The overhand serve in volleyball represents a fundamental change from the casual to the competitive game. All serve types used in organized athletics stem from the overhand serve. Although it can appear tough to master for those only familiar with the underhand serve, the overhand serve is generally easy to master and use effectively with the right set of practice drills.
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Overhand Serve Strategy
Understanding what the overhand serve is intended for can make its application easier. Underhand serves are generally used in games in which volleying is encouraged and the focus is more on fun than winning. Overhand serves are used to put the ball into areas of the court where the server's opponents will have a difficult time returning it. To do this, overhand serves should be aimed at specific spots on the floor and spend as little time in the air as possible.
Anatomy of an Overhand Serve
The simplest drill when learning the overhand serve is to practice the motion with a ball, without worrying about where it lands on the court. For right-handed players, this involves standing behind the service line with the left foot in front of the right foot, and the ball in the left hand. The right arm should be pulled back so the right hand is even with the right ear, palm facing forward and fingers outstretched. The player should loft the ball above her head with the left hand, taking a step forward on the left foot and angling the right hand back and up, bringing it forward to strike the ball solidly.
If players don't have the range or power to hit the ball from the serve line over the net, they can be paired for a two-person drill. Have each player stand on one side of the net at a distance from which they know they can serve. Have them hit the ball back and forth to each other, gradually moving back as their serving skills improve.
Once players are comfortable serving the ball over the net, they should attempt to serve it into certain areas of the court. A fun game to practice this drill is called "golf." The court is divided into six squares and each player is given six serves, attempting to put one in each of the six squares. The player gets a point each time he reaches a new square. The players with the highest score (up to six) wins the game.
Black Sheep Serve Drill
A variation of the golf drill is the black sheep drill. In volleyball, "black sheep" is the term for a player who has trouble receiving serves, often a front-row blocker or attacker whose strength is on offense. In this drill, use a normal rotation but identify one player as the black sheep. As the black sheep moves through the rotation, the server must continually try to hit the ball into the black sheep's defensive zone.