Ask Coach Houser: How Do I Improve My Team's Defense?

Coach Houser:

I have a really young team this year and they have been absolutely fabulous to work with - they work hard on/off the court, communicate "well" and so far no drama.

We're actually playing better than I had expected considering our youth; sometimes I look on the court and I have two freshman, three sophmores and one senior on the court...Yikes!

As you might guess we have our ups and downs and trouble staying focused on each and every point that comes and goes. We continually have difficulty covering tips.

We work on it continuously and they seem to understand what needs to be done but are consistently "slow" to react to hitters that, for example, come to the point of attack with their hitting arm held high and are clearly going to tip. We react but not quickly enough so at best we're lunging to cover the tip.

I'd love to hear your views on what I might be able to do to improve this part of our team!

You tell me you have a young team. If they are not playing club ball, then they will "learn" to pick up and read tips in twice the time as the club players.

Why? Because they are playing half as much. You and I can "see" when a tip is coming because we've been around the game for dozens of years. We see the short serve coming. We see the back set coming. They don't.

Drills That Create Chemistry

My teams do volleyball-specific warmup drills. We don't run, we don't jog, etc. at the onset of practice.

We'll spend 5 or 10 or 15 minutes on something like this. I will call out 2 teams of 6's. Then tell them instructions:

  • "I will poke a ball over. It will be passed, set outside, then tipped on the third hit."
  • "The other side will dig the ball, then set middle or back, then they will tip. The ball will be dug by the other side, set outside, etc."
  • "This will go on until 15 balls are dug into our setters' hands. Then the 'outside' team will have to set middle or back, while the 'middle back' team will have to set outside."

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