Step-by-step how to spike a volleyball out of serve receive

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Who doesn’t like to spike a volleyball in todays volleyball? Everyone wants to win points for their team, and the best way to do that is by having an effective attack. Spiking a volleyball is usually the last skill to be developed by volleyball players.

There are four major steps to effectively spike a volleyball. In my opinion, written as an outside or position four, is identifying the set. After you have identified what kind of set you are receiving, you may start your approach towards the ball. Your body position relative to the ball will determine what kind of attack you will take – a full on hit, a roll shot or even a well-placed tip.

In order to be the best in terms of pure scoring points, your hand contact with the ball will determine your accuracy and therefore the effectiveness of your contact. Which leads to the most points being scored.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PREP:

Today we will talk about an indoor attack. First up: Identifying the set. Volleyball is arguably the fastest transition team sport that exists. The dig or pass will determine the speed you will approach and the height of the set that is appropriate given the setter’s position to the ball. In the words of UCLA’s Coach Wooden, be quick but don’t hurry.

Your preparation to attack supersedes any other aspect of attacking. This means get to where you need to be in order to set yourself up for success. There are 5 main types of situations you will have to prepare to attack. The last three will be addressed in a different article which can be found here: (link)

  1. While in serve receive and you do NOT take the ball
  2. In serve receive and you take the ball
  3. During transition and you do NOT dig
  4. During transition and you DO take the first contact.
  5. Freeball

While in serve receive and you do NOT take the ball

Scenario one is the easiest to identify your set. Be quick to get to your spot before the setter has even touched the ball. This ensures that the setter can both; see you’re ready to attack and that you have more time to take a good approach. It helps out both players ultimately to be where you need to be before he/she has touched the ball.

Based on the setter’s body position you will be more prepared to take a good hit. If you time your prep-steps to get into position the same time the setter is touching the ball you will lose valuable seconds. The more you can see while you are in your spot and composed the better your approach will be.

As soon as you know you are not passing the ball, move and get into position to begin your approach. This can be viewed as two different sets of movements. If it feels like one motion, try moving quicker. Beat the ball to the setter’s hands!

In serve receive and you take the ball

Situation number two is a bit more difficult. Take your time with each skill before moving onto the next. Volleyball is a sport of 99% preparation to touch the ball. The last 1% is the contact. Therefore, if you prepare yourself well, the better your 1% touches will be. A good hitter will get themselves into the best position possible as quickly as possible.

This part of the skill cannot be over-looked. A solid attack comes from excellent preparation to attack. If you are taking the first contact, you will have to work harder to get yourself in position. You will have less time to prep – it can still be done, and a good approach will still be achieved if you can use your time effectively.

Again, this is about identifying the type of set the first contact has set up for you. If you are short on time from taking the first contact, you may need to tell your setter you want a higher set. By putting yourself in a good spot to begin your approach you can ask your setter for the type of set that works best for you.

IDENTIFY YOUR SET:

After the setter has contacted the ball, you need to understand where the set is going. This piece of information will determine the rest of your attack. Is it high, slow, fast, tight, wide or a combination of those? A helpful tool is to say to yourself what the set looks like. Sometimes for fast-set teams you may have already started your approach.

For others, a high set will require you to wait before taking your steps. This is why it is crucial to take your approach steps from slow to fast.

A fast set requires a quick approach – but your last two steps will be the most important. The more accurate your setter places the ball, the easier it will be for you. Respect your setter and their abilities BUT always take accountability for your prep. Did you see the location of the set? Did your first steps aide or hinder your final position to the ball?

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Sebastian Gevert spike in volleyball match against Perugia

LET’S TALK ABOUT STEPS, BABY:

Now that we have done our prep and can see where we need to position ourselves, let’s get into the nitty gritty of approaches. Most approaches consist of three or four steps. This is entirely up to you, but for a high set, I like to make sure I have four full steps.

A quicker set may need less steps – i.e. your first contact was low and you had less time to get into position. Some middles and even outsides prefer a three-step approach.

Your steps, no matter how many you take must be slow to fast. The cadence of the steps is relative to the set, but a quick step-close will be much more effective if your body is already moving in the right direction, which is dictated by your first steps.

If you move the same speed through the entire approach you risk not having a good position relative to the ball, as well as other more serious accidents like overrunning the ball, being too far away or jumping too soon or late.

As well as slow to fast, your steps should go from big to small. This ensures that you can make last minute adjustments to the ball. Even the best hitters will have to adjust their last two steps. It cannot be stressed enough that if your first steps are too big and too fast you risk not being in the best position for you to attack.

Remember: Slow to fast, Small to big.

PUT THE BALL IN YOUR WHEELHOUSE:

Stand on the ground and reach both arms up as if you are going to attack. Your shoulders and body should be facing the setter. This provides your setter with a good target. If He or She can see where the ball needs to be pushed, you both succeed. Approaching with your shoulders closed of puts your body in a tough position to have both range and power. With your hitting arm slightly drawn back, the best position is at the height of your reach slightly in front of your attacking hip. Think of putting your arm at about 1 o’ clock relative to your body. This is your wheelhouse. Attacking from here will not only generate the most power at the highest position but keeps your shoulder in a healthy range for taking lots of swings.

RELAX YOUR ARMS:

Keeping your arms relaxed while you approach will help you release tension from your shoulders. As you swing them up into position on your last couple of steps it’s important to get both of them up. This helps create power using more than just your arm muscles. It may seem counterintuitive, but it will ultimately help you get your arms into the high open position I described earlier. Your body should help your shoulder generate torque.  As you swing through the ball rotate on your vertical axis, avoid dropping your non-dominant shoulder. This will keep the position high and avoid the block. A full power swing comes from using the whole body to jump through the ball and using the momentum of your arms to hit the ball.

Remember that not every attack needs to be a full power swing. Volleyball is a game of finesse and the point scored from well-placed shots and tips count all the same as a powerful swing. But, if we’re being honest, full power attacks feel reaaaaally good. If you’re going to take lots of those, prepare yourself to do it!

Keep your eye on the ball and relax your wrist, you want to touch the top side of the ball with your full hand. If your wrist is stiff you might end up hitting the ball more like a float serve than with top spin.

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WORK SMARTER NOT HARDER:

Learning where to place the ball will take some practice but test out all of your options. Practice is the perfect place to try swiping off the block, tipping, hard swings to all corners of the court. Create an open flow of dialog with your setter. Figure out what works best for the both of you and in what scenarios.

Asses your body awareness. Ask a coach or friend to film you and figure out what parts of your attack need work. Choose one thing at a time and go from there. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Lay one solid brick at a time and enjoy yourself!

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