In volleyball, you have to defend a lot as the ball goes from one side of the court to the other quite fast. One of the most common defensive moves is diving to get a ball that almost touches the ground (this is called digging). If you are good at this, you can help your team a lot as you keep the other team from scoring points. It can be a challenge to learn but once you get the hang of it, you might get irreplaceable on the team. Let’s discuss how you can get better at this.
Why do volleyball players dive (or dig to get a ball)?
The volleyball court is quite big. You can’t cover it completely with your team. The opponent might find a hole in your defense and send the ball this way. This means that you won’t be able to catch the ball with a simple underhands pass as the ball is too far away. By the time that you have reached the ball, it is already quite close to the ground. Remember that the ball shouldn’t touch the ground or the other team will score a point! Therefore you might want to do everything you can to get the ball back in the air. The easiest way to do this is to lower your body. In some instances, you really have to dive to do this if the ball is far away and almost touching the ground. This should be a forward jump where your body is floating just above the ground.
Let’s take a look at how Olympic Gold medal winner for Team USA, Racheal Adams explains this:
It is also important that this is a controlled move as you have to pass it to your team members. If you just keep the ball in the air but your team member can’t catch it, your dig was for nothing. This is the most challenging part about diving to get a ball. You don’t just need to catch it without landing too hard, you also need to be able to pass the ball to someone on your team. This can require a lot of practice as you have to use just the right amount of power and also aim in the right direction. In case of doubt, players often use more force to get the ball higher so that the team members have more time to see where the ball is going. Don’t hit the roof though as you will lose a point!
Everyone has their own technique but I fold my hands, stretch my arms and try to catch the ball just before my thumbs. It is quite similar to an underhands pass, you are just running at the same time which makes it harder to control the ball. It is only after you have done this often that you will start to understand how your hand movements affect the direction of the ball. Small changes in body posture can have a big impact on where the ball lands.
This is a spectacular move and can be great if you can pull it off. Not a lot of players are great at this so if you are good at this, it can convince your coach to add you to the team. If you want to make the team, you have to be able to offer something unique to the team. Being a good digger (or diver) is a great example of this as you need it very often during a match.
how to not be afraid to dive in volleyball
A lot of younger players find it quite daunting to dig to get a ball. They think that they won’t land well and therefore are hesitant to do it. One solution might be to wear arm pads. Almost every volleyball player wears knee pads that contain foams or gels to reduce the impact of landing on the knees. You have something similar for landing on the elbows. These arm pads can really make a difference and make the landing softer. You can’t expect wonders from this so you will still feel it but it might make it easier to push yourself to get the ball.
More advanced volleyball players don’t wear arm pads as these have learned the correct diving technique. You shouldn’t just drop downwards as this will release a lot of energy on your knees. Instead, you have to dive forwards so that the impact is dispersed and it is not that direct anymore. Arm pads are not that comfortable to wear and might interfere with your passes. This is the reason why not a lot of players wear this after the initial stage during which they are still learning how to dive to get a ball.
You often slide when you dive to get a ball. Some players wear arm sleeves to reduce the friction with the floor. This can also help if you don’t enjoy this feeling.
There is no magic pill, you will have to start doing it to get over your fears. You can start on a mat or other soft object. Eventually, you can use your arm pads and knee pads to reduce the impact. After this, you can remove the arm pads and use your knee pads to reduce the impact. It can take several before you get there but this step-by-step approach will make you braver and braver. After a while, you will dare to dive after balls that are far away. You will trust that your technique has advanced enough and that you will be able to keep the ball in the air without a hard landing for yourself.
How do you get better at diving in volleyball?
As with everything in volleyball, it all comes down to practice. You can practice on your own by throwing the ball in front of you and holding it in the air using the correct technique. You start by throwing the ball close by and keep increasing the distance to make it more and more challenging. You can also ask a friend to help you with this. They throw the ball and you have to dive to get it. After this, you pass it back to your friend. It should be easy for your friend to catch the ball as you send it in the right direction with just enough force. It can take a lot of time before you get this right. If you practice this for 30 minutes every day, your digging skills will improve a lot and you will notice progress.
There is often no time to practice this during training so you might have to do this at home. This can be done in the garden on grass or on another underground that is not too hard. You don’t want to do this on concrete if you are just starting out as it might make the landings too hard.
Liberos specialize in this type of defense and they often have to save the ball. It is however necessary that every player can do this as the libero can’t be everywhere.
Over time, you will be able to make spectacular saves as well:
You can also watch games of other players on Youtube to get an idea of what balls they are diving and what balls they let go of. You have to retain your energy and going after impossible balls might not be a good use of it. After you have seen how professional players handle this, you will be able to implement this during your own games as well. I have learned a lot from this as they show what is possible. It is only after seeing professionals at work that you realize what a great defensive move digging is. You can save a lot of balls with this. We have discussed pancake diving here.