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Ask the Volleyball Coach Questions

Mandy is a mom of four and a longtime volleyball enthusiast and coach. Mandy's other interests include parenting, teaching, and literature.

About Ask the Coach

As someone who has played, reffed and coached volleyball for over 24 years, I frequently get questions from players and parents about different aspects of volleyball. I thought I would start a page that will allow me to answer questions directly. To ask a question simply post your question in the comments and I will answer it as soon as possible. I will answer ALL serious questions in future articles.

By submitting your question, you are agreeing that your question and the answer may be published on this website. I will not post any personal information!

Ask the Volleyball Coach.

Ask the Volleyball Coach.

How do you decide who is on the court and who is on the bench?

So this first question, I am asking myself. The reason that I am asking and answering this question first is that I need to start it off somehow before any questions are submitted, and because I get asked variations of this question often. Variations include, "Why doesn't my daughter play more?" "Why is my daughter on the bench when so and so is on the court and she's not nearly as good." etc. So here is my answer for all people wondering why their daughter doesn't play more.

How does a coach determine who is on the court and who is on the bench?

A lot of factors go into making that decision. First of all at any given time we have 6 different "positions" on the court. If your daughter is an awesome hitter, but she can't pass to save her soul she'll most likely play front row, and vice versa. So she'll have to go out when she gets to a position that will exploit her weakness.

If she has a bad attitude she'll be out. We have a rule on our team that one negative comment to a teammate means being benched for the match. End of story. If she's missed practices or she doesn't hustle or try at practice, even if she's the best player on the team, she won't play as much.

I had a girl on one of my teams that was constantly making mistakes. It was one of those situations where when she was good she was very very good and when she was bad she was horrid. My assistant coach couldn't stand having her in and didn't understand why I played her so much. The reason I was willing to keep playing her is that she took instruction well, and she had a good attitude and loads of potential. Coaches love players who are giving it their all and take your criticism seriously and do their best to correct their mistakes. A good attitude goes a long way!

However, in most situations, the reality is that coaches play the girls they think will give them the best chance to win. Sometimes it's a team dynamic thing, sometimes it's a talent thing, sometimes it's an attitude thing, it's hard to know for certain, but if your daughter is giving them the best chance to win, she will likely be in.

If your daughter is playing club volleyball and is seeing a lot of bench time than she may be on the wrong team. That might be a decision you will have to make with your daughter. Would she rather be the little fish in the "A" team pond or to be the biggest fish in the "B" team pond?

The best advice I can give to someone wanting to see more court time is practice, practice, practice!

Other Volleyball Articles

Coach Changes Player's Position

Dear Coach,

I've been the setter for my club volleyball team for five years now and we've been very successful. I played Jr. High volleyball last year and enjoyed it even though it wasn't at the same level of play as my club. I started practice with my high school volleyball team a few days ago and told the coach that I am a setter and he seemed to hear me.

However, we had our first scrimmage the other day and I played on the JV team as libero. I never set at all and I didn't play on the Freshman team. I'm concerned that the coach didn't hear me that I'm a setter, or worse, he doesn't think I have what it takes to be the setter. If that was the case, couldn't I at least set for the Freshman team? What do you think I should do?

Confused Setter

Dear Confused Setter,

Being moved from one position to another is actually a fairly common dilemma when moving from a club team to a school team. First of all, it was just a scrimmage. Often in scrimmages coaches will try players out in new positions to see how it works for the player and the team. So I wouldn't jump the gun just yet!

Now, if it turns out that he ONLY wants you to play libero for JV and it's obvious that he is not playing you as setter at all in games or practice...

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The way High School athletics is set up is much different than club athletics. With a club you tend to have a small team where everyone is specifically chosen to play the position they desire. Which club team you make often depends on your skill level. So if you are the third best setter in your age group, you play for the third best club team, usually. Also, with club you are merely competing with your own age, and not girls 3 years older than you unless you play up. A High School coach may have 30 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 and 3 teams to place them on. He'll put the top girls on Varsity, the freshman on the Freshman team and the rest play JV. What often happens with JV is that the older girls get the pick of the positions. So if there is a Junior Setter who is the #2 setter he'll play her in the JV game to get reps, perhaps she'll be the varsity starter next year.

If he's playing you on the JV team as Libero, it means that he wants you on the court, the setter position is't open, and he thinks that you will be a good libero based on the skills he's seen you demonstrate. Being a libero shouldn't adversely impact your ability to be a good setter come club season. Think of it as an opportunity to improve your digging and passing skills.

Now, I understand you wanting to set to stay fresh and further your abilities as a setter. I would suggest you talk to your coach and (as politely as you can) tell him that you have played as a setter for years on your club team and that is the position that you really want to concentrate on. Tell him that you enjoy the opportunity of playing Libero on the JV team but would love the opportunity to be a setter for the Freshman team. Then listen, REALLY listen to what he has to say, and take it from there. If nothing else, there's always the club season. Good luck!

