Volley Drills and Games

Part I: Volley Drills

Even if you have a thorough knowledge of how to play at the net, including positioning, footwork, grips, shot selection, and strokes, you still may have quite a lot of work to do before becoming an effective volleyer. Some players are "natural" volleyers, blessed with quick reactions, keen eyes, precise hands, springy legs, and great anticipation. For the majority of players, though, even at the pro level, getting comfortable at the net requires a concerted effort. Here are some drills and games that will help:

Volley Volley Drill

This most basic volley drill helps develop reactions, footwork, and control. You and your partner stand roughly halfway between the service line and the net and volley back and forth to each other, trying to keep the ball going. Variations:

a. Set goals for consecutive volleys. Start with, say, ten, then keep moving up. Kids especially enjoy this.

b. Try volleying from 3/4 of the way from the net to service line. This will help you train on lower volleys.

c. Set goals for consecutive all-forehands, then all-backhands, then an alternating, "figure 8" pattern.

Closing Volley Drill

Start from the service lines, then close in one good step with each volley. This works especially well if you volley semi-aggressively--not hard, but firmly and at varying heights. You're not trying to put the ball away, but rather to give your partner some moderately difficult balls to handle. This drill develops reactions, footwork, and control, but also the very important habit of closing forward.

The T Drill

Start from the service line and move forward as in Closing Volley, but instead of volleying aggressively, concentrate on keeping the ball in play. Either player can let the ball bounce once or not. The object is to keep moving in until the two players can trap the ball between their racquets at the net. You'll eventually end up much closer to the net and hitting more softly than you would in a match, but it's a fun challenge and a good exercise in concentration and control.

Passing Shot Game

One player feeds balls from the net to the other player, who is at the opposite baseline. The baseline player can hit any type of shot: a pass, a lob, right at the net player, or a dipper at the feet. The net player tries to hit a winning volley. They play each point out, with a game usually to ten points. The feeds should be fairly easy, and typically they alternate between the baseliner's forehand and backhand, but the baseliner may want to concentrate on backhand passing shots, for example, or hitting on the run. This game provides excellent practice for both players.

The Attacking Game

Both players start at their baselines. One feeds a moderately short ball to the other, who hits an approach shot, then tries to finish the point at the net. The attacking player can also hit a clean winner if she wants to, but if her main purpose is to get volley practice, she'd want to hit more approach shots. The defending player can, as in Passing Shot, hit any type of response.

Singles and Doubles Variations

a. Singles where the server must come in behind every first serve, or if ambitious, behind second serves, too.

b. Singles where the receiver must come in behind every return of serve, or if less ambitious, behind every return of a second serve.

c. No-bounce doubles: regular doubles, but after the opponent's serve bounces on one side, a bounce on either side means instant loss of the point for the team in whose court it bounced. This game works surprisingly well and forces its players to develop some good, advanced doubles habits.