This archived article was written by: Shania Hurst
Although people look at volleyball as an intense game of, “don’t let the ball hit the floor,” there’s much more to the sport than keeping the ball off the ground.
Passing the ball. This is one of the most underrated areas of volleyball to non-players. If you can’t pass, you can’t play. When passing, make sure your hands and wrists are together in a way that they won’t separate on contact. Next keep your arms STRAIGHT on contact, do not bend your elbows. Finally, angle your “platform” or arms where you want the ball to go. I promise, the ball knows angles, and it is going to go exactly where you tell it to. Keep in mind how hard the ball is coming at you as well, if it is a hard driven ball you won’t have to add any momentum. If it’s a slower moving ball, like a tip or free ball, use your legs by extending your knees when contacting the ball. Don’t swing your arms, you may get lucky with that every now-and-then, but most times that changes your platform angle and, ultimately, where the ball goes.
Setting. Keeping your hands shaped to the ball, your hips facing the outside pole, and adding footwork makes setting difficult – but not impossible. The first and most important part of setting is footwork, and getting to a ball that isn’t passed right to you. Make sure if you are going to over-head set, that you are under the ball with plenty of time. If you can only bump-set, still try to take as much spin off the ball as possible. With either set, keep the ball slightly in front of you and finesse it a bit. The set is meant to be a nice soft ball, above the net, for your hitter to reach with ease. Keeping your hips to the pole is hard, and sometimes not possible depending on the pass. But if you can keep your hips facing the pole, your setting will be more consistent, you can see the block and your hitters (excluding the one behind you). Now for shaping your hands, try and put them together in a way that if someone placed the ball in them, it would fit snug. When the ball touches your hands, extend your elbows for power according to where you are aiming to set.
Hitting strong and in. Hitting or “spiking” the ball is one of the most fun parts of the game, but can get very frustrating if you aren’t doing it right. Before you hit, you need to have a decent approach and jump. With a four step approach, your first step is a slow, deliberate step. You are watching your setter to see if it is coming to you. The second step is your timing/directional step. You should have the ball located by now, and on this step you will know if you need to speed up, pause for a bit, or change what part of the net you are going to be making contact at. The third and fourth step are the power steps, and they are your quickest steps. When starting your third step, your arms go back, and on the fourth step throw your arms back in front and jump as high as you can.
Hitting the ball generally happens in the air, so your timing must be spot-on. Contact the ball with an open hand, slightly towards the top of the ball to send it towards the ground, and flip your wrist at the end, as if you’d just shot a basketball. If your hit tends to go long, you are hitting the middle or underside of the ball. If you are hitting into the block or net, you are hitting too high on the top of the ball.
There are other aspects to the game, such as the mental part. You almost can’t have a conscience when playing, because you will mess up. If you leave your mistakes on your mind, you will still be in the last play of the game, and be more likely to mess up again. You also have to finish out the point. The game doesn’t stop till a dead ball, even if there’s crying, blood or broken bones. And the last advice I have, is to know where you are on the court at all times. If you are standing on the back line of the court, and a ball is coming at your face, that ball is out. Use the lines on the court to your advantage, every point matters, even if it isn’t from getting a wicked kill.