Coaching young players

Dear Coach,

I've been asked to coach a 7th grade fall recreational league volleyball team. I've never coached volleyball before, but I played in school and I've watched enough volleyball to know the new rules. We just had our first practice and I discover I have 12 girls with a wide range of abilities. We're talking girls who have been playing super competitive club volleyball and attending performance camps for a few years and some girls who have never before touched a volleyball. The problem is, I just don't know how to play these girls together. In practice, when we divided the team up evenly to do a drill where we just aim for three passes and over, the experienced girls took over the game. They would even step in front of the less experienced girls and take the pass. How do I play girls of such vastly different skill sets together while making it so that everyone gets the most they can out of the league?

Thanks for the help!


Dear Linda,

Welcome to one of the most common problems for 7th grade coaches everywhere! With club volleyball growing in popularity, and girls starting as young as 7 or 8 years old, Jr High volleyball is a different beast than it used to be. I remember when I played Jr High volleyball back in the early 90's. Our first 7th grade practice was the first time nearly all of us had touched a volleyball. We had 20 girls on our team, and only two of us served overhand. I don't EVER remember getting a bump, set, spike that year. I'm betting we were freshman before we managed to get them on a regular basis.

Fast forward to today. Some girls still start in 7th grade, while others have been playing at a high level for years. 7th grade coaches all over America are dealing with the same problem.

Since you are coaching a non-competitive recreational league, your main focus should be on skill building and teaching the basics and a love of the game. Since you have 12 girls, you could divide the girls into two teams, basically, one with more experienced girls, and one with less experienced girls and then play team 1 the first match, and team 2 in the next match. The big thing in rec is not to emphasize the differences in teams, and do your best to make sure everyone plays the same amount of time. Don't worry so much about winning every single match, just do your best to make sure everyone is getting a decent amount of touches on the ball, having a good time, and improving their skills, and you'll be doing your job! Good luck and have a fun league season!

How to improve a new player's volleyball skills

Dear Coach,

My daughter is just wrapping up her 7th grade volleyball season. This was her first time playing and she absolutely LOVES he game! She wasn't one of the better players on her team this year, what can I do to help her improve before her 8th grade volleyball season?


Dear vbmom,

Great question! There are a ton of ways that you can help your volleyball player get better in the off season.

Get her in a club - Club volleyball is the best way to improve your daughter's volleyball skills. Club volleyball lasts for months and is very intense with tournaments every weekend where she might play in 10 matches or more. If she gets involved in club volleyball, you might just discover that you'll soon be considering school volleyball a way for her to further her club volleyball skills.

Play with her - Buy a volleyball and pass with her, or get a friend or sibling to do it. The more she touches the ball, the better she will get. Bumping, setting, hitting, etc will soon be second nature to her if she plays with that volleyball every day. I had a player pass with her sister or her mom every day this last summer for 20 minutes a day. When she finished last season she was one of the worst passers on the team. She is now one of the best. Her dedication and touches really show.

Get her in a rec league - Rec volleyball is a laid back version of volleyball, but any time she is touching that volleyball she is getting better.

Volleyball Camps - Sign her up for a volleyball camp or two. Most colleges put on camps for Elementary, Jr. High and High School kids. The camps can range from the fundamentals to more intense single skill camps (Serving camps, setting camps, hitting camps, etc) These can be expensive.

Watch It - Youtube is a great place to watch volleyball matches. The more she watches, the more she learns. Watch it together. Talk about why a bunch of players come in close and low near a hitter when she goes to hit, or point out the differences in serving styles. The more she watches and learns the better she will be.

Let her Love it - Just remember not to push her so hard she STOPS loving the game! Loving the game is the most important part of getting better. The love of the game will drive your daughter to give it her all and to improve her game.

Contact the Coach

Have a question? Ask it in the comments and I will answer it in future articles!


I found your blog as I was googling a volleyball issue involving my daughter. I hope you can give me some advice. Just a little daughter has been playing for her high school team since she was a freshman. She is now a junior and her team has two more matches and then the state tournament , as the season is winding down. The team is 5-3, currently tied for 2nd in their region. A little about my girl...she is 6'1", left handed and plays right side decent hitter and a good setter when the ball is over passed to the right side. She has worked very hard to make the varsity team and started the first four preseason games. When region play got started, her coach replaced her with a sophomore who transferred out of her district to play on our high school team. I think a am realistic about my daughter's ability when I say she is a good player, not the best on the team but consistent. Like all the girls on the team, she makes mistakes but they all do. This other girl makes an equal share of mistakes, hits into the net, bad passes, missed blocks etc. I should add, the sophomore is 5' 7" and plays the back row really well. She is a setter on her club team and a very good one, at that. However, the coach decided to have her play right side. My daughter will go an entire match which out playing time. She has asked the coach what she needs to work on to earn her starting spot back and all he says is work harder and get specifics. Needless to say, my daughter is very frustrated. The team played in a tournament this weekend and she played in three sets out of twelve. In the last set of the last match, the coach put her in the back row which she never plays. As a parent, I don't understand why he is not using her height on the front row. She can block, so it makes no sense to me or the other parents who are watching and asking me what the deal is. Lastly, If it was an attitude problem, I would understand; however, my daughter is very respectful of her coach and continually cheers for her teammates even when she is not playing.

