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Choosing your offense.

Time and good statistical information will allow you to identify the best way for your team to execute its offense. Efficiency is everything. For each of your rotations you should know the side out percentage, the hitting efficiency, and the passing level. Next, look at individual player statistics. What is the hitting efficiency for each player? What percentage of total sets does each receive?

Generally, the players with the highest hitting efficiencies receive the most sets. What is the passing level of each player? What are the offensive patterns and corresponding set distributions? What are the hitting efficiencies by offensive pattern and by the individual players in the pattern?

This information will help you discern the best way for your team to execute its offense. Examine each of your rotations. Begin with the ones with the lowest side out percentages. Examine your team's serve receive. If there is a problem, what is your idea for a solution? Look at your team's hitting efficiencies. Is your setter running the best patterns? Are your attackers hitting their best kinds of sets? Are the sets being distributed to your hitters in the smartest and most efficient way?


Many drills are available to improve your team offense. I use the following two training drills during the season. One focuses on the team's side out percentage and the other on the team's offense.

"Do or Redo" focuses on the serve-receive attack. It is a great drill for rotation work. It involves two teams of six players, one on offense and the other on defense. Each team works on two rotations at a time (1-4, 2-5, 3-6).

The team on offense receives 20 serves from the defense team. Each team stays in the same rotation for 10 balls and then changes to the other rotation for 10 more balls (for example, 10 serves in Rotation 1 followed by 10 serves in Rotation 4).

We identify a goal for the offense. For example, the offense must win 12 of 20 serves. Each serve is worth 1 point. Service errors are worth 1 point for the offense. To win, the defense must win 9 or more points.

For this drill, I have our starting six on the offense team. The goal is to win 12 of 20 serves in three different ways (Rotation 1 and 4, then Rotation 2 and 5, then Rotation 3 and 6). The offense team remains in the same rotations until it reaches the goal. If it fails to reach its goal, we "redo" that part of the drill.

Variations: Instead of having the defense team stay in the same rotation for 10 balls, we have them change after every 3 serves. I use this variation when I want the offense to receive a variety of serves. At the same time, the offense practices against a variety of blocking groups.

Another alternative is to create competition between the two teams. For example, the winner is the first team to win three times on offense and in all six of the rotations (1-4, 2-5, and 3-6). The defense team must prevent the offense team from winning 12 balls before it can play on offense.


In other words, when the offense team wins (12 or more serves of 20), it remains on offense and changes to the next rotation. When the offense team loses (fewer than 12 serves of 20), it becomes the defense team, and the defense team switches to offense.

I like to initiate the action with a serve. Or you can use balls less difficult to handle, such as balls put into play by a coach.

Use these or other variations to meet the specific needs of your team. This is an excellent drill for rotation work and, in this example, for focusing on your team's side out percentage. When the offense wins 12 out of 20 serves, its side out percentage is 60. My former Boise State U. team goal is 13 out of 20 serves for a side out percentage of 65.

Another drill I use is designed to develop all hitters in each of the rotations. Using all your hitters in your offense is important. The more ways your team can play on offense, the more ways it can attack the opponent's defense. When your setter is in the back row, you have a left-side, middle, and right-side hitter in the front row. When the setter is in the front row, you have a left-side, middle, and possibly one back-row hitter.

A team has a great offensive situation when it can use each of these hitters successfully at any time and in any situation. Your setter will need time and practice to learn how to use all the hitters in a pattern and how to sequence the sets. The drill promotes awareness and creativity in your setter. Moreover, this drill teaches your hitters an extremely important habit--to expect the set every time.


One team is on offense, and one team is on defense. When the setter for the offense team is in the back row, the offense must make five side outs in a row, using each of the three hitters at least once. When the setter is in the front row, the offense must make four side outs in a row, using each of the two hitters at least once. This rule applies only to the first attack after the serve receive. No rules apply to the offense for any transition that follows.

The offense team has five opportunities to meet its goal (i.e., before the defense wins five balls). You can adjust this number according to your situation. When the offense meets its goal, it changes to a new rotation and repeats the drill. When the offense fails to meet its goal (i.e., the defense has won five balls), the teams switch roles and start again. The winner is always on offense, and the loser is always on defense. Only the offense team can score a point.

The winner is the team that first scores a point in each of its six rotations. You must have rules for serving because your players will be tempted to use low-percentage serves. This circumstance could create bad habits. To prevent this problem, I allow the defense team one service mistake per competition. For each additional service error, one point is deducted from its offense total. You can adjust the number of permissible service errors to meet your level.

During the early part of the season, I have a coach put an easy ball into play from across the net. I want players to run the offense off perfect passes to build skill, rhythm, and confidence. Later we initiate the drill with a serve.


Among the most important factors for success are the rate and degree of improvement your team makes during its season. Improvements in your team side out percentage and hitting efficiency come gradually. I do not know any quick solutions.

(Reprinted from the superlative coaching text, The Volleyball Coaching Bible, edited by Don Shondell & Cecile Reynaud and published by Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. It contains 24 articles by top-level coaches and may be ordered by calling 800-747-4457 or by ordering online at

Excerpted from "The Volleyball Coaching Bible," with permission from Human Kinetics
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Title Annotation:Volleyball
Author:Sturm, Fred
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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