Before we start
- Mechanically the simplest of tasks but result wise, one of the least immediate in terms of feedback.
- Blocking is much more than getting a stuff block, touching the ball and slowing it down will happen far more frequently.
- Channeling the ball to a specific area of the court or taking away the favorite shots of a hitter are also “successful” blocks.
- When do I teach my players to start blocking
- What stage is the opposition up to, if the ball is being hit down then it’s time.
- Can they get two hands over the net?
- As aggressive as when they are attacking, it is not a passive action.
- Don’t let the aggression translate into swinging arms, aggression is more to do with just how far you get onto their side of the net. The more you penetrate the more you reduce the court that the hitter can hit to.
- Blocking the ball crossing the net, not the hitter.
- One of the most difficult concepts for blockers to master. You need to block the area that
1. The ball always comes down the front of my blockers, why is this happening?
Answer: This is usually the result of the blockers hand and arms going straight up in the air (not crossing over the plane of the net) and the ball hits the forearms of the blocker and comes down the front of them. It can also happen when the blocker is early and they are on their way down and they drag the ball down with them.
Have them focus on getting their hands OVER the net, better to be over than to be high. Make sure they are watching the hitter to work on getting their block jump timing correct.
2. The opposition hitters always score off my right front blocker, what is she doing?
Answer: She is reaching out to the ball/hitter. She needs to make sure that as the right front she is never reaching outside her right shoulder when blocking on our right side. On the left side she needs to make sure she does not reach outside her left shoulder.
3. What should my blockers be watching?
Answer: The blockers need to be very specific with what they are watching; firstly they need to watch the pass, where is it going, is it coming over the net, what options will the setter most likely have? The next part is probably the most difficult, watch the setter and move after they set the ball (this is where most blockers falter). Once you see the set direction you need to look for the hitter that the ball is set to, that hitter will tell you a lot about what is going to happen next. Is she going to hit line or angle or tip/roll the ball, what is her timing so I can get mine right.
4. I want my blockers to be able to block balls attacked in the middle of the court and also at the pins, what is the best way for them to move?
Answer: Quickly! They need to cover the maximum distance in the shortest time. In saying that, there are many ways that you can get there, from a shuffle step to a 3 step turn and run. The only footwork that I think can hinder you is crossing over, this I would not recommend as a way to teach blockers to move (especially if this movement is over a longer distance).
The key thing is that you can get all the way to the antenna and arrive before the hitter hits the ball. To do this well you will need to teach your blockers is to be able to “read” the setter, don’t get faked out, make sure you are blocking the player that the ball is set to. The more “guessing” that the blocker does then the more likely they are to arrive late, or not at all. Arriving after the hitter has attacked to the ball can lead to drifting, reaching out, getting “back-doored” and opening up a hard-to-defend seam. If you are late just block an area of the net by putting your arms/hands straight over, no reaching or drifting, just straight over.
5. One of my players went to a camp and came back and told me that one of the coaches told her that she was drifting, I have no idea what she is talking about.
Answer: The camp coach is talking about taking off and landing in 2 different spots. This happens when the blocker fails to arrest their lateral motion. You need your blockers to take off and land in the same spot. The key here is to get them to stop their lateral motion with their inside leg (left leg if moving to the right, right leg if moving to the left). Drifting gives the hitter a moving target in which to score off, it also opens up a seam making it more difficult for the back-court to defend.
6. I am too short to block, what do I do?
Answer: Become a libero! Here is the thing about blocking, you can be a very effective blocker even if you can only get your hands over the net. Most hitters will try to hit down over a shorter blocker and in most of these cases the ball only clears the net by a few inches. If you can get your hands over the net you will touch more balls than you would think, you will also get the odd stuff block as the hitter goes for the glory shot over you. Now if you can’t get over the net at all you could try “soft blocking” (hands facing up and slightly back off the net) or you could design a system where you don’t block but play a tip defense behind the other 2 blockers.
7. How do I get in the right spot to block an attacker that likes to hit angle or line?
Answer: The first thing you need to remember is that you are blocking the ball as it crosses the net, not blocking the hitter, so you need to put your hands over the net at the point where the ball crosses and you can work this out relative to the body of the hitter. If you want to stop the hitter attacking angle you need to almost have the hitter outside of you, you need to line up with your outside hand on the ball. If you want to block their line shot you need to have your inside hand on the ball. By doing this you may take away the favorite shot of the hitter, that alone may be enough to unsettle them into going for shots they may not be comfortable with.
