I’ll admit that this doesn’t happen to me very often anymore, mostly because I have a great group of people that I play with on a regular basis and most of the time all the players on both sides of the net are playing decently high level volleyball.
But the other day I threw myself into an unknown group of players in the hopes of finding an unknown gem to round out a women’s team I play on. Unfortunately, there were no gems, and quite a few bits of coal. I did my best to follow these guidelines.
Take stock as your warming up of what other players are doing. A big red flag for me was that nobody was really peppering or even stretching, just standing around the walls.
Once we started warming up hitting, very few people managed to figure out how the hitting lines were working. Also a danger sign. After seeing most of the players hit I realized I was in for a challenging couple of hours.
There are times when the smartest thing to do is to withdraw from play, lest you find yourself trampled on by well-meaning but ill-informed teammates. You know the type – middle hitters who run all the way to the outside to attack a set that clearly wasn’t theirs, or defenders who flail wildly all around the back court. These are volleyball players, and I use the term loosely, who should be avoided. Leave the gym rather than risk a serious injury.
When you’ve determined that it’s safe to stay and play, think about some of your skills that need polishing but that you can’t work on during a game. Serving is one of the easiest skills to practice in this type of situation.
Since it doesn’t matter much if you miss, start aiming for those deep corners, or go for that wickedly short serve you wouldn’t dare attempt during a “real” game. Maybe this is the time to break out that jump serve you’ve been meaning to try. The sky’s the limit – really bring out the big, only-sort-of-accurate guns.
Hitting’s another good skill to practice if the sets are there. Sharp cross court or daring line shots can seem less intimidating in these kinds of setting, and trying them here may just give you the confidence you need to attempt them during an actual match.
Assuming that your main goal of playing volleyball is to get better and have a good time, make sure that you focus on this last part when you find yourself in a “playing down” situation.
Don’t get too uptight, enjoy being one of the best players in the gym, and use the time to get crazy on serves and hits while still passing, setting and communicating at the level you should be.