The Fundamental Skills Used in Playing Volleyball

Beach Volleyball
Two men playing volleyball outside (Image: Galina Barskaya/iStock/Getty Images)

Volleyball is a sport that requires you to master a complex skill set. Because you rotate from playing front line positions to back line positions, you constantly are shifting from setting up offensive plays to completing offensive plays. You also must shift quickly from offense to defense. During any given sequence in volleyball, a player must be prepared to execute a variety of skills.

Serving

A properly executed serve provides the serving team with a significant advantage over the receiving team. A serve that is properly placed can cause players on the receiving team to get out of position or attempt awkward returns. The server must stand behind the service line at the end of the court. There are three serving styles in volleyball. The underhand serve, the overhand serve and the jump serve. The underhand serve generally is a relatively slow serve that travels high in the air toward the rear of the court. Both the overhand serve and the jump serve are fast serves frequently struck with top spin.

Passing

Passing also is known as "bumping" in an offensive sequence and "digging" when used to defend an offensive shot. Passing is executed by interlocking your fingers, holding your arms straight and away from your body. Make contact with the ball on your forearms and follow through to your target. The only allowable service return is a pass, so it is frequently the first shot in a three-shot sequence.

Setting

Setting, or overhead passing, typically is the second shot in a three-shot sequence. A properly executed set is placed close and above the net. You want to place the ball about four feet from the net so on the third shot, typically a spike, your teammate won't hit the net on her follow through.

Hitting

Generally, you want to hit the ball with the greatest force possible on the third shot of a sequence. When the ball is struck forcefully downward, above the height of the net, it is referred to as a "spike" or "kill" shot. To execute a kill shot, a player may use either a two- or three-step approach. Strike the ball at the top of your vertical leap, using the heel of your palm, followed by wrapping your hand on the ball with your fingers and snapping your wrist.

Blocking

Blocking is a defensive play made close to the net. The object of a block is to deflect an offensive shot directly back toward your opponent. Block attempts can be made by individual players or pairs of players. Blocking is not allowed on serves. Blocks often are utilized as a defense against "kill" shots.

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