April 23, 2010 • Volleyball

Volleyball: Three drills to emphasize serving, passing

Serving is the one volleyball skill a player can control. It’s the most important skill to master, closely followed by receiving the serve and passing. Receiving is the first contact of offense, and the quality of the pass dictates how your offense is run.

The following are three drills to address the importance and complexities of both serving and passing. They also keep a competitive environment in the gym. These drills are designed to improve the team’s serving accuracy, while providing your passers plenty of “live” reps in practice.

All three drills place servers and passers in potentially pressure-packed situations where they are asked to execute a skill with a scoring consequence. Use these drills in training, and try them on the road during a pregame practice. They are perfect to use when you have a shorter practice on the day of a game, or when you are limiting swings.

Servers vs. Passers Drill  

The Servers vs. Passers Drill utilizes up to 12 players or, if you have smaller groups, use multiple courts to create more opportunities to serve and pass. The purpose of this drill is to improve the accuracy of your servers by serving to a given zone on the court, and forcing contact between the server and passer.


DIAGRAM 1: Create two teams of players and put them across the net from each other. Designate a serving group (O) and a passing group (X). You also need to designate a zone for the server to execute (in this case, Zone 1 is used). One passer is on the court and prepares for the serve in the zone. The other passers wait in line off the court.

Servers attempt to serve in Zone 1. If the ball enters Zone 1, the servers score a point only if the passers execute anything less than a three-option ball. Passers score if they pass a three-option ball, or if the serve lands outside the court (or into the net). If the ball is served on the court but out of the zone, it’s considered a “wash” with no point scored for either team. However, the passer has the option to attempt to pass the out-of-zone ball. If that player passes a three-point ball, it is considered a “rob” and two points are scored.

Servers rotate after every serve.  The passing team rotates when the serving team misses a serve or serves out of the zone. If the passer passes a three-option ball, that player stays on the court and attempts to pass the next serve. Play rally-score games to five and best three-out-of-five games. The servers and passers switch roles after each game.

21 Drill

When only one court is available and you want to give a lot of passers and servers an opportunity to compete, use the 21 Drill.


DIAGRAM 2: Set up a receiving team on both sides of the net using two, three or four passers. Position a group of servers on each side of the net. The servers and passers on the same side of the net are on the same team.

Position a coach or setter on each side of the net to receive the passes. Both teams start the drill with 21 points. Each side alternates serve attempts. The goal of the drill is to remain at 21 points. The first team to reach zero is the losing team. The scoring system is related to the quality of the pass:

  • A three-option ball keeps you at your current score.
  • A two-option ball reduces your score by two points.
  • A one-option ball reduces your score by three points.
  • A zero-option ball reduces your score by four points.
  • An opponent’s missed serve gives you one additional point (teams are not allowed to go over 21).

You or another coach calls out the score as the action happens to keep the game moving.

‘Five-Before-Three’ Drill   

In this drill, passers must execute five, three-option passes before the server forces passers into three, non-three-option passes.


DIAGRAM 3: Position a group of servers on one side of the court, and a group of passers on the other. On the passer side of the court, a setter is positioned as well.

Servers start the action by serving and passers attempt to pass the ball to the setter, who sets to either antennae. The setter calls the score of the drill based on the quality of pass.

An exciting addition to the drill is to have the passing team pass a two-option ball and the setter saves the pass by setting an accurate ball to either pin, which “washes” the point, as opposed to having a point awarded to the serving team.

Also, add a group of blockers (and defenders) on the serving side to work on blocking movement and eye sequence.

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