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USA Volleyball

Apr 02 5 Keys to Better Serving

April 02, 2014, 10 a.m. (ET)

Originally published in VolleyballUSA, Fall 2013 issue.
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Sage advice on how you can score more points from the back line.

Nicole Fawcett 
Opposite, U.S. Women’s National Team

Practice, practice, practice. Everyone has his or her own type of jump serve, so the most important thing is to be comfortable with yours. For me, the biggest key is the toss. Having a consistent toss sets you up to repeatedly deliver a great serve. Make sure your toss is high and in front of you so it’s very similar to attacking. This allows you to make adjustments and go get the ball and that helps you swing with power.

Bill Neville
Assistant coach for gold-medalist 1984 U.S. Olympic Men’s Team, national commissioner of coaching education for USA Volleyball, owner of Nevillisms

Checklist every serve. A checklist is part of a routine. A routine is basically as mindless as what you do when you get up in the morning. You don’t need to think about it. But a checklist is mindful. An airline pilot goes through a checklist before flying to make sure the plane will fly. As passengers, we really want the pilot to be mindful. Value every serve as a chance to create a scoring opportunity. The checklist: 1. Center yourself. Take a long, deep breath; 2. Identify your target (serve with a purpose); 3. Mind map – visualize velocity, trajectory and location. Then, serve. Do this every time whether you’re serving against a wall or serving for match point.

Matt Anderson
Outside Hitter, U.S. Men’s National Team

I try to clear my mind before I go back to serve. The previous point might have been very emotional, and I feel like I want to clear it all from my head before I start the next point. I usually take one or two deep breaths to calm my nerves and calm my heart and really get focused on what I need to do to get a good serve. Once I’m back behind the service line, I talk to myself. 

The first thing I’ll say is, ‘Good toss.’ I think a consistent, good toss is the most important part of serving. It allows you to have range and it allows you to go through the arm swing process consistently. So once I’ve taken a couple of breaths, I’ll say, ‘Good toss, fast feet, get up, fast arm.’ That gives me a picture in my head of what I want to do.

Shawn Patchell
Concordia University Irvine men’s volleyball coach

Here are two things I think are very important: 1. Serving is not about aces; it’s about getting the opposing team ‘out of system.’ Aces will be a pleasant surprise when a player is in rhythm (with a good toss) and serving targeted seams on the court; 2. Most coaches teach four serving seams in a three-man serve receive formation: two sidelines and areas 1/5 and 5/6. However, great players get more specific than just targeting four seams, so try turning four into eight or more. Instead of just relying on a coach’s serving areas, ask questions and get feedback. For instance, how do opposing outside hitters pass a short ball to their right and hit in area four? Instead of serving a particular player, serve their right knee pad or over their left shoulder. This is termed ‘triangling’ and has been effective for years. The more specific we can be, the better results we will have.

Matt Fuerbringer
U.S. Men’s National Team assistant coach, former beach pro

The key to great serving is finding a fixed target to serve to. I like my target to be small. I find a spot on the floor or sand and imagine the ball coming in reverse from my target to my hand. When I do this, I can see where the ball would cross the net and picture a box at that exact spot. This becomes the target for my serve. You can have more confidence serving at a target that is closer and above the net.

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