The Coaching Corner

10th March 2017

The Coaching Corner

Bertrand Olie is the Academies’ Technical Lead at Volleyball England. As well as being head coach at the Loughborough Academy, he helps coordinate the Academy network, supports the Talent Manager and works on the Futures programme.

It goes without saying that he also knows a lot of drills – so we asked him for a selection of some of his personal favourites. As well as describing the drills, we wanted him to explain why he’s such a big fan of these chosen few. If you’re a coach who’s on the lookout for a few new drills, read on….

Favourite game-based warm-up drill:

This one’s 3v3 on a full-sized court. Before the drill starts, each player must decide which opposition player they’re going to ‘man mark’ – but they don’t tell the opposition. I typically start the drill with a volley from the 3m line, after which players play out the rally as normal, although every touch must be a dig or a volley.

Depending on who puts the ball over the net, the opposition player assigned to ‘man mark’ that player must be the next one to touch the ball. To make up for having to cover the whole court, the ball is allowed to bounce once before that first contact is made. After that, you play on as normal (again; digs or volleys only) but every time the ball crosses the net, only the player who’s paired up with the player who put it over the net can make the first contact. Otherwise, you lose the point.

Why do I like this drill? Well, it soon gets players warmed up, running all over the court. With there being no hitting (initially at least), rallies can last quite a while.  Just be aware that, because of the one-bounce rule, you may need a bit of run-off space around your court. There’s an element of strategy and communication as well, figuring out who’s paired up with whom and making it as hard as possible for that player to make the first contact, even with the ball being allowed to bounce.

Favourite passing drill:

I’m a big fan of combination drills; activities which test a player in more ways than one. When it comes to passing, if I have two players passing or receiving serve, I like to introduce a second ball – which they’ll already be holding when the first ball comes over the net towards them.

As they play out their three touches, they will need to keep the second ball alive as well, simply by handing it off between them. This could be a passing drill or a serve receive drill. It could even be a 2v2 game with the other team having to keep their own second ball off the floor as well.

A drill like this encourages players to pick up the flight of the ball early. The quicker they can realise the first ball is coming their way, the quicker they can offload the second ball in readiness for playing the first. Leave it too late and they’re left trying to pass one ball while still holding the other!

Why do I like this drill? The first few times you run this drill, your players will panic. They’ll occasionally be caught holding both balls or will throw the second ball away when they don’t need to. Over time however, as well as helping them to read the flight of the ball more quickly, this drill also encourages them to remain composed under pressure. That’s really the point of all combination drills; you may have the best passing technique, for example, but how does it hold up under the pressure of another factor being thrown into the mix? Challenge your players!

Next time – Bertrand’s favourite serving and outside hitter drills….


Bertrand’s volleyballing journey started in France in 1990, aged 15. Looking for a new sport – once his previous passion of handball was no longer available for him to play locally – he had to choose between football and volleyball. Thankfully, he chose the latter.

Two years later, he was coaching a local U-15 team. In 2000, he became a full-time coach at his club Lyon-Francheville and has been a professional coach ever since. In 2006, he left France and became a community sports coach in the West Midlands.

His coaching philosophy is based on not placing limits on players, having an attacking mindset (he always prioritises offence over defence) and letting players explore the game for themselves. He’s a big believer in challenging players’ thought processes and testing multiple skills at one time. And in 17 years of coaching, he’s never once made players run around a court to warm up.

The Coaching Corner