Volleyball Training: Ball Control Drills

Low angle view of volleyball player jumping
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Ball control is the most important skill in volleyball. Without it, there is no offense, and without offense, there is no point-scoring. Winning begins with ball control.

To improve your whole team's ball-control skills, add some repetition drills to every practice. Though they may seem tedious or overly simple, they are necessary to keep your team's ball-control skills sharp over the course of the season.

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Short-Deep Drill

In this drill, players grab a partner and line up perpendicular to the net. One player is stationed at the net while the other starts on the 10-foot line.

The player at the net tosses the ball to the player at the 10-foot line—first short, then deep, and then short again. The player at the 10-foot line hustles to get into position and stopped before playing the ball. You can use this drill for passing or setting. 

Have the player pass or set a certain number of perfect contacts, or you can time the drill and have the partners switch positions.

A variation on this drill for setting is to have the moving player set to themselves and then set to their partner before moving short or deep. Or have your player set to themselves and then back-set to their partner.

Have beginners work on getting their feet into position and stopping to catch the ball over their forehead for setting or in front of them for passing.

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Broken-Play Drill

In this drill, three players begin by laying face down behind the back line. A coach slaps the ball, signaling the players to get up and begin the drill. The coach bounces the ball off the ground and high in the air anywhere on the court.

The players must communicate to decide which of them will set the ball. Once the setter is determined, the hitters call out the ball they are prepared to hit. The setter sets the chosen hitter, and as the hitter takes a swing, the other players get in position to cover the ball.

Blockers on the other side of the net attempt to block the ball. If they succeed, the players need to attempt to cover and play it out again.

The goal is to get players used to communicating and making a good play even when they are out of system. They also learn to get up off the ground quickly (as in after a dig) and to get into position quickly to make the next good contact.

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Free-Ball Passing Drill

This is a simple drill for a simple skill. Good free-ball passing is imperative in volleyball. If an opponent gives you the opportunity for an easy point, you must take advantage of it. Continuously drill your players to make perfect free-ball passes every time so you can run your offense and score points.

In this drill, two passers are in at once. The coach bumps a free ball over to the players.

They must call the ball loudly and pass it to the target at the net. The coach determines whether the pass was perfect or not.

The passer follows the ball and becomes the next target. The target catches the pass, returns it to the coach, and then gets in line to pass.

Coaches can run this drill to a certain number of perfect passes or can work until the team gets a certain number of perfect passes in a row. This puts pressure on the players to make the perfect pass, as an imperfect one returns the count to zero.

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Solo Ball-Control Drill

Solo Ball Control Drill

The solo ball-control drill is one of the few volleyball drills a player can do individually. The players spread out on the courts to give themselves room to move. Each player has a ball, and the goal is to keep the ball in the air and under control for as long as possible.

Start with players bumping the ball to themselves. Move to the players setting the ball to themselves, then begin bumping the ball with just the right hand, and switch to just the left hand.

Lastly, have the players do a succession of contacts—first a bump, then a set, then bounce the ball off of their forehead, then a right-hand contact, then a left-hand​ contact, and repeat. So the succession is: bump, set, head, right, left, repeat.

Keep players going for a few minutes at each skill. If the ball drops or the player cannot contact the ball with the proper skill, they do five pushups or situps and then continue with the ball-control skill at hand.