Increasing Your Playing Time in Volleyball
Although there is no formula guaranteed to get you more playing time – because all coaches are different and each player’s situation is unique – there are things you can do to increase your chances of getting on the court. Here are some tips and suggestions that should help:
Let Go of Excuses
No one has ever excused their way to success and neither will you.
Letting go of excuses will allow you to focus on becoming a better volleyball player, and that is what will ultimately get you on the court. Remember, a coach’s job is based largely on his/her team’s success. So if you’re able to help a team win, most coaches would be hard pressed to give you a seat on the bench.
Have a “Team-first” Attitude
When asked about the importance he places a player’s commitment to the team Pat Riley, an NBA Hall of Fame coach, replied: “Commitment to the team. There is no such thing as in-between. You are either in or out.”
Volleyball is a team sport. That means the team is the priority. That being said, it is your duty to be committed to the team.
Don’t guess. Ask!
If you want to know what you can do to get more playing time, the best thing to do is ask your coach. Set up a time to meet privately. Remember, it is never appropriate to address playing time issues during a game. When talking to your coach, ask him in a polite tone of voice, “What do I need to do to earn more playing time?”
Asking the coach what you can do to earn more playing time will do three things:
- Give you a skill set on which to focus your attention
- Show the coach that you know playing time needs to be earned
- Demonstrate that you are willing to work hard
Although this might seem like an obvious step, there are many athletes who avoid asking their coach and instead opt to guess what the coach is looking for.
Always Hustle & Practice Hard
Hot Tip: Talk it Out
Volleyball has often been called the ultimate team sport, because success hinges on a team’s ability to communicate. Too often, talented teams fail to reach their potential because of a lack of on-court communication. Increasing your vocal presence on the court is an easy way to make an immediate impact.
Practice is the time to show your coach that you are working hard and deserve playing time. The best way to let your coach know that you are willing to do whatever it takes is to give maximum effort during practice. This includes doing the little things like talking on the court or diving for the ball. If the coach sees that you are really trying to improve, then he/she will be more inclined to give you an opportunity come game day.
Bonus Tips: By Position
So you’ve taken the advice listed above to heart and now you’re looking for some position-specific tips to further improve your game. Well today is your lucky day. Here are some tips meant to get you off the bench and on the court:
- Set selection: As a setter, it is your job to put your hitters in a position to be successful. Take this into consideration when deciding which hitter to set.
- Be an offensive weapon: Too often, setters forget to establish themselves as an offensive threat when they are in the front row. This is detrimental, because it allows the opponent to focus on two hitters as opposed to three (you being the third). Send the ball over on the second hit a few times to keep the opposing defense honest.
- Hit the line shot: A majority of defensives are designed to stop a hitter from hitting a cross-court ball. Hit a few balls down the line to keep the defense on its toes. If the defense knows you are able to hit both down the line and cross court, it won’t be able to cheat towards either direction. That means there is a greater chance of the defense being out of position, thus, a better chance of you getting a kill.
- Dig it up: Good outside hitters have the ability to terminate a rally, but exceptional hitters have the ability to extend a rally. Most outside hitters can generate kills. If they can’t, they probably wouldn’t be playing that position. A lot of inexperienced hitters don’t play defense. Allowing the opposing to team to score easy points on tipped balls because you weren’t ready to dig is like giving away points.
- Don't forget about the tip: An occasional tip over the block to the right-front area of the opponent’s court is a great way to keep the other team on its toes. Making sure the tip is part of your game can also lead to a higher hitting percentage, because it still gives you a dangerous option if the set isn’t perfect. Coaches love hitters who show versatility, and the tip is just one way to add another level to your game.
- Focus on ball sequence: A middle hitter who is an offensive weapon but also a weak blocker is not a complete player. Coaches are more inclined to play an athlete who is well rounded rather than one who is outstanding in just one aspect. So if you need some help getting your blocking up to par, remember this sequence of four words: Ball-setter-ball-hitter; this is called the ball sequence. As you prepare yourself to block, you should be tracking the ball with your eyes.
- Work on your serve: Being a good server is one of the best ways to ensure a spot in the lineup. The serve is a team’s first opportunity to score, and a good server can dictate what their opponent is able to do.
- Use your hands: The ability to overhand pass a ball extends your serve-receive and passing range. In other words, by incorporating the overhand pass you will be able to make more digs, and more digs equals a greater chance of getting on the court.
The Waiting Game
The most important thing to remember while trying to earn more playing time is that you need to keep working hard. If you follow the tips and suggestions listed above, you will become a much improved volleyball player and greatly increase your chances of getting on the court. So make sure you are always ready to go into the game. That way, when you do get your chance you can prove to your coach that you deserve to be out there!