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The Serve In Volleyball Explained

Oct 12, 2007
In volleyball, the serve is the act of putting the ball in play by a player sounds simple, but actually it describes one of the most important plays in the game of volleyball. The underhand and the overhand serves are described below.

Underhand Serve

In executing the underhand service, the server should be back of the end line and within the extensions of the side lines. This is the service area as described in the rules. The server should stand with his knees flexed, and, in the case of a right-handed player, his left foot should be slightly in front of the right.

The ball is held in the left hand to the front and right side of the body so that it will be directly in line with the right hand. A high back swing should be made with the right arm, and the forward swing should be made directly under the shoulder and the ball. The elbow should be kept straight.

The ball is hit off the left hand similarly to the way a golf ball is hit off a tee. A good follow-through is essential. The right hand should be held like a claw and the ball should be hit with the heel of the hand. Some players use a closed fist and hit the ball with the heel and flat surface of the fist, but it is difficult to have the control with the fist that one has with the open hand.

As the swing is made, a short step forward should be made with the left foot, shifting the body weight to the left foot. Special care should be taken to keep the foot from touching the end line, which would constitute a foot fault and result in the loss of serve.

Overhand Serve

The overhand serve is a very effective serve and with practice may also be very accurate. This serve is accomplished by tossing the ball easily to a position just above the level of the head and just slightly in front of the frontal plane of the body.

The ball should be tossed in front of the right arm and shoulder. The right arm should be in a position so that the upper arm is parallel to the floor and to the frontal plane of the body. The hand should be held in a clawlike manner, close to the head and behind the ear.

In the tossing sequence, Odeneal suggests that the valve of the ball be placed toward the receiving team. This small amount of weight in the valve causes the ball to dip and slide after being hit.

The ball is hit in much the same manner as a spiker would hit a volleyball or in the same manner as a catcher might throw a ball to second base. Wilson recommends that the ball be hit or batted with a motion similar to a serve in tennis. The ball is hit with the heel of the hand and slightly capped with the fingers. There is very little follow-through on this service.

Capping the ball with the fingers after hitting it with the heel of the hand will give a top spin to the ball, causing it to go at a fast rate similar to a spike. The ball may also be hit in the center and not capped with the fingers. This creates a floating ball that jumps and slides because it has no spin. The floater travels fast over the net and dies quickly, making it difficult to judge in receiving. Both the capped and the floater serves are very effective and can be used interchangeably.

The most common stance of the server is with his feet in close proximity to and equidistant from the end line. However, some servers prefer to stand several feet behind the end line and/or with one foot forward. It is not necessary to take a step with the overhand service. Here again, this is a matter of preference with the individual player.

Serving is an important part of the game of volleyball, and should be practiced accordingly. Have fun!
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