Teach Volleyball Defense To Your Team Quickly And Easily

When starting competitive volleyball, one of the most challenging things to teach a team can be how to set up their defense. At the lower levels I like to have players specialize in one position (left, middle, right) and learn how to play both front and back row in that position. This lets them focus on only one important thing and you’ll have less confusion during games. As the season progresses you can switch players around if you need to or feel they are ready for a new challenge. At the higher levels players should be able to play one or two different positions, though they should have a main position and a secondary position only for certain situations, letting them know and understand their role.

Start in Base

When teaching your defense, it’s important to walk through it slowly, and show different kinds of defense one at a time so the confusion is lessened. The first picture you’ll see (Base) has one side starting out in Base, where the players stand after serving or returning a serve, and the other side (top of picture) starting out how they would be if they were receiving a free ball.

Side A (top) is ready for a free ball, and Side B (bottom) is in Base.
Side A (top) is ready for a free ball, and Side B (bottom) is in Base.
Side A is covering their outside hitter while Side B is getting into defense for an outside hit.
Side A is covering their outside hitter while Side B is getting into defense for an outside hit.

Outside Hits

Both sides are using a back row setter. The free-ball team, Side A, always starts with a free ball. This can be tossed to a player by either a coach or a player, as long as it’s a good toss and keeps the game moving. You can give Side A a rule that they can only set the left front player on the first ball. This gives a bit of predictability to the side working on their defense. This is good for beginners so they know where they need to go and it gets drilled into their heads. As they see set after set going outside, they will begin to understand where they need to be on an outside set!

Side A covers their middle hitter, Side B gets into position for a middle attack.
Side A covers their middle hitter, Side B gets into position for a middle attack.
And finally Side A works on their back sets while Side B works on their defense.
And finally Side A works on their back sets while Side B works on their defense.

Middle Hits, Back Hits

The rally continues and both sides try to win, playing with correct form and moving to their positions, but regardless of who wins the rally, Side A will always get the free ball. You set the outside hitter until you think your defense has it, and then you switch to setting middles only on Side A. You can then go through what the defense is for a back set, a free ball, back row attack, or even a setter dumping the ball. After the one side has had their practice at defense, the get to start with the free ball every time. Side B is now hitting at Side A, who is working on getting into their defensive positions.

When to do this drill

Plan to end practice with this drill, and get an early start on it. It could easily take up 45 minutes, depending on how much you need to work through. As it progresses it gets faster and more intense, and it’s playing volleyball; what better drill is there for volleyball than actually playing!? Your team will love it, they came to practice to play. And sneaky you, you’ll even throw in some learning for your players without them realizing it!

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