Adapting Youth Volleyball Training to Young Athletes - Response to Article by The Art of Coaching Volleyball


A term that gets thrown around a lot these days is life-long learner.  To us, this label encompasses the idea that there will always be something you don’t know and something more to learn.  And in this online world full of information, one of our favorite volleyball resources is The Art of Coaching Volleyball.

The Art of Coaching Volleyball is headed by three well-known coaches: Russ Rose, John Dunning, and Terry Liskevych with the mission to, “offer the tools necessary for you to be an outstanding coach who values listening and learning and seeks to evolve.”  With coaching clinics and a website of videos and articles, is a resource for many and if you are interested, we encourage you to check it out.

Today, along with our recruiting coordinator Jim Saari, we are looking The Art of Coaching Volleyball article: Developing Better Volleyball Players Requires Changing the Way We Teach by Jim Stone.

Original Article:


We can all agree that volleyball in the United States is on the up swing. With increased participation numbers, national team success and TV-visibility of collegiate teams, what do we need to do in order to continue the upward growth?

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"Isn't "layering", the gradual implementing of more complex systems... the most satisfying method of learning?"

Jim Saari (Silver State Volleyball Club Recruiting Coordinator)

According to Stone, “To continue elevating the level of play in our sport, we need to develop more multi-skilled volleyball players. Currently, we mask the shortage of all-around skilled players with substitution rules and positional specialization. To develop players with a diversified skill set, we need to start at the young ages – specifically, ages 10-13.”

Stone breaks down the task of creating all-around skilled players down to three simple things at young ages: more rallies, more touches, and more fun (of course).

Saari agrees, “As someone who spent time officiating middle school and freshmen volleyball, it drove me crazy as the first month was all the coaches yelling at the kids things like "you're supposed to go to left back after you've served" and "you're setting out of the back row" when there is no ball control or court movement. The emphasis for young players should be getting a high amount of ball contacts.”


We highly suggest you head to The Art of Coaching Volleyball to read the full article, here we are going to do a recap of Stone’s changes as well as Saari’s thoughts.

#1. Make the court smaller – less area to cover

#2. Lower the net height to the average-sized players arm reach – easier to get ball over the net

#3. 4 players on each side – more ball contacts

#4. Play shorter games with more sets – more urgency to score


Why does Saari think Stone is on to something?


“One of my favorite ways to accomplish increased ball contacts is thru small area games. I see way too many coaches, at all pre-college levels, plugging players into what they view as their 6 player roles. I love Stone’s 4 player, badminton sized court play for sub-middle school, but why aren't more HS freshman or 14's club teams playing 4-2's when they lose a ton of points to transition issues when trying to run 6-2's? I see 14's teams all trying to do everything their 18's are doing.

Isn't "layering", the gradual implementing of more complex systems as skill acquisition warrants, the most satisfying method of learning? All coaches need to balance where the team is currently with the long term system and goals. I, for one, would love to see a full implementation of Coach Stone's ideas in USA Volleyball or, at the very least, much experimentation with them.”



Small court drills are not limited to young kids, many warm up drills are set up on half a volleyball court to achieve the same goals Stone wants to emphasize, increased ball contacts and creating better all-around volleyball players.  An example of this is the National Drill or Ball on None (video below) which gives three players half a court to cover and can be adapted for different skill levels.


Here is link to the video of Jim's small court drill that AVCA used.