by Tom Mendoza, Associate Head Coach - Creighton University
Some in the volleyball community have weighed in with their thoughts of our game’s most popular drill. An advantage basketball has over volleyball is the simplicity of a ball, a hoop, and any number from zero to nine friends. Pepper is our version of shooting hoops on the playground, and from elementary school to the Grand Prix in Omaha, pepper is everywhere and it isn’t going away… it’s just too darn convenient. By looking at some of the pros and cons of this basic drill, we can make a couple tweaks to improve our love/hate relationship with pepper. For the sake of brevity, I will only focus on two person pepper.
Pros of pepper
- You are practicing three major skills of volleyball in succession (defense, setting, and attacking arm swing). Hard to beat pepper here.
- You are contacting 50% of the reps. Have two minutes to warm up before practice or in between sets? Pepper is the drill for you.
- It’s an efficient use of space (assuming some ball control). A whole team can warm up at the same time on half of a court.
- Not practicing getting the ball over the net (which is the main point of volleyball). Very valid point, and maybe as coaches we choose pepper drills too often while leaving the nets unused. However, you don’t dig to yourself in a game either. Four person over the net pepper is a good warm up if you have the time and space, but you’ve also just cut your reps from every other ball to every 4th contact. No quick fix for this one, just some stuff to think about.
- Playing the ball all the way back to your
partner, especially in defense is practicing bad habits of overpassing
digs. We can fix this.
- Only performing linear direction of the ball. Within a game the ball is rarely ever passed, set, or attacked directly where it came from. We can fix this too.
Simple fix: For this we have “angled-well-pepper” where we have our defensive player dig to “the well” but this time 5’ left/right of their partner. This also forces the setter to move forward at angle and get square to set, then push back at an angle for defense. It also makes the attacker turn the ball off the angle of the set.
Pepper is by no means my favorite drill, but since it is not going away we might as well learn to get more out of it. Hopefully these quick tweaks can help with your teams as well. You will be surprised how much movement this creates, and forces players to control their body and the ball.