8 Volleyball Passing Drills to Deliver the Perfect Pass

The pass is one of the most important skills in volleyball, as it will determine what the offense can do on any given rally.

Using different volleyball passing drills to practice the pass is vital because it requires a consistent base and arm platform, which can be ingrained into muscle memory.

The following drills will enhance the passing ability of your team.

From serve receive to digs, each drill will develop the skills necessary to ensure consistently good passes throughout a match.

1. The X Passing Drill

How it works:

One player is the passer while the other provides tosses to five spots. The passer will return each tossed ball to the player tossing via a good pass.

Purpose:

The X passing drill allows players to work on simple lower body movement and upper body positioning. It also encourages movement before the pass versus reaching for balls.

Drill Setup: 

  • Two players will stand approximately six feet apart, facing each other.

  • One player should be designated the passer while the other is designated to toss.

  • The ball should start in the hands of the player tossing the ball.

Instructions:

  1. The player designated to toss the ball will toss the ball directly to the passer which the passer then returns back to them.

  2. The next toss will be over the passer’s right shoulder. The passer will pass the ball back and then return to their starting spot.

  3. The next toss will be over the passer’s left shoulder. The passer will pass the ball back and then return to their starting spot.

  4. The next toss will be just in front of and to the right of the passer. The passer will pass the ball back and then return to their starting spot.

  5. The next and final toss will be just in front of and to the left of the passer. The passer will pass the ball back and then return to their starting spot.

  6. Players then switch roles and repeat the drill steps.

Coaching Points:

  • The toss should only require the passer to take a couple of small steps, this is not an agility drill.

  • The passer should be encouraged to step back far enough that they can pass with their shoulders forward. Leaning back is discouraged as it results in a “pop-up” pass.

  • Do not allow the passer to get lazy and fail to return to the starting spot between tosses. This keeps them working on movement and weight shifts.

2. Ball in a Square

How it works:

Players are challenged to complete a goal set of bumps into a square taped on the wall.

Purpose:

This drill develops consistency in the platform, from a variety of angles, to simulate in-game situations that require quick realignment and control of the passing platform.

Drill Setup: 

  • Using masking or painter’s tape, create a 12” x 12” square about three feet off the ground on a wall.

  •  Place a towel or mat on the ground to pad the kneeling knee of the player.

Instructions:

  1. Player should kneel with right knee on the towel or mat and left foot forward with left knee bent at 90 degrees.

  2. The player should then toss the ball at the square and then attempt to “pass” the ball from this position into the square 50 times (or some other goal reasonable for skill level).

  3. After accomplishing the first goal, player should switch knees (left knee on mat, right knee forward). Repeat step two until accomplishing goal.

  4. After the second goal, the player should put their right knee back on mat and extend left leg out to the left (simulating diving to the right). Repeat step two until accomplishing goal.

  5. After the third goal, the player should put their left knee on mat and extend right leg out to the right (simulating diving to the left). Repeat step two until accomplishing goal.

  6. Drill is complete once all four goals have been accomplished.

Variations:

Vary the Square Size / Height – This drill can work with a variety of square sizes and distances from the floor.

Standing Version – With a square about six feet from the floor, this drill can be done standing. The standing version requires the player to switch their forward foot between each bounce of the ball. This version includes a cardio benefit.

Coaching Points:

  • Ensure the goal is reasonable or players will have a hard time finishing the drill.
  • Player platform should be monitored to ensure repetitions are valuable.
  • This drill is great for rehabbing players or those returning from long layoffs.

3. Platform Catch

How it works:

Players perform this drill individually and attempt to bump the ball into the air and catch it in the “sweet spot” of their platform.

Purpose:

This is one of the best volleyball passing drills to allow players to learn the location of their true platform sweet spot and track the ball into that spot consistently.

Drill Setup: 

Each player should be standing with a ball with space to move.

Instructions:

  1. Player tosses ball into air and then bumps it straight back up.

  2. When ready, the player looks to catch the volleyball between their forearms in the “sweet spot”.

  3. The player will then push the ball back up into the air and bump it straight up to attempt the catch again.

  4. The drill is complete once a predetermined goal of consecutive platform catches has been achieved.

Variations:

Height – Once becoming adept at the skill, players can be encouraged to bump the ball higher into the air to make the drill more challenging.

Coaching Points:

  • Keep an eye on the platforms, players should not be sacrificing proper platforms to attempt the catch.

  • Players should be mindful of their footwork – moving athletically versus “zombie walking” to track the ball.

4. Serve to Receive

How it works:

One player will serve over the net on a line to a player awaiting to pass. The passer will give a good pass to the “setter” who will then catch the ball.

Purpose:

This drill provides passers the opportunity to pass a live ball and encourages proper serve tracking and body positioning. This drill is a great opportunity for players to get reps at both skills and does not require the presence of a full team.

Drill Setup:

  • Serving player stands on the service line next to a basket of balls.

  • Passing player stands at appropriate serve receive depth directly opposite the serving player.

Instructions:

  1. The serving player serves down the line directly to the opposing passing player.

  2. The passer should pass to the setter spot, ideally to someone catching the ball, who can return it to someone near the server.

  3. For a pass to count as “good”, it must be able to be reasonable set to either antennae.

  4. Once the passer has achieved a preset number of “good” passes, players switch roles.

Variations:

Include a Setter – Including the setter adds a dimension of work for the setter, while providing a realistic target for the passer. However, this does limit the number of pairs that can participate.

