How to Make Drills That Work For Your Team

  • November 9, 2018
Girls volleyball players practicing with their coach

By Alexander Ketrzynski

Tom Tait is recognized as the founding father of both the men’s and women’s Penn State volleyball programs. His article, “How to Make Drills That Work For Your Team,” provides great advice for coaches looking to improve their teams by finding the perfect drills to do the job.

Coach Tait points out that since one’s competition outcomes are a direct result of training, a coach will not succeed in reaching a team’s potential unless the drills are carefully based on the unique mix of players’ abilities. Tait maintains that “specificity” is the main principle in designing drills. However, they must be expanded to include game-like conditions in order for them to be effective.

Tait continues on to discuss the “design basics” of drills. The following list comes directly from his article:

  1. Single skill in a simple, controlled environment
  2. Single skill in a more complex, open-ended environment
  3. Double (or multiple) skills put together in a sequence that is likely in a real game
  4. Modified games that emphasize the skills that you particularly want the players to focus on, and finally
  5. The game itself

He states that the order of the above points may be switched if a coach wishes to emphasize the importance of the skill being practiced. I’ve found this model to be most effective when I’ve designed practices. It imbedded the particular skill my team needed to improve and exposed it to game-like conditions. It maximizes the activity of the players by reducing the transition time from activity to activity, and, finally, by introducing the randomness of the game.

In order to maintain motivation and attention, it is important to set goals for all of one’s drills rather than running them for a set time or number of attempts. As Tait reminds us: “The player is trying to perform that skill well enough to meet some self-perceived notion of success.” Without this element, in my opinion, the players lose sight of the significance, challenge, motivation, and, not least of all, enjoyment of acquiring the skill.

Tait goes on to discuss the introduction of scoring systems, integrated training and informed imagination for customizing any drill to the particular needs of one’s team and environment. For a more complete discussion of all these aspects, please read the entire article here.

Alexander Ketrzynski is currently an assistant coach with Pakmen Volleyball Club, and father of three sons who are passionate about the game.

He was a member of the 1984 Canadian Olympic Volleyball Team.

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