8. My backcourt players tell me the seam I create makes it hard for them to dig, what are they talking about?
Answer: The seam is the gap between the two blockers, or three if it is a triple block. Let’s look at a double block, to eliminate this gap you have to have one of your blockers responsible for closing that seam. The outside blocker is the one that needs to take the seam and does this by reaching into the seam with their arms. Seams are also created when blockers reach out to the ball/hitter and widen the gap between themselves and the blocker next to them. Seams themselves are not bad, they often give the backcourt a reference point as to where they should go to dig. Seams that suddenly disappear or widen with poorly disciplined blockers make it very difficult for the backcourt to dig.
9. There are 3 attackers in the front row and 1 in the backrow, who do I need to concern myself with?
Answer: This depends on what your scouting information or game information tells you. There are a lot of situations that could evolve. Generally speaking you need to concern yourself with the hitter that is coming into your zone (area that you are responsible for) and make them the priority. What player do they set the most; do they run behind the setter, what middle attack do they run? All these questions are relevant to the original question because they will give you an indication of your blocking priorities. A more simplistic answer would be to block the balls in order of tempo and read. Block the hitter that attacks first and then the hitter that attacks after, read the setter and block whoever they set.
10. Commit blocking, isn’t every block a commit block?
Answer: No, most blocks take place after the blocker watches the set and then makes a move into the correct position. This is read blocking and it simply means that you watch (read) the setter and the set direction before adjusting. Commit blocking is when you block the hitter no matter what the set direction. E.g you are the left front player and blocking the slide (one-foot attack set to the antenna) attack, you stay on that hitter the whole time they are approaching and if they are jumping you are jumping. You are not concerned with reading the setter you are just concerned in committing to the attacker you are assigned.
11. What blocking schemes could I use; I like to move my blockers around?
Answer: There are a variety of different ways to set up your blockers on the net. You could have them bunched, wide, split. You could have the middle switch to the right front or any other type of switch to put yourself in an advantageous blocking position.
12. Where should I put my best blocker, in the middle or on the outside?
Answer: Put them where they will be the most effective. If they are a better blocker than attacker you could leave them in the middle so that they participate in more blocks than any other player. If they are a very good attacker you could play them either in the middle or in right front (blocking the most common set – left side). Who is the best attacker on the other team, where do they play? You may want to consider this as well.
But remember, as important as blocking is, it is rarely the skill that correlates with winning. Sacrificing your attack to make sure you have your best block each time may not always prove to be the best move.
When teaching blocking you need to look at ways not only to practice it, as the drills below will show but also ways to incorporate it into regular 6 v 6 drills where you may award points for certain blocking actions as a way of making a focus of blocking and practicing it in a real volleyball situation.
1. Blind Blocker. Three people needed. The purpose is to practice watching your hitter. The ball thrower stands on or about the 10ft line on the same side as the blocker. They toss the ball over the net for a hitter to approach and hit, the blocker attempts to block the ball.
2. 5 v 5 - no middle front. Play as a left v left or right v right. RF and LF blockers will be 1 on 1 with their attacker. A great drill to practice taking the angle when you are alone against an attacker. Ball can be entered either by the coach or as a serve. Alternate which team serves.
4. Blocking under the elastic
Much like the serving under the elastic, this drill utilizes a piece of elastic that runs from one antenna to the other. The elastic is set at a height of 1 foot above the net tape. The players jumps and performs a block with the idea being that they have their hands pass between the net and elastic touching neither during the process. The idea is to teach them to have their hands pass straight over the net as opposed to going high and then swinging their arms forward. This drill can be done with or without a ball. The more experienced groups can combine this drill with the coach on a box hitting or live hitting.
5. Penetrating the net
This drill is for blockers to get the feel of penetrating the net and blocking the ball before it crosses the plane of the net. The coach stands on one side of the net and will hit a ball almost straight up, the blocker has to time their block and get their hands over the net and block the ball.
6. Variety of Coach on box drills
- Holding a ball that blockers move along the net and reach over and block
- Coach hitting on a box
- Coach holding 2 balls, make sure both hands are touching both balls.
- 2 coaches, 1 holds a ball and the other one hits a ball. You must touch the held ball with your hand and block the hit ball with your other hand, this teaches the independence of both blocking hands.
7. Blocking live hitters.
Considering the variables involved in blocking, these drills are probably the best to do to teach all aspects of blocking. The introduction of a ball and a blocker can take a player that has good blocking form and make them look like they have never blocked before. Start with simple situations involving 1 hitter and progress to 2, 3 and even 4 (backrow) hitters.
Three blockers line up on either side of the net facing each other. A setter comes from the back-row on both sides of the net.
A coach tosses a ball to the setter on their side of the net, the blockers on that side transition back and attack the set. The side of the net that the ball lands on dictates the next toss. Whatever side of the net the ball lands on becomes the next attack regardless of whether the ball is in our out. Keep score based on the following criteria.
Stuff block = 2 points
Kill = 1 point
Any error (hit out, net touch) = -1 point.
Play to 10 points