Coaching Points:

  • Hold players accountable for the quality expected of a “good” pass.

  • While servers in this drill benefit from repetition, this is not a serving focused drill. Serves should be as close to the passer as possible.

5. Russian Passing Drill

How it works:

Two players will underhand toss to a player in between them, whose responsibility it is to get the ball back to the tossing player. The passing player will be forced to turn back and forth between the tossing players throughout the drill.

Purpose: 

This volleyball passing drill instills a habitually athletic approach to passing by demanding the passer to be in an athletic stance throughout the drill.

Drill Setup:

  • Two players will be designated to toss the ball and stand facing each other about 12 feet apart.

  • Each player designated to toss will hold a ball.

  • One player – the passer – will stand facing one of the players designated to toss, exactly halfway in between the tossing players.

Instructions:

  1. The first player to toss will toss a ball slightly over the passing player’s head.

  2. The player designated to pass will slide or shuffle backwards and pass the ball back to the one who tossed.

  3. The opposite player designated to toss will begin to toss as soon as the passing player returns to the center position.

  4. The passing player must immediately turn and slide or shuffle backwards and pass the ball back to the player who tossed.

  5. This sequence will repeat until a predetermined time limit has been reached.

Coaching Points:

  • Players should remain athletic and be shuffling or sliding to their passing position and their starting position. This is not a turn and run drill.

  • During all volleyball passing drills, you should be reinforcing the value of having the shoulders forward, to avoid pop fly passes and arm swing.

6. Shuttle and Pass

How it works:

Players shuffle from side to side while maintaining a solid, athletic position to be prepared to pass.

Purpose:

This drill encourages the ability to create a good base and platform, even after fatigue has set in.

Drill Setup:

  • Using masking or painter’s tape, create two lines ten feet apart in width.

  • Two players should stand facing each other in the middle of the two lines, one holding a ball.

Instructions:

  1. The player with the ball will toss it to the player facing them.

  2. The player receiving the ball will pass it back to the player who tossed the ball.

  3. The player who just made the pass will shuttle to the right line and back to the center.

  4. The opposite player will pass it back and shuttle to the right sideline and back to the center.

  5. This pattern repeats, alternating lines to shuttle to.

  6. The drill ends when a predetermined time has been achieved.

Variations:

Increase the Heat – Players can attempt to “score” on each other by passing the ball low. Set parameters for how low a pass can be.

Work for Speed – The lines can be moved wider to increase the distance of the shuttle between passes.

Coaching Points:

  • Encourage proper movement – no shuttling with hands together, keep an athletic base, do not “cheat” to the upcoming sideline as the pass could be errant.

  • This drill is great for conditioning and provides a perfect opportunity to reinforce proper mechanics when fatigued.

7. Up Down Passing

How it works:

Players will get up from a lying flat position and pass the ball to the middle front position.

Purpose:

This drill works on the skill to recover from a dive to make a good pass to the setter. It also teaches players to be comfortable with quickly getting up from the floor and back into the game.

Drill Setup:

  • One player or coach standing in the setter position, with a basket of balls.

  • Up to six players lying face down along the baseline.

Instructions:

  1. All participating players should be lying face down along the baseline facing the net. The person at the net position is holding a ball.

  2. The person at the net smacks the ball to signal the beginning of the repetition.

  3. The player farthest to the right gets up from the lying down position and begins to move forward toward the net.

  4. The person at the net bounces the ball off the floor toward the oncoming player.

  5. The player makes a pass back to the person at the net while moving forward and moves back to their lying down position.

  6. The drill repeats moving from right to left and starting over again for as long as you deem fit.

Variations:

Positional Variation – Players could also lay face down in their typical rotation and once the ball is smacked all players get up and a random player must pass.

Coaching Points:

  • Players should be explosive when getting up off the ground.

  • Players should get up first and then move into position to pass, do not allow them to get up and stumble forward.

  • Players should focus on their form, passing with shoulders forward and one foot slightly in front. Reinforce not sacrificing form under duress.

8. Rapid Fire

How it works:

One player is presented with balls to pass in rapid succession, requiring the passer to maintain an athletic stance and develop passing endurance.

Purpose:

This volleyball passing drill focuses on players making quality passes with high-volume repetitions.

Drill Setup:

  • One player standing at setter position to receive the passes from the passer.

  • One player two steps beyond three-meter line on the same side as the “setter” – this player will be the passer for the duration of the drill.

  • One player on the opposite side of the net as the others to toss balls. This player starts with two balls in hand.          

Instructions:

  1. The player with the ball in hand tosses it over the net to the passer.

  2. The passer gives a good pass to the setter.

  3. The tossing player tosses the second ball as soon as the first pass is contacted by the passer.

  4. The setter keeps passing the ball under the net to the player tossing to keep the balls in rapid succession.

  5. The drill is over after a preset number of good passes is achieved or after a time limit has been reached.

Variations:

Serve the Ball – Alternatively, if tosses are too simple, the player tossing could “serve” or hit the ball to provide some pace and difficulty.

Coaching Points:

  • The passer should be focused on the ball in the air, not the next one coming over. This drill teaches both good passing technique and focus.

  • The passer should reset to ready position between each pass, even though the drill is rapid. This is a good moment to teach that guessing where a ball will go is a bad habit.

  • If the tossing player is challenged by getting the ball back from the setter quickly, simply place a basket of balls next to them and have the setter discard each pass.
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