Volleyball Digging Drills 
Why We Do Them in Weekly Boot Camp Classes 

volleyball digging drillsvolleyball digging drills

We do volleyball digging drills everyday in our Volleyball Voice Boot Camp classes so that liberos, defensive specialists and players who play in the backrow work on improving their digging skills.

If you are the defensive specialist or libero on your team, or a player looking for individual defensive drills, then you need to know more about defense.

Volleyball Defense: What is It?

Volleyball defense (Michael E Johnston)Volleyball defense (Michael E Johnston)

Let's do a quick review on what defense actually is. 

With two teams competing against each other, one team will always be on offense while the other will be on defense. 

Both teams will alternate constantly being either one or the other during a match depending on which team serves the ball.

So, let's say your team just served the ball over the net to the opposing team.

After the serve crosses the net, your team is now "on defense."

Your team's three front row hitters are now called  "blockersand lined up facing the net in their left  front, middle front and right front positions watching the other team take their one, two, or three contacts to get the ball back over to your team's side of the net.

The responsibility of the front row players who are now called "blockers" is to stop the hitters from getting the ball across the net.

To do this correctly, you must place yourself, along with either one, two or three blockers in front of the hitter who is trying to spike the second or third contact back over to your side of the court.

As a blocker, you may either "block the ball" with  your hands and arms extending over the net and timing your block jump with the spike approach of the hitter you are in front of, while managing to deflect the ball hit by the spiker, back into the spiker's court.

If you don't manage to block the ball, the next strategy we teach is to "use the block" to re- direct the ball so that it is funneled/redirected to one of your teams' three backrow players who are waiting to "dig the ball" by making the first contact on the ball after it has been hit back into your court.

So, now that the ball is in your court, your team uses defense techniques we practice in our volleyball digging drills to get the ball back up to your team's setter.

Once your team defends the ball and gets it back up to your setter, then youteam is now on offense.

Team defense, Digging a ball. Photo by CE AndersenTeam defense, Digging a ball. Photo by CE Andersen

See how that works? Digging a ball takes a lot of practice to be able to defend a ball back up from the back row to the front row.

Volleyball Digging Drills

We use a lot of volleyball digging drills during our practices  in order to coordinate what happens between the front row blockers and the back row defensive specialists and liberos on a team.

Pressure Volleyball Digging Drills

One digger is placed in the middle of the court with myself and one or two of my assistant coaches on the same side of the net as the diggers.

Coaches are in Zone 4 and Zone 2 and sometimes in Zone 3. 

Hitters and diggers half court distance apart.

What are we working on in this drill?

Players are working on slowing the brain but reacting fast and under control while digging the ball high in a high intensity pressured situation. 

Players are also working on

  • hips dropping lower than the oncoming ball
  • eyes focusing on spiker's hitting arm for quick second then keying in on the oncoming spiked ball and its travel path,
  • keeping platform arms straight with no bent elbows and away from the body...closer to the ball
  • making a playable ball 8 -10 feet in the air..
  • after the dig working on making a quick quarter turn to face the next coach that's hitting

Volleyball Digging Drills
The Drop Extension Sprawl

If the ball drops right in front of you, so quickly that all you have time to do is drop to the ground quickly and extend your right or left arm under the ball to keep it from hitting the floor.

We do certain volleyball digging drills to help players learn various ways of keeping the ball off of the floor depending on the scenario.

In another scenario which happens often in a game...

...if the ball is about to drop in front of you on your left side or on your right and you have time to take one step in the direction of the ball...

You take one big step in the direction of the ball and lower yourself to the floor in the direction of the ball, fully extending your body, so you land on your side. 

If you're playing the ball on your right side, then you step with your right foot, extend to your right side, extend your right arm, with your closed right fist turned sideways so the top of your fist makes contact with the bottom of the ball. 

Once you keep the ball off the floor you place both hands on the ground and pop up, pushing yourself off the floor. 

In the volleyball digging drills we do in class we do reps of these types of one-step side extension pop up sprawls. 

Volleyball Digging Drills Three Step Barrel Roll with A Ball Learning How To Cover The Court With Three Steps

Two coaches on one side of the net in Zone 3 and Zone 4, throwing balls with a slight arch to the 10 -12 foot line...

...players are in Zone 5, on the other side of the net coming from the left back corner, standing  in a line and one at a time practice their three steps to the ball, lowering their body to the floor with each stop, on the third step they are at their lowest point and extend to their side with arm fully extended with closed fist turned sideways so the top of the fist contacts the bottom of the ball. 

Once contacting the ball finishing the momentum in a full body barrel roll over the shoulder of the arm that played the ball. 

Working on: 

  • Right-left-right steps
  • Extending full body on their right side - protects knees - and covers more floor surface
  • Playing the ball with their right arm - with closed fist - getting ball up 3-4 inches - this is an emergency play needed to give a second player time to get the ball up higher
  • Using barrel roll to create momentum to help you get right back up
  • Creating brain/body/coordination and muscle memory for this particular situation

After each group of diggers goes through several rounds (or we set a specific amount of time to do this in) we switch all the diggers to the right back corner so we can practice left-right-left. 

Working on: 

  • left-right-left - steps
  • Brain - coordinating for right handers what to do and getting comfortable doing it
  • Extending full body on their left side - protects knees - and covers more floor surface
  • Playing the ball with their left arm - with closed fist - getting ball up 3-4 inches - this is an emergency play needed to give a second player time to get the ball up higher
  • Using barrel roll to create momentum to help you get right back up

  • Seeing the ball over and over again while staying low and getting lower each time you take a step
  • Fist facing sideways shooting it under the ball
  • Getting comfortable with playing the ball just before it hits the ground
  • Being aware of your body parts and where they are
  • Slowing and calming the brain down in a chaotic situation and realizing when you do - you have much more time to play the ball when you play it low to the ground than if you try to raise up to play the ball

Volleyball Digging Drills
Star Drill
Players Get 4 - 6 Tossed Ball  

Once players look comfortable hitting the floor using the 3 - step Barrel Roll approach going for balls then further pressurize by ...

Two coaches alternate tossing balls into the court, still on the opposite side of the net...basically alternating throwing to the corners of the court the digger is on...

Coach One starts by throwing over the diggers head to LB - digger turns and uses the three step barrel roll to get to the ball - once digger digs/hits the ground/ and turns around - Coach Two tosses close to the right front corner and the player chases and digs using this technique - continues for 4 - 6 balls, each thrown to opposite corners of the court. 

Working on

  • Learning/emphasizing you can cover the court in 3 steps
  • Body part awareness- in this chaos players work on brain control- so I can control my body so I can control the ball
  • The first few rounds will feel out of control but then the player learns how much time they really have to take three steps to get closer to the ball, then let the ball drop further to the ground and still be in control enough to play the ball inches from the ground
  • In this pressurized situation identifying if the ball being chased is on the left side or the right side of your body and taking the correct first step that gets you to the ball faster....
  • Understanding why at the beginning of practices we work on quarter and half turns - so the brain learns which turn is needed to get you faster to the ball.... (example if you're in the middle of the court and a ball is thrown to zone 5, you need to half turn to left back and then step with your left foot - if the ball is on your left or step on your right foot if ball is on your right...)
  • If the ball is on your right side  - right-left-right
  • If the ball is on your left side - left-right-left

Related Links:

Digging Drills Why We Do Them in Boot Camp Class

Essential Volleyball Setting Drills Taught By Five Pro Setter Specialists

Practice Drills For Setters and Nonsetters

Hitting Drills We Do To Beat The Block, Hit Deep Corners, Mix Up Shots and Spike For Points in Offense

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