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How to Train a Middle

How to Train a Middle

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Develop complete middles who can block, attack, transition and play defense
  • Challenge your middles to become strong hitters who can help speed up your offense
  • Train your middles to read the opponent's setters and adjust quickly to block hitters
  • Teach your middles three ways to terminate all overpasses - and when to execute each one

with Nancy Dorsey,
St. James Academy (KS) Head Coach;
2015 AVCA National High School Coach of the Year;
2015 Kansas Class 5A state champions;
seven state titles in nine years 2008-15 (finished runner up twice);
2x PrepVolleyball.com National Champions (2013, 2010);
VBM 2013 High School Team of the Year; American Family Insurance 2013 All-USA Volleyball Coach of the Year;
won 56 straight matches from 2012-13; lost only one set in 2013 (finishing 96-1); over 420 career wins

In 2006, when St. James Academy opened in Lenexa (KS) Nancy Dorsey became the head coach at a brand new school with only a freshman class. In just nine varsity seasons Coach Dorsey's teams have won seven Kansas High School State Championships and finished second twice. Dorsey's teams have also received national recognition being crowned the PrepVolleyball.com National Champs in the 2010 and 2013 seasons. In 2013, Dorsey's team remained unbeaten, going 46-0, dropping only one single set the entire season. The Thunder also finished 4th in the nation (PrepVolleyball.com) in the 2008 and 2011 seasons as well as a 3rd place National finish in 2015. In 2013 Dorsey was named the American Family Insurance All-USA Coach of the Year. This season Dorsey was selected as the AVCA National Coach of the Year. Her overall record at St. James Academy is 421-30.

Coach Dorsey's philosophy of training the whole player starts with working on the player's strength to press the block and footwork skills that build endurance. Through a series of progressive drills, Coach Dorsey works on all the skills that a middle blocker will need both in and out of system. Players are encouraged to read opposing passers and setters so they can be ready to defend against overpasses, setter dumps or attackers.

Strength and Conditioning

Many coaches overlook the strength needed by middle blockers to be effective at higher levels. Coach Dorsey start outs with some basic exercises that can be done with a partner that work on strengthening the hands and shoulders to help players press and hold at the net. She continues working on legs and the core by adding a medicine ball to the routine to engage the muscles needed for proper defense on the net.

Training the Skill of Blocking

Coach Dorsey breaks down basic blocking footwork and has players demonstrate it in slow motion as well as game speed. She explains what you need to look for in your players and how to correct common mistakes. You'll see game-like drills that reinforce transition and approach skills after blocking skills have taken place.

While Coach Dorsey works on blocking, she covers a drill that helps middles understand how to react on an overpassed ball. You'll learn the three different options that middles have, depending on how the ball is coming over the net. Coach Dorsey explains what middles should do when they have an overpass that is low and tight, high and tight, and over and off the net.

The blocking section also works on reading the setter and committing to the direction the ball is being set.

Connection of Setter/Hitter and Hitting Options

Many coaches only use middles when the pass is perfect. This can make it easy for opponents to defend when they know middles will not be used in less-than-perfect pass situations or out of system balls. Coach Dorsey presents connection drills that explain and demonstrate attacking the 1, 2, 6, slide, back 2 and the 3. She shows you how these balls can be hit even when the set is off the net or away from the setter's target. You'll also learn where the best locations to hit are, depending on the pass and set, including tipping locations.

Game Like Drills

One huge benefit of this video is that all the drills are "game like" and fast paced, which means the player learns the game with the same tempo and confusion they'll see on game day. During the drills, Coach Dorsey explains the dos and don'ts of middles hitters in each situation. Here are a few of the drills you will see:

  • Grab Ball Drill emphasizes the need to be strong at the net, while staying out of the net. Through the progression of this drill, your player will work on their blocking footwork and pressing the net while staying out of it.
  • Flinch Drill works on the middle blocker's reading skills. An opposing setter is put on the opposite side of the net and randomly sets balls to either pin. The middle blocker learns to watch the setter and determine the direction of the set before the ball leaves the setter's hand. This not only improves reading skills, but also emphasizes speed and footwork so the blocker can block pin to pin.
  • Connection Drill is an effective drill for middles to work with their setter to form that connection needed to have a solid middle attack. This drill progresses through a series of situations that help the hitter and setter get on the same page, no matter what kind of pass the setter receives. This exercise helps both the middle and setter to recognize when they are out of system and provides a way to keep your middle in the offense when the pass is not on target.
  • Seven Minute Pass-Middle Style is a drill that trains middles to attack a variety of sets out of serve receive while facing a dedicated block. Your middles will work on both offense and defense as they move through the drill.

Coach Dorsey does a great job covering both mental and physical demands of the middle position and offers ways to train all aspects of middle blocking positions - both offensively and defensively. Whether you are teaching a full team or small group, this video will provide you with powerful and useful tools for training your middle blocker.

55 minutes. 2016.