So...with that way to long explanation, how would you suggest my daughter approach her coach to prepare for next year? She is working with a private technical coach on her hitting and will play on a club team in January, so that will give her more time but my concern is that next year, the coach will continue to run a 6-1 and will not play her during her senior year. It seams like he is more committed to giving the sophomore playing time and has written off my daughter. My second question...would it be inappropriate to ask to speak with him and have him tell me, as her parent, what I need to do to support my daughter's efforts to get that spot back for her senior year? By the way, he has a "parents can't talk to the coach about playing time" policy. He will only talk to the player, which she has already tried to do, without much success.

Any "coaching' you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Sorry for the long explanation. There's much more about this situation, but I don't want to sound like the bitter, bitchy mom at the end of the bench. :-)

Thank you,



Thanks for writing!I think the best thing you can do is to set up a time during the off season to meet with the coach, both you and your daughter.Approach the meeting in a positive, non-confrontational way.Request the meeting by saying something like, “We would like to sit down and discuss my daughter’s future volleyball career with you.” Then sit down with the coach and honestly explain your daughter’s volleyball career goals and ask him how he thinks she can best achieve those goals.You can express your daughter’s frustration in being benched in favor of this new girl, just do so without emotion.You want an honest answer, and you won’t get that when emotions come into play.Explain to your daughter going into the meeting that she might hear things she doesn’t want to, but she can’t get emotional (cry or get angry) until she leaves.Whether or not what the coach says is true, or how you see things, it IS how HE sees things, so it will offer you a glimpse into what his reasoning is.

The bad thing is that High School coaches pretty much can and will do whatever they want; whether or not it makes sense.Sometimes they just really like a player and want to play her all the time.If your daughter was the weakest player in the starting lineup then she would have been the first to go, even if it doesn’t make sense to replace her in the front row for this other girl. You may realize after speaking to him that your daughter will not regain her spot over this new girl.Perhaps he’ll say your daughter would be better off concentrating on middle instead, or perhaps next year this new girl will be in a different position (like setter) and he was putting her in at right side to give her a chance to get a few sets into her new team and to get her used to the team dynamic.I can’t even begin to guess what he’s thinking.It doesn’t make sense to me to replace6’1” right with a 5’7” one going into the last few matches of a pretty successful season, but then again,I can’t see either girl play or guess what his intentions are.

The good thing is that, honestly, club volleyball is more important than school volleyball.What is your daughter’s ultimate goal when it comes to volleyball?Does she want to play in college?The vast majority of college recruiting is done at major club tournaments.If she wants to play in college have her contact a few colleges she’s interested in, get some video out there and encourage them to come see her at one of her major club tournaments.If her goal is just to have an awesome senior year playing school ball, then I am going to reiterate that you need to talk to the coach directly, calmly, and find out how he thinks she can best do that.

Sorry for the frustration.Hopefully you and your daughter will be able to have an open dialogue with the coach and get the situation resolved so she can have an awesome senior year!

National Team or American Club


My daughter is a junior in High School. She has played Volleyball since 7th grade and played 1 year Club. She is looking to play on a collegiate level and is really good. She was offered a spot on the 18s National Team with one Club and 17s American Club with another which is better the National or American?

Volleyball Mom

Volleyball Mom,

Which is the better team depends on many factors. The 18's National would likely be the "Better" team. However, that may not mean it's a better team for your daughter. Either team will help her to get on a college coach's radar.

Which team will be better for her will depend on your daughter. First, you need to know which team she feels more comfortable and confident on. This will greatly impact her playing. Also, I don't usually recommend girls "playing up". It is much better to be the best player on a 17's team than a so-so player on an 18's team as far as college recruiting goes. You want her to stand out among her teammates to get the best offers.

Also, if you are still shopping for a college volleyball program, make sure you are taking and sending footage of your daughter demonstrating her skills along with her basic stats out to college coaches at schools she is interested in and inviting them to come to a big tournament where she will be playing. With so many excellent volleyball players out there, each girl really needs to "sell" herself.

Good luck to your daughter in her future volleyball endeavors!


Leigh on August 22, 2018:

I understand overhead obstructions when the ball hits something. What is the rule when it is hit above a raised curtain and over the lights and rafters before it comes over the net? It didn’t hit anything (according to the red), but it did go out of view for a couple of seconds.

kittersue on February 13, 2015:

I know this post was from a long time ago, but we are in the exact same situation. How was yours resolved?

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