Blocking, like any other aspect, is essential for being a good volleyball player. Blockers and blocking alike are the first line of defense for your team. Truthfully it doesn’t matter how tall you are or how high you jump – you can still become an effective blocker by doing the things mentioned in this article. Keep reading for my best tips on how to become a great blocker.
What is block in volleyball
This article aims to go into great depth on the skill of blocking. Each block component can be broken down into mini-sets of various skills. To be a great blocker, you will do all of these things well. If you wish to improve your blocking, try picking the skill set you are the least confident in and work on that first. As always, my first recommendation is to make sure your foundations are strong, working upwards from footwork is the easiest and in my opinion, the best way to make sure you’re consistent enough to work on the other skills.
6 Steps to block in volleyball
Footwork as you will notice in my opinion is a FOUNDATION of volleyball. Most volleyball skills start with solid footwork. It’s how you block, attack, defend, set, and serve. Paying attention to how your feet move on the court is a great place to start your volleyball journey. Learning good footwork will help you stay consistent by reducing variables and secondly, it will help you to manage your body; or how efficiently you move on the court and overall court awareness.
Let’s talk about different kinds of blocks and what they require; a one-two step, a three-step crossover, and a quick three-step. We will only discuss the first two in this article. Keep in mind the style of blocking you do with your team will vary; but men’s and women’s teams around the world both use swing blocking. I agree with this method because it’s easy to learn (similar steps to an approach) and effective. You will see swing blocking being used at the highest levels of volleyball.
2. Footwork patterns:
A one-two step doesn’t actually require you to change the direction your body faces at all. This is a minor adjustment from your starting position. It should be noted that starting positions for blocking vary by team and the opponents you play against. Your footwork does not need to change for the adjustments in your start position, only the length of your steps. Middle blockers use a one-two step pattern ALL the time. In conclusion, it’s the fastest and best for last-minute adjustments to blocking.
A three-step crossover blocking movement is really where your arm swing comes into play. Your first step will take you in the direction of the set and open your body perpendicular to the net. The second step of this approach should be moving you to the place you need to be. Your third and final step is slowing you down, stopping your momentum from moving horizontally to vertically. If you think of this block movement as an approach, it will be easier to get the footing down. I will elaborate on footwork throughout the remaining sections.
3. Use your eyes
How accurately and fast you read a set is the number one determinator of how well you block. Your focus can be the ball – but the ball is only going where it needs to because of FORCE and ANGLES. I recommend spending as little time on the ball and more time on players as possible. After all, they will show you where they’re putting it; the ball does not act on its own free will!
Use this sequence: Ball-Setter-Ball-Hitter
This is simply the best pattern to train your eyes to move in. It should be noted that the time spent on each of these aspects is NOT equal – It should be more like:
The ball cannot and will not change direction unless acted upon. The players are the ones determining where YOU should go. Afterall, a setter will ALWAYS make it to the ball and same with the hitter. Bypass seeing the entire arc of the ball and focus on the things that will be changing it’s direction next.
Every player adds information about the ball you will be blocking. If the receiver is on their heels, platform parallel with the ground… where is the ball most likely to go? Straight up in the air. If the player is diving forward to take a powerful serve, their platform at a 45degree angle with the floor… where might this ball go? Blockers must determine first if the ball is coming back over the net. The volleyball will move based on ANGLE and FORCE. Your opponents first contact gives an incredible amount of information to digest.
A perfect pass will require extreme focus and a VERY quick transition to looking at the setter. Conversely, a pass that is off the net gives you more time and eliminates most teams options to run a middle attack. Once you have an idea of where the reception should go – look at the setter. The setter will be doing their best to get to that ball anyways – pay attention to their body positioning as they do so.
The setter’s body position will tell you which part of the court you will be blocking. Pay attention to where they take the ball in relation to their body. Remember – a perfect pass will require you to spend more time analyzing the body position of the setter. It IS NOT enough to simply look at the setter in general – get specific. What do their hands look like when they push to the pins? How far is the ball overhead when they back-set? Every setter is different and every set is a learning opportunity for you. Indulge in the information they give you based on their body position.
After you see the direction the setter is pushing the ball to – take a look at the specific arc of the ball. Is it super arched and high? Is it fast and low across the top of the net? As soon as you have an idea of how fast and the general path of the ball, redirect your gaze to the hitter.
5. See the location of the set
Finally, and most importantly, see the location of the set, but interpret the body line of your attacker. Some teams will have you take “heads up”, “right hand” or “left hand”. An attacker who is better at hitting the line will likely be a “heads up” block. This means that when you take your steps to block, your head should be ON the ball. The same principle applies to what right or left hand on the ball means. An attackers body-line is the best evidence for where they will end up hitting the ball. A low, tight and inside set really limits the outside to either tipping the ball or hitting it hard cross. Likewise, a wide set limits the attacker too. If you’re seeing the direction of the set early and watching your attacker – you will have great success in becoming a great blocker.
6. Have GREAT hands
Being in the correction location is obviously the most important, but its still possible to be in a great position to block and have bad hands. They should be big, open and thumbs reaching towards the ceiling. Watch your hands get over the net, see the backs of them. If you’re a pin blocker – make sure that your hands are slightly turned in towards the court.
Remember, the ball knows ANGLES and the ANGLE that you hold your hands in will determine where the ball will go after touching them. This is a crucial detail.
One great tip I like to tell swing blockers if they’re getting over the net late is to shorten the arm swing. You can do this by adjusting your elbow angle so that your hands remain closer to your hips versus your knees (like you would if you were attacking). Next, throw the elbows back, bringing your hands up closer to your face and shoving them over the net for as long as possible. Keeping your arms closer to your body allows them to get over the net faster.
Check yourself after every block, did you see the back of your hands? While this is not an absolute rule, you will see men who “blind block” where they tuck their head; remember that this Is a great tool to implement in practice while you’re still learning. Players are only effective blind blockers when they KNOW they have good hands and are in the right position to block.
For beginners, learning to jump straight and reach with your hands over the net is essential. Hands have to be widespread to make the biggest platform possible. When standing by the net (before jumping), your starting position should be with the hands in front of your face to avoid being late in the block or touching the net. And focus on timing.
The best hand position in the blocking is to have their widespread and hold them tight; they shouldn’t be soft. Make a slight angle with your hands towards the middle of the court to avoid block-out.
The wing- players are the ones who set the block. They can either leave the line open or close it. The middle blocker’s job is to connect to the block and make a double block.
The block doesn’t count as a touch. If the ball bounces off the block and is still in play, the team can make three touches as usual.
Blocking is an essential part of learning in volleyball and the first obstacle the opponent has to deal with. With a good position of the block, it is much easier for the defense to set up the correct formation. Break points are the ones which will make you win the game; furthermore, having a great block & defense can give an enormous mental advantage and will increase the chance of winning the game. Remember: to make a block, your hands to be tight and widespread, stay straight, don’t fly, and be stiff; you can be sure you will get many more blocks. Feel free to share your thoughts on blocking in volleyball; we will be happy to hear them.