putting the ball in play is key to playing the game (we weren’t out of big declarations just yet!).
The Service Drill is also a good starting point for kids because it allows them to focus on making solid contact with the ball without simultaneously running, shuffling or jumping. Take four to eight players and split them into pairs, with each standing at the attack line (about three feet away from each other) opposite another pair. The pairs then take turns serving at one another, repeatedly taking steps back with each serve. You can move either pair laterally as well, with the ultimate goal being for the players to learn to target their serve and eventually reach the service line. Once they’re able to hit the service line, they can move on to the standard serve.
The Fan Drill
Setting up your teammates for success is something most kids will get a kick out of. The Fan Drill teaches them to do exactly that by equipping them with foundational setting skills. It’s also a terrific exercise for CROSSNET volleyball enthusiasts looking to train their kids on the individual basics.
Take two players at a time and, as the coach, toss the ball at the setter. Then, have the setter set the ball toward an attacker and stress that they should aim to place the ball high above the attacker in a prime spot for a quick spike. Instead of spiking, however, have the spiker catch the ball and return it to the coach. The players will then switch places and you can rotate the whole squad through for a simple, fast-moving drill.
Rise and Pass
Rise and Pass is an excellent drill that should work to increase your pupils’ passing ability, quickness and stamina. Have four or five players lie down in a straight line at either side of the net, with their heads pointing toward the net. Blow a whistle and have another coach toss the ball just in front of the player, forcing them to jump to their feet before passing the ball back and lying down again.
Feel out the drill’s length as you will, but about five minutes of this should have your kids smiling and sweating. It’s an ideal combo for making a difference as a coach.
The Jump Serve Drill
The jump serve is something we think most kids will rate high on the ol’ “wow, that’s really cool” scale. Again, fun = engagement…but you already knew that.
Stand along the service line and with a player behind the line, throw the ball in the air and yell “left” or “right.” The player then runs to the ball and jump serves to whatever side of the court you directed. You could also have the player run and retrieve the ball before re-entering the rotation, so there’s little standing around and getting complacent. To “put the ball where they want it,” take some time before and after to walk through the proper arm swing motion for desired results.
Part of coaching is planning for mistakes and the unexpected, right? It’s also a great perseverance life lesson for the team to learn how to react when various situations arise.
Have your squad stand on the sideline with two players on the court and simulate a bad pass on first contact, leaving it up to the duo to get the ball back in play and over the net. Vary your bad passes from side-to-side, in front and behind, and emphasize that the first player can’t return it over the net on their own. This will emphasize teamwork and speed and should have the onlookers excited to root on their fellow competitors.
If you took the time to read this piece, your mind is probably in the right place as a youth volleyball coach. Positive instruction that incorporates a large heaping of fun will keep your team engaged, rooting for each other and developing their own individual skillsets and love for the game. Magic would approve of said coaching, and CROSSNET cosigns.