by Tom Mendoza, Associate Head Coach - Creighton University
All formats have some combination of shared court as well as whole court access. In NCAA women’s volleyball, the pre-match countdown starts at 60 minutes prior to the game with 41 minutes of shared court followed by each time getting a total 9 minutes of whole court. Here are five observations from watching teams this season.
1. Safety first!! Be very cognizant of when athletes take any jumps, including jump-setting. It’s just not worth the risk. There is a lot going on in warm-ups, with over 30 athletes and 60 volleyballs and varying levels of control. Which leads to…
2. Make (the right) time for blocking, often the most forgotten about skill in warm-ups. Blocking is the first thing that we do after stretching only because that is the most likely time that the other team won’t have balls flying under our players’ feet. I always get nervous for other teams when they line up for blocking reps while we are already into defense and balls are around the net. I’ve seen some teams work controlled blocking reps into their whole court warm-up, and I think it works really well.
3. One sided serving is the new black. Gone are the days both sided serving with assistant coaches standing out there guarding serves from going under feet, while trying to not get hit in the face or even more sensitive areas. Similarly, it lets the servers relax and not have to worry about getting blasted. We added a simple rule that any player who serves into the net is responsible for that ball to make sure it doesn’t come back under a teammate.
4. Multi contact drills are a good thing, even during shared court. We like opening up with a low key dig-set series. It reinforces where we want our digs, and where we want our out of system sets. From there we try to gradually scale up to live play. Taking coaches out of the warm-up gives more onus on the players to control the flow of play.
5. Controlled 6-on-6 won’t destroy the universe. We’ve never had 6-on-6 in warm-ups, but we added it halfway through this year since we were starting matches slowly. Coaches have a hard time putting live play into full court warm-ups, mainly because it gives up control by opening the door to chaotic play which looks bad and stresses the coach out. But is a little chaos a bad thing? Volleyball is a difficult game of limiting errors while being aggressive, and working through that balance might end up being the most productive part of warm-up. We came to a compromise this year that we only played it out to a dig, then entered another controlled ball to start the rally.
Hopefully you find something in there to be beneficial, or disagree with it so strongly that it helps define your philosophy.