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Prematch warm-up key for successful team

By Sally Kus

Prematch warm-up serves several functions. Most important, it readies the body for game play. Secondly, it should help psych up a team for competition.

Physically, a player needs to warm up until she has broken a sweat. Suggested activities are court movements that replicate game play. Most high school teams have pregame rituals to psych the other team out. Many times they include running around the court, slapping hands, diving on the floor, and old-fashioned cheering! The initial warm-up could include side steps, crossover steps, blocking and attack patterns, skipping, sprinting, and jogging! Many teams stretch after their initial movement to ensure full range of motion in their joints. Most pregame movement drills are repetitious, creating an attitude of “let’s get it over quickly!” Some teams pull out the flexible ladders to perform their agility step work. Some teams perform fun tag games to achieve quick movements with less pain and more fun! A coach should prevent his own team from staring at the other team who may be executing a “cooler” warm-up! During warm-up, players must focus on their own readiness, the team’s readiness, and on their pregame rituals. Obviously, there is no score awarded at the end of warm-ups, but some warm-ups tend to be intimidating or better orchestrated, which can achieve better mental preparedness.

To stop our team from staring at other teams who were obviously having more fun during warm-up last season, we added a simple relay race at the end of our court movement drills. The players clapped and cheered for each of their groups, so we finally had other teams staring at us having fun during our warm-up!

Warm-up is also the time for a team to become familiar with the court. This includes testing the tautness of the net, identifying court lines and floor surface, and adjusting to the gym’s lighting and overhead obstructions.

It is finally time to add some volleyballs! Most high school and club warm-up time is limited. A lot of our fans complain that the volleyball warm-up is longer than most played matches! But each team is usually allowed 10 to 20 minutes of shared court time and 3 to 12 minutes of whole court time. A team needs to simulate as many gamelike ball contacts as possible and use their time wisely. Important tune-up skills include passing and digging balls at gamelike angles, attacking, serving, setting, transition, and defensive run-through skills. Drills that can be performed on half a court should be used during the shared warm-up period. Serve receive, hitting from a pass or from transition, and Libero/defensive specialist movement should be done during the whole court period. Many teams also use this time to play triples, quads, or review each serve receive pattern. Our high school league never allowed whole court warm-up, so we were notorious for starting with a 0-6 deficit until we warmed up serve receiving during the first game! Colleges follow more prematch protocol.

It is important not to “over warm up,” too. Regardless of the time allotted, a coach should have his team practice the pregame warm-up and should time-manage it so it is efficient and prepares the team in all aspects. Warm-up drills can be centered on or initiated by the coach or by a player. A coach should focus on each player’s readiness to play. He also wants to make some encouraging exchanges to remind individual players of specific strategies that are part of the game plan. Warm-up is not the time to make major changes in a player’s technique. Warm-ups are for positively supporting the players so they feel mentally ready to compete. The coach initiates most drills so that he can help create what he needs and can motivate his players by testing their limitations but keeping each successful. Warm-ups sometimes help a coach read who is really ready to start in a game if he has any doubts about one or two positions.

This is an excerpt from Coaching Volleyball Successfully.

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