Volleyball strategies range from simple and obvious to highly complex. Matching strategies to the skill level is the critical first step. Teams must develop appropriate tactics for serving, receiving, offense, hitting and defense. Master the basics, then blend in more elaborate concepts. Team strategies evolve as the team evolves. The higher the skill level, the more tactical the game becomes.
Keep the opponent off balance by hitting a variety of serves. Rotate servers at the novice level to create different looks. Use the whole service arsenal at more advanced levels. Serve short to force hitters to receive. Aim for aces at the deep corners. Mix in shots straight down the lines, giving the receiving team less time to react. Serve between players to force movement and communication. Mix in deep float serves, which can fool the receiving team with their knuckleball action. Use jump serves, which have greater downward movement than float serves. Jump serves hit deep can be difficult to return because they appear to be going out. Spot serves targeting vulnerable players or zones are also effective.
Use serve receive formations to set up the offense. Two basic formations are the "W," which uses five players lined up like a "W," and the "U," using four, with two players up front and two in back. The "U" formation works best when players are larger and/or more skilled. There are endless variations on these formations and others. Use the formation that best helps the team set up its attack. For instance, the split "W" formation works well when the middle player is very capable.
Select offensive schemes that fit the team's talent. The 6-2 scheme uses two setters and six hitters. Because each setter also hits when she moves up in the rotation, the scheme effectively deploys six hitters. This is a good system for teams with versatile players. The 5-1 scheme has a single setter who never hits. This is used a lot at higher levels, since it allows a single setter to run the offense.
Change up while hitting at the net. Power is a weapon at the higher levels, but finesse is just as important. Tips to open areas of the court are very effective. So is the roll shot, struck with the palm of the hand underneath the center of the ball. As hitters become more capable, they can read the defense while rising up to hit and aim the ball away from the block. The cut shot -- a cross-court hit at a sharper angle -- is a good example of that.
Decide whether area blocking or read blocking at the net is best for the front end of the defense. Area blockers protect a designated area. Read blockers watch the hitters and move accordingly to thwart them. Beginning teams might opt for a basic rotation defense, using two blockers up front and four defending players rotating to cover the other zones of the court.
- Strength-and-Power-for-Volleyball: "Volleyball Strategies"
- Volleyball iSport: "How to Play Rotation Defense"
- Volleyball Life: "Volleyball Serving Zones"
- Coach Rey: "Thinking Critically About Volleyball Strategy"; Aug. 8, 2009
- Strength-and-Power-for-Volleyball: "Volleyball Formations"
- Strength-and-Power-for-Volleyball: "Four Player Receive Formations"