There are many opportunities for young athletes to compete through recreation leagues, school leagues and travel ball, but there are fewer opportunities for young athletes to receive quality training in the physical elements of performance and the fundamental skills of volleyball. Both are necessary for kids to be able to participate in an organized event while enjoying the game.
Let’s take a look at the 3 Physical Elements of Performance that are Critical to Introducing Volleyball at Any Age:
- Hand-eye coordination
- Agility footwork
Here are 3 ways coaches and parents can develop each element in players ages 7 and under and 8 and older.
Jump rope routines allow athletes to improve their coordination by using their arms and feet while combining different movement patterns. As the players develop their jump rope skills, they improve cardiovascular endurance, quickness and confidence.
Jumping rope is a great activity to help younger players develop their swinging motion, as demonstrated in the video below for ages 7 and under. Swinging the rope on their right and left sides as well as one and two foot jumps develop quickness and shoulder strength. As the players become more confident in the rhythm, the intensity and difficulty of the movement patterns can be increased. Finally, the players will jump rope in tandem with their parents by facing the parent while he or she swings the rope.
Below is a more advanced jump rope routine for ages 8 and older. However, they start out with the same basic exercises but quickly progress to more advanced combinations while increasing the speed and intensity.
Coaches can implement 5 minutes of jump rope routines before each practice. Encourage your players to practice these jump rope routines at home daily. They will progress from Level 1 to Level 2 with this added practice. Athletes will become more confident and skilled the more they practice.
2. Hand-eye coordination
Hand-eye coordination exercises improve the players’ ability to synchronize catching, bouncing, throwing and tossing the ball to a desired location. As players improve, they increase their speed, accuracy and consistency in each sequence.
Below are sample exercises for ages 7 and under. These exercises help athletes work on their footwork in order to execute good passing technique.
Ages 8 and older can perform more advanced tennis ball exercises as demonstrated in the video below. Level 2 challenges the athlete to utilize both right and left hands as well as the required footwork patterns.
Coaches can implement tennis ball exercises into each practice for 2-3 minutes, which will continue to develop their athletes’ hand-eye coordination. Encourage your players to perform these exercises at home in between practice sessions. Again, athletes will become more confident and skilled the more they practice.
Agility exercises will improve the athletes’ ability to move quickly while maintaining their balance and coordination. The sequence includes moving in all directions as well as jumping and landing.
View the following movement patterns for ages 7 and under: quick steps in place, movement forward and backwards, step hops right and left, running forward and backward, shuffling right and left, and high skips.
The following agility exercises utilize elastic tape for increasing vertical jump. In addition, spatial awareness and body control are emphasized to simulate spacing from the net and court awareness. View the video below for an example of agility exercises for ages 8 and older.
Volleyball coaches can utilize agility exercises in each practice for 2-3 minutes, which will develop the athletes jumping and landing skills, body control and spatial awareness needed for attacking and blocking. Encourage your players to perform these exercises at home in between practice sessions. Again, athletes will become more confident, jump higher and be prepared for landing safely.
Nearly all junior volleyball clubs offer volleyball programs for ages 5 and up. As beginners are introduced to the sport, it is critical to not only develop the skills of volleyball, but also jumping, hand-eye coordination and agility. These three Physical Elements of Performance help young athletes develop the proper strength, coordination, agility and quickness needed to excel in the sport of volleyball. Try some of these movements in your next Volley Tots, Little Spikers or youth recreation league practices. For an entire program, coaches and directors can enlist the help of Ruth N. Nelson, The Art of Coaching Volleyball and BYOP® and GoKids Youth Sports™ Founder, who has amassed over 40 years of volleyball experience and expertise at all levels.
Youth Program Directors, Coaches and Parents are encouraged to take Ruth Nelson’s Home Training Program Series™ Online Course available on the Art of Coaching Volleyball website. Click HERE for more information and to register.
Also, Register to Become a GoKids Youth Sports™ Skills Trainer On-line or In-Person. Click HERE for more information and to register.
About the Author
Ruth is a former USA Team player, teacher and coach at the collegiate, national, and professional levels. For the past 18 years, Ruth has focused on and created the most innovative program for ages 10 and under that engages parents alongside their children in training (Bring Your Own Parent Program – BYOP®).