Although every volleyball team depends on teamwork for success, it’s the individual player’s serve that can give the team control of the game. The player who merely initiates play with their serve is sacrificing their most potent weapon. As an improving volleyball player, you should learn to attack with the serve.
All overhand serves are variations of two basic types which are the floater and the top spin. A floater serve is difficult to return because it moves erratically as it crosses the net; the top spin relies on speed and power for its degree of difficulty. A great server will use top spin and floater serves in combination to keep the receiving team off balance.
Before the Serve
* Stand balanced with your feet shoulder-width apart, your left foot and left shoulder pointed at the target area, and the majority of your weight on your back (right) foot. (These are right-handed instructions; lefties should reverse the instructions.)
* Balance the ball on the fingertips of your left hand and extend it in front of you, just below eye level.
* Put your right hand, the striking hand, on top of the ball with your fingers spread evenly so you can sight the target area over your middle finger. Keep your focus and concentration on the ball.
Toss and Reach
In a smooth and controlled manner, toss the ball up in front of you, draw your striking hand back and shift your weight to your left foot as you step toward your target.
* Toss the ball straight in front of you, so it’s between you and the target area. Toss it high enough so you are fully extended when you make contact.
* As you draw your hitting arm back, keep the elbow at least shoulder high. Visualize drawing a bow.
* Contact the ball just before you shift your weight to your left foot.
You differentiate between a floater and a top spin during contact. Good floater movement is caused by air pushing against the leading face of the ball. If you strike the ball squarely with the meat of your hand without breaking your wrist, the ball will initially fly in a straight line. As air resistance overwhelms the force of your contact, the ball wobbles and sinks.
Great servers can create dramatic changes in direction with effective floater technique. Balls have been known to move as much as six feet after they start to drop. The harder you strike the ball, the more movement you’ll obtain (assuming no spin). Because the direction of motion is largely unpredictable, floater serves can be very effective; adjust your distance from the serving line to take greatest advantage of where your serve tends to drop.
Initially, perfect your floater serve by tossing the ball with the valve down. If the heavy valve inside the ball drops during flight, the ball may change direction so radically even you will be astonished. As your skills improve, you can experiment with different valve positions in the toss.
A top spin serve cuts air resistance and moves in a straight line, so it must fly fast and drop quickly to cause a poor response from the opponents. Toss it more directly overhead than the floater; at contact, snap your wrist. It should feel as if you’re curling over the top of the ball. You must reach high to be effective. It’s not unusual for powerful top spin servers to get up on their toes at contact. The jump serve is the most powerful extension of the simple top spin.
It’s most efficient to practice with a partner.
* Stand on opposite 10-foot lines and serve over the net.
* Work on each serve at this distance until you can consistently serve the ball near your partner’s forehead with a relaxed motion.
* Move a step farther from the net and practice from there.
* Serve balls from ever-increasing distances until you’re both behind your serving lines.
* Once your serve feels controlled from the service line, put your partner in various target areas on the opposite court. Serve at your partner until you can hit any spot on the court with both serves. A hundred serves in a practice session is common.
DennisVB, Volleyball Coaching: Mastering Volleyball Serve Techniques, www.hubpages.com
Dennis Jackson, Volleyball Serving Strategies, www.squidoo.com