Tuesday, 23 Jul 2024

Please Embrace the Net: Improving Volleyball Training Techniques

Volleyball coaches and players often find it challenging to transition from the conventional half-court training methods to utilizing the net throughout their practices. However, by focusing on the crucial aspect of net play, both coaches and players can significantly enhance their skills and overall gameplay. In this article, we delve into the importance of incorporating the net into training sessions, from warm-ups to passing and hitting drills.

Embracing the Net: A Game-Changer

The net is a vital component that sets volleyball apart from other sports. It serves as a barrier, separating opponents and significantly impacting successful receptions, whether it’s a serve or an attack. As experienced coaches will attest, more than half of the learning process occurs before the ball even crosses the net. By focusing on reading plays before, during, and after the ball is hit, players can develop a higher level of game understanding.

To emphasize the significance of net play, consider integrating activities that simulate playing over an imaginary net. These exercises can involve dividing the court using a rope or an “over the net” station between courts. Even without physical nets, athletes can learn to clear an imaginary 228cm high barrier for females and 248cm high for males. Additionally, having setters stretch tall and make hits go over their arms serves as a constant reminder to clear the “net,” whether real or not.

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Breaking the Mold: Eliminating Counterproductive Drills

Traditional training approaches often include drills such as pepper and wall spiking that inadvertently reinforce incorrect habits, such as hitting into the net. To foster optimal development, it is imperative to differentiate between good and bad errors in each skill. Rather than hitting the ball into the net, players should focus on aiming long over the net, allowing for potential touches by blockers or opportunities for diggers to make a play.

Volleyball’s rhythmic nature follows the pass-set-hit pattern, with a powerful finish. It is essential to avoid getting stuck in repetitive patterns of passing back and forth or setting back and forth without engaging with the net. Instead, prioritize three-hit sequences in training exercises, mirroring game scenarios. As Marv Dunphy wisely states, incorporating pass-set-hit drills is crucial for optimal skill development.

Rethinking Coaching Traditions: Empowering Players

While coaches often exert significant control over practice sessions, it is vital to recognize that the game belongs to the players. Allowing athletes to take charge of their development by actively participating in drills and decision-making creates a more engaging and dynamic training environment. Basketball coaches understand this philosophy, as they don’t personally take every free throw shot during practice. Similarly, volleyball coaches should empower players to develop their skills and tactics.

Identifying and eliminating outdated coaching practices can be instrumental in promoting player growth. Here are some examples that need reconsideration:

  1. Coach-centered ball distribution: Instead of coaches precisely placing balls for setters, encourage players to toss the ball to each other, simulating game-like scenarios.
  2. Slapping the ball: Avoid focusing on unnecessary techniques like slapping balls on the floor when practicing with setters. Instead, concentrate on setters receiving properly-paced balls.
  3. Static blocking practice: Rather than having coaches serve as stationary blockers, focus on real-game blocking situations that challenge players to read hitters and time their jumps effectively.
  4. Tight sets close to the net: Initiate training with sets from the 3-meter line and gradually move closer to the net to develop hitting skills in a progressive manner.
  5. Neglecting back sets: Ensure balanced training by incorporating equal amounts of front and back set practice to enhance both setter and hitter skills across different zones.
  6. Coach-dominated setting: When players require additional hitting opportunities, encourage them to self-toss and set the ball to develop proper timing.
  7. Unrealistic defensive drills: Avoid throwing balls from the net to the back row, as it does not mimic realistic game play situations. Instead, focus on training players to anticipate and react during actual gameplay.
  8. Hitting at players: Coaches should discourage hitting balls directly at players and emphasize digging up rather than sending the ball back to the hitter.
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By relinquishing control and enabling players to take ownership of their skills, coaches can create a training atmosphere that reflects the demands of the game.


Q: How can training with the net improve volleyball skills?
A: Training with the net emphasizes the crucial aspects of net play, such as reading plays before, during, and after the ball is hit. This helps players develop a higher level of game understanding and improves their overall gameplay.

Q: What are some common coaching practices that need reconsideration?
A: Some coaching practices that can hinder player development include coach-centered ball distribution, static blocking practice, focusing on tight sets close to the net, neglecting back sets, coach-dominated setting, using unrealistic defensive drills, and hitting at players.

Q: How can coaches empower players during practice sessions?
A: Coaches should recognize that the game belongs to the players and empower them to take charge of their development. Allowing players to actively participate in drills and decision-making creates a more engaging and dynamic training environment.


Training volleyball players to utilize the net effectively is a game-changer that can significantly enhance overall skills and gameplay. By embracing the net from the start to finish in practice, coaches and players can better understand the importance of reading plays before, during, and after the ball is hit. Breaking away from counterproductive coaching traditions and empowering players will lead to a more dynamic and engaging training environment. By integrating these fundamental changes, coaches can help players reach their full potential and excel in the game of volleyball.

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