As club season rolls along a number of athletes have approached me to learn the secret of getting better at volleyball. What is the key to becoming a better volleyball player and what must they do to improve?
No one excels in Volleyball without DISCIPLINE!!!
No athlete, no matter how blessed they are with natural ability, will develop into a university-bound athlete without discipline. Discipline not only applies to attending practice and performing some extra exercises at home; it also applies to nutrition, rest/recovery, mental preparation and a real commitment to focused training and self-assessing when in the gym. The young athlete must also ensure any additional exercises performed at home are done so correctly. Muscle memory can work against an athlete if they train incorrectly and learn poor mechanics.
Here are the five most important things you can do to get better at volleyball:
1. Find good coaching. No athlete’s career will be defined by one coach and every athlete will run into coaches they just didn’t care for. This can have as much to do with the personality of the coach as much as the depth of their knowledge.
That being said, too many young athletes choose to play at clubs and organizations to be with their friends rather than the quality of the training. An athlete can quickly find herself falling behind her peers after a season of sub-par training. Parents should be involved in the decision-making process and guide their young athlete to a program with a history of winning and a coach that can point to the past success of his/her teams to ensure their child will learn and grow as an athlete.
Failing that, young athletes always have the opportunity to attend off-season camps to learn from instructors who can help correct bad-habits and provide guidance in how to get your child’s game to the next level.
2. Listen. Self-assess. The ability to listen to coaches and self-assess (visualize and apply the corrections being asked by coaches) will greatly impact the overall success of any volleyball player. Body awareness is a key skill of volleyball players and, as such, gymnasts and dancers often transition very well into volleyball as they can quickly visualize and apply corrections asked of coaches.
A strong body-awareness background will also ensure the young athlete employs the correct mechanics when performing extra exercises at home and otherwise plays outside of the supervised environment of her coach.
3. Practice at Home. Every young athlete should practice at home. Again, the risk here is that the athlete implements poor mechanics and learns bad habits so there are some inherent risks and these should be addressed by the club coach as he/she hands out assignments.
Volley: Every athlete should own a ball and be prepared to practice at home. The risk of volleying to yourself at home is that a young athlete who is standing or sitting and volleys to herself will learn to set with their head tilted back. That is poor form. They should volley on their backs and focus on their contact. Two sets of fifty for example.
Arm Swing: Every young athlete should practice their arm swing at home. To ensure they do not damage anything around the house simply go out and purchase a container of badminton birds. They can throw these against the floor. Three sets of twenty on off nights. To teach approaching simply have them approach and throw badminton birds. You can also add transition and approach.
Blocking: Squat & Press is an excellent exercise to help young athletes penetrate when blocking. They drop into a squat with a ball in their hands, stand and reach up on their toes to push a ball with arms fully extended against the wall. Three sets of twenty. To add difficulty, add footwork (2-Step, shuffle, etc.)
4. Set Goals. Take the time to outline some personal goals for your development during the club season. Your coaches can introduce you to stats and how to monitor your improvement with the help of these stats. If you can encourage your teammates to set goals, you can all work together to track each other’s progress with the help of stats. Everybody wins.
Goals setting must be specific to each skill. I would like my passing to improve. It is now averaging 2.23 and the average in my age class is 2.35. I would like to pass an average of 2.5 and stand out as a strong passer in our club. The same can be said of any skill from serving to attacking and so on. Discuss these with your coaches.
5. Be a Multi-Sport Athlete. This will seem counterintuitive. To be a better volleyball player, play other sports. All data serves to suggest the long-term development of young athletes is best served by training in a variety of sports. You’ll also be surprised at how one sport will cross-over and help you in another. Want to hit harder? Play baseball. Learn how to rotate and throw a ball effectively. Badminton will help with your wrist snap when you hit. These are just a few examples of how other sports can impact your game. Want to be a better athlete? Join the track team. Your options are endless.
Sport specialization should not be considered until the year the athlete is turning 16. Even when the young athlete commits to a sport at the elite level there should always be time for recreational participation is school sports or other community games.
Now play the sport you love and have some fun!
- Coach Luc