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Drills vs. Feedback


One thing we have learned over the years is that volleyball coaches love new drills. After all, if we provide our athletes with new and exciting drills every day, it will motivate them to really get after it. Right? I recently received the following question from a coach…

“My outside hitter makes errors at critical times during the match. Do you have any drills that can help?”

I think this is a fair question to ask. This volleyball coach is simply searching for ideas to better his/her players and team. We do have drills that emphasize certain skills or situations. However, we do not think that drills alone can fix technical or mental issues.

At Gold Medal Squared we don’t think you need a long list of drills. In fact, many of our advisory staff members have only 10-15 drills that they really like. UNC Women’s Soccer Coach Anson Dorrance says this…

“After a while, your coaching development ceases to be about finding newer ways to organize practice. In other words, you soon stop collecting drills. Your development as a coach shifts to observing how great coaches teach, motivate, lead, and drive players to performances at higher and higher levels.”

Volleyball drills are not designed to fix technical issues. Feedback is. Sure you will have drills that may place an emphasis on certain skills, but at the end of the day feedback and mindful reps are what drives change. If this is true (and we think it is), can’t you give feedback in virtually any drill that you run?

Many of you may be thinking, “if you run the same drills every day the athletes will get bored.” I agree, but only to a certain extent. I played the same drills for 5 years in college, and our practices were the best I have ever been a part of. Again, our coaches had a list of 10-15 drills that they selected from. Often times they would modify drills with “subtle variations” to place an emphasis on something or someone. They would structure practice in a way that built and maintained good energy. However, at the end of the day it was their feedback, their demands on us to make changes, and competition that drove practice.

Now, I don’t want to devalue the importance of selecting good drills for your practices. It’s critical that you have a list that you like, and that your athletes really like. However, once you have that list in place you can stop searching for more drills. You can make hundreds of drill variations from a list of 10-15 good activities.

Again, here’s the principle: Drills do not change or fix your athletes. Feedback and mindful reps do. Drills are however the vehicles used to promote energy in practice, game-like reps, and opportunities for us coaches to give great feedback.

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