I am frequently asked what type of volleyball workout is most effective
for girls playing in high school who want to improve their skills.
Girls volleyball players have several ways they can structure their
workout or practice in order to improve their volleyball skills, but I'm
going to focus on a way that I think directly contributed to my success
as a professional volleyball player.
One of my favorite suggestions is for girls to do their volleyball
workout with guys. If there's a way to work out with the boys
volleyball team or to pepper with one of the guys on the team that's an
excellent way to speed up your skill development process.
This is not a suggestion I'm making up just for you. I adopted this way
of doing my volleyball workout throughout my entire career.
Every chance I got as a high school volleyball player, a college volleyball
player and a professional beach volleyball player I tried to find a way to
practice or do some part of my volleyball workout with a guys team
that was in the gym or in the same city or in my neighborhood.
Here's what I did as well.
In my free time, I would go to the city park and play with the guys who
would show up for the open gym for their volleyball workout, for games
or for practice sessions.
Yes, often I was the only girl, and the guys were bigger than I was, but
time after time I found the best pepper partners--the best volleyball
workout partners, guys who hit harder and faster which forced me to
have to stay low in defense in order to dig their hard hits. My volleyball
defense abilities improved at a faster rate.
I was also forced to read their arm swing so I could look for clues that
would help me anticipate where they were going to hit the ball.
Best of all, playing defense against hard hitters helped me develop
courage and confidence about digging balls that were hit right at me
with or without a block.
Even before my high school volleyball workout, during recess if my other
friends hadn't organized any pick up games then I would organize some
and I would ask my guy friends to play first.
How can I explain why I was so motivated to do my volleyball workout
Well for the most part I found that I was challenged more by
surrounding myself with guys that were physically bigger than I was.
Practicing with them helped me develop confidence in my abilities. When
guys play volleyball they don't give you time to doubt your abilities.
Especially in high school volleyball its all about competing to get as
many touches on the ball as possible.
Guys just want to compete during their volleyball workout or practice or
games or competition. They don't do a lot of self analysis like tend to
So, when I was playing with the fellas I learned to compete too. That
was the best part of learning how to play high school volleyball.
What I got from from working out with the guys wasn't necessarily a
technical knowledge of the volleyball game.
But what I did learn was how to have a competitive attitude. I learned
how to fight for a point, and how to be scrappy on the court.
It may not have looked pretty but it became very important for me not
to let a ball fall anywhere on the ground around me.
The "never let a ball drop" attitude I first adopted when I was practicing
pepper with Olympic gold medalist Eric Sato.
Eric is the younger brother of Olympian Liane Sato and current Olympic
Men's Volleyball coach and two-time gold medalist Gary Sato.
When I was first learning the high school volleyball game, in my off
season I use to hang out with the Sato family. They would take me to
Liane's and Liz Masakayan's club or junior olympic volleyball practices
When Liane and her best friend Liz Masakayan were playing volleyball,
Eric and I would play pepper or do some sort of volleyball workout
continuously for hours on the sideline. We would never quit and he
would never let me get away with just letting the ball fall.
We peppered for hours all over the gym and even though he was
younger than I was, he was the youngest member at the time, in the
first family of American volleyball which meant he was technically more
advanced than I was. And that made me want to get better at the
game even more.
Although I didnt know it at the time, the lessons I learned from playing
defense with Eric for all those hours had a lasting impression on me.
Even after high school volleyball, when I came home occasionally from
college or even later on, between trips from Italy, when I needed to get
some indoor volleyball workout, we'd still get together at open gym
practice in Santa Monica because he would always challenge me to play
the best volleyball I could all the time I was on the court.
It's okay to play at 50% of your ability some time. But when it comes to
really competing to win, when you can train all the way through your
volleyball workout in a way that you have to play at high levels of
concentration and you have to play at the best of your abilities for
longer periods of time, that's when you are really making lots of progress
as a serious competitive volleyball player.
That's what happens when you play games or do your workout
with guys. You learn to play hard, for longer periods of time.
Another benefit was that my mental toughness increased.
Starting when I played high school volleyball, I noticed that guys would
say whatever was on their mind in a competition. After the volleyball
workout was over, it was like whatever they said never happened. For
the most part, guys leave everything on the court. Either you learn to
take it or you learn to give it right back.
I learned to dish it and I learned to take it. I definitely learned to talk on
the court and to be as verbal as they were without backing down easily
from an argument.
When I was playing with or against guys in high school volleyball, my
physical toughness improved also because guys hit harder and moved
quicker. If they were going to continue to let me play and if I was
going to compete with them then I knew I'd have to learn how to dig
their hard hits and set the ball to them high and accurately so they
could hit the ball effectively against the opposing team.
I'd also have to learn how to place my shots and just play smarter
volleyball in order to add value to my team and so I'd be picked to play
in the next volleyball game.
I figured that if I could do some sort of volleyall workout with guys on a
regular basis then I could play against guys which would ultimately mean
that I could definitely play well in a girl's high school volleyball game.
One thing that is important to note is that I didn't play to look cute or
waste their time. I played to improve my volleyball skills since I knew my
goal was to make the USA volleyball team and to become a professional
volleyball player in Italy.
As a sophomore, while playing high school volleyball I set these goals for
myself and I did everything I could to reach them. One of the ways that
was effective for me was to keep finding high school volleyball workout
opportunities to play with people who were bigger, better and faster
than I was.
In college I played with the UT Men's club volleyball team in the
offseason. On the beach, I'd practice volleyball on the men's beach
volleyball courts at the famous Venice Boardwalk courts so that I could
hit on amen's net in the sand.
And it didn't stop there either, when they'd let me play- I'd play beach
volleyball with/against guys in four against four and coed doubles
volleyball games in California.
Remember this idea of doing your volleyball workout with guys, may or
may not work for everybody but it may give you some ideas as to what
will work for you, especially if you are looking quick ways to improve
your high school volleyball skills.
Be sure to check out more articles on basic skills in volleyball in