Underhand serve in volleyball: how to do it and everything you need to know.

Serving is a spectacular part of volleyball as you have to throw the ball over a long distance and get it over the net anyway. If you are great at it, it is possible to score a lot of points in a short period of time. If you are terrible at serving, the other team will gain an advantage.

Therefore every volleyball player has to train this skill. This can be challenging to learn for newer players. Let’s take a look at how you can serve more easily.

What is an underhand serve?

An underhand serve is done by standing behind the court. Be careful that you don’t place your foot on the line. Then you bend your knees slightly and place your foot forward.

This will be your left foot if you are right-handed and your right foot if you are lefthanded. You hold the ball in one hand in front of your belly. Then you look at the ball and the net. Your free arm will hit the ball from under it to push the ball in the air.

You can use the palm of your hand or a fist to do this. An open hand will give more precision, a closed hand will give more power. Don’t hit the ball too hard or it will go behind the court of the other team. Finding the right amount of power to use will take quite a lot of hits and misses. 

You can shift your weight from the back to your front while you are swinging your arm to add more power to the ball. A volleyball net is quite high and it can take several weeks or months before newer players are able to push the ball over the net. It can be quite frustrating if you keep hitting the net but this is part of the learning process.

A great coach is able to motivate players through these steps and push them to practice more often. Every player has to be able to serve and this can only be done through repetition. A lot of people don’t want to put in the work and expect results immediately. As a coach, it can be challenging to push people to practice more often but it is part of the job. 

You will see the same type of serve a lot during a volleyball match: the ball is thrown in the air and then it is smashed with the other hand that is next or above the head of the player. This is the overhand serve and is the most common one but it is difficult to execute.

 An underhand serve is holding the ball in front of your belly and then hitting it with your other hand. This serve is easier to perform as the distance between the ball and your hand is a lot smaller. Therefore a lot of beginning players prefer to use an underhand serve as it allows them to hit the ball more easily.

A fist is used to hit the ball and this is quite easy to do as you can add a lot of power in this way. A lot of newer players struggle with getting the ball over the net and an underhands serve makes it easier for them to do this. 

Let’s take a look at some spectacular serves: 

Can you serve underhand in volleyball: is it a legal serve in volleyball?

While you are allowed to use an underhand serve in a lot of official competitions, not a lot of players use this. An underhand serve gives less control than an overhand serve. The results are less predictable and this is why most coaches discourage this type of serves. Professional players will almost never use an underhand serve as they feel that it doesn’t give them enough control over the ball. 

 Furthermore, there are several types of overhand serves that each serve their own purpose. floater and topspin. A floater is hitting the middle of the ball with the palm of your hand. This adds a lot of speed to the ball. A topspin is hitting the ball with your hand curved around the top of the ball. This adds a lot of effect to the ball and can surprise the defenders.

You can stand or jump while performing these serves. This is where they really shine as jumping allows you to move forward and land inside the court. Players are able to add more power to the ball in this way. Doing an underhand serve while you are jumping, is quite challenging as you are losing control over the ball. 

Photo by Stephen Baker on Unsplash

A lot of coaches don’t teach their players an underhand serve as they feel that it is a waste of time. It is a crutch that you can use for a while but it is necessary to start using overhand serves anyway. It can give beginners a great feeling as they can push the ball over the net but that is about it.

Learning an overhand serve takes more time and is harder to do but in the end, it is worth the additional effort. Beginners often want to see quick results and the underhand serve can offer this but to win in the long term you need to learn the overhand serve anyway. 

To conclude, we can state that underhand serves are legal in a lot of volleyball competitions. It is mainly used by beginners as it is easier to execute than overhand serves. Given that overhand serves provide more control it is possible to add more speed and effect to the ball, most players prefer to use overhand serves.

A lot of coaches will discourage underhand serves as they feel that it has too many disadvantages. If you dedicate enough time to learning an overhand serve and practice for several weeks, you will be able to do it and score spectacular points for your team. We have discussed the other types of serves that are used in volleyball here.