I had been struggling in beach volleyball lately. It's that weird transition from off-season to pre-season, even though we don't really have much of a real season to train for just yet. I was passing poorly, setting -- the skill I believe I do best -- inconsistent, siding out at the lowest clip in recent memory. It was frustrating. So I did what I always do when I'm struggling at something, be it writing, playing, lifting, eating, whatever: I looked through past journals to see what I was doing when I was playing better.
What I found was that I was practicing differently than I had been. Three days a week, at least, my practice group would be limited to three people, and we'd repreprepreprep it out, for two hours. It's what I like to call a "meat and potatoes" practice: We're not doing anything fancy, just hammering out the basics, the fundamentals, over and over and over again.
We'd lead with my favorite drill of all time, the simplest one with the highest rate of return: Rapid fire passing.
Rapid fire passing is the easiest drill you can draw up. You have three people: One server, one passer, one catcher (or "target" if you prefer that language). The server will pop in a serve, the passer will pass it to the catcher or target. While the server is popping in the second serve, the target will toss the ball back to the server, and you can crank out more passes in 10 minutes than in two hours' worth of practice with four people, where the practice inevitably devolves into playing games. Games are helpful, but not always best bang for your buck in terms of your time and improvement.
Rapid fire passing is, in my opinion, the most effective and efficient drill in beach volleyball. It takes about two minutes to pass 20 balls. You then rotate, making sure everyone serves, passes, and catches -- then switch corners. All four corners should take no more than half an hour -- and by then, each of you has passed 80 volleyballs.
A few years ago, I would stat all of my practices, namely to see which shots were my most effective and which were my liabilities. But in doing so, I discovered something by accident: I counted the number of volleyballs I passed, and it was less than 30. In two hours! After that realization, I devoted 10 minutes prior to each practice for two rounds of rapid fire passing, ensuring a minimum of 40 passes no matter what the rest of practice looked like.
There is no replacement for reps. There's no need for a fancy, complicated drill when honing your passing. All you need is two balls, a net, and one other person who's willing to serve.
Give it 10 minutes, every practice. You'll be blown away what it'll do for your game, your passing, and your confidence.
HAVE A GOOD WEEK, AND GO GET BETTER AT BEACH!
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Included are diagrams and written explanations of the most important exercises that EVERY pro player does or has done at one point or another.
The five skill sections covered are:
Serve Receive & Passing
Ball Control And Emergency Technique