If you’ve recently taken up volleyball and are looking to improve your skills you’ve come to the right place. After all, before you can put in the practice to perfect your game you need to understand the theory behind it, and that’s where we come in. So, what are the basic skills in volleyball? This guide is going to unpack the basic volleyball skills that every great player needs to have.
Before discussing the skills themselves, it is important that you have a basic understanding of how the game functions. Essentially, volleyball is very similar to games like tennis or badminton, where the objective of play is to strike the ball (or shuttle) towards the other side so that the opposing team cannot hit it.
One thing to note, however, is that in volleyball you cannot let the ball bounce. If the opposing team sends the ball to you and it hits the floor, they score. Thus the objectives of both teams are two-fold.
- Keep the ball from hitting the floor on your side of the court.
- Hit the ball in such a way that your opponents are not able to stop it from hitting the court on their side.
This is where the basic skills of volleyball come into play. There are six fundamental functions that every player needs to learn in order to perform well. In fact, in most cases, the main distinguishing factor between an amateur player and a professional is that the professional has refined these six skills to perfection.
If you can learn these fundamentals well and constantly improve your skills, then the sky’s the only limit.
The Six Skills
In order to begin the rally, one of the two teams needs to serve the ball. Serving in this context means bringing the ball into play. However, a good serve can also function as a way to score points for your time.
To do a good serve, however, you need to understand the rules associated with the serve.
When all players are in position and the rally is about to begin, the referee will blow a whistle. This will signal the start of an 8-second counter. During these eight seconds, you must throw the ball into the air, strike it, and have it cross the net. Otherwise, the serve will not be considered legal.
If you throw the ball into the air and do not strike it, then you are given a 5-second timer from when the ball hits the floor to when it must cross the opposing team’s net.
Generally, most beginners use an underhand serve as this is relatively easier to execute. However, there are three important things you should be mindful of. Firstly, you want to try and impart spin onto the ball. This will make it much more difficult for the other team to deal with as it will be tough for them to control which direction the ball travels in after they hit it.
Secondly, When striking the ball you need to follow through with your arm swing all the way. Too many beginners make the mistake of striking the ball and then abruptly stopping their swing. However, by following through with the swing you can make the ball go a little faster, making it that much more difficult for your opposing team to react in time.
Finally, you want to make sure that you serve strategically. Do not hit the ball to your opposing team members. Instead, try to look for weak spots in their formation and aim for those. This will significantly help increase the chances of you scoring a point while serving.
This is arguably one of the most important skills for a good team player. Passing the ball means hitting it to another one of your teammates on the same side of the court. This is particularly useful for setting up attacks and sending the ball to the other team from unexpected directions.
Generally, passing requires you to do two things. Firstly, meeting the ball, and secondly, striking the ball.
No good player will wait for the ball to come to them. Instead, you should try to intercept the ball. The way to do this is by taking note of the ball’s speed and direction and then trying to meet it halfway. This, of course, is not an easy task, especially for a beginner. But even as a beginner you should be trying to meet the ball when passing, after all, practice makes perfect!
The second part is striking the ball. When passing, this is done with the forearms. The hard part, however, is not hitting the ball, it is aiming the ball properly. In order to aim it, you want to turn your arms and shoulders in the direction where you intend to send the ball. This will require speed and precision, however, the more you practice the better you will become.
If you have ever watched volleyball videos on the internet or television, this is likely the most iconic and recognizable part of the game. Spiking is an offensive move when the player leaps into the air and hits the ball with the swing of a single arm.
There are two key features to a good spike. Firstly the run-up, secondly, the aim. When preparing to spike a ball you need to generate as much speed and power as possible so that the ball travels extremely fast towards the other team.
The way to do this is by stepping with your non-dominant foot, followed by your dominant foot. These two steps will help you accelerate and gain momentum. Next, you will plant your non-dominant foot next to your dominant foot and jump into the air.
This routine needs to be executed in a smooth flow otherwise you risk losing your momentum. Thus we recommend practicing the approach alone on an empty court until you have good muscle memory and feel comfortable with the steps.
The second thing to look out for is your aim. This is rather straightforward, you want to send the ball in a direction where you avoid the blockers and hit the weak spot of the opponent’s position. This requires split-second decision making which you will have to hone over time.
The setter can be a make-or-break role for the team. A good setter will hit the ball in a specific way close to his or her own side of the net. This will allow the attacker to come in and strike the ball towards the other team. This strategy is extremely powerful as it gives your team much more control over the ball and can help break blocks.
When setting a ball you want to be mindful of how high you hit it. If you hit the ball too high, the attacker might be kept waiting and this will allow the other team to get into a good position. If you hit it too low then your attacker might struggle to make it to the ball in time and thus not get a good hit in.
Hence there is a middle ground that you need to achieve, however, this middle ground will depend on both your and the attacker’s skill level and capabilities, every teammate will be different.
Digging is a defensive technique used to counteract spiking from the other team. The goal is to get underneath the ball and hit it with your forearms in such a manner that it is deflected upwards.
This deflection will give your teammates the time and space required to set up the next shot and send the ball back.
There are two main things to look out for when digging. Firstly, you want to have good reaction times and be able to predict where the ball is coming. Secondly, you need to practice lowering your hips to the ground extremely quickly, after all, you need to hit the ball from below to send it upwards.
Compared to some other skills, blocking is relatively easy to learn. However, it is difficult to master. When blocking, your objective is to time your jump such that your arms and hands block the incoming ball and send it back to your opponent’s side of the court. To do this, you need to watch your hand position and your timing.
The hands should be splayed open with fingers as wide apart as possible, moreover, you want to swing your arms a little forward to counteract the incoming momentum of the volleyball.
Secondly, when it comes to timing you need to predict when the other side is about to hit their ball and jump accordingly. This requires a good awareness of what is happening in the court and, you guessed it, practice!
Volleyball is almost entirely about these six fundamentals. What distinguishes a good player from an excellent one are not fancy one-off moves or trick shots. Instead, it is the ability to constantly and consistently execute these fundamentals like a well-oiled machine.
In this regard, we recommend that you go out and practice, practice, practice. After all, reading about a sport can only help you understand what to do, now you have to go do it!