What are the 4 main ways to hit a volleyball? (AVOID Doing This!)

In volleyball, the way that you touch the ball has a big impact on how the ball reacts. Small nuances such as how hard you hit the ball, how you turn your hand, or what part of your hand you use can completely change the trajectory of the ball. This means that you have to master all the ways in which you can touch a volleyball if you want to get great at offense and defense. Let’s look at this in further detail to see what is possible.

Underhand pass: receiving the ball

An underhand pass is often used when receiving the ball from the other team (also called a reception). This is mainly done by defensive players such as the libero. The back of one hand is laid in the palm of the other. Then the hands are folded by bringing the thumbs together. The goal is to receive the ball just below the thumbs. This pass can lead to the dreaded sting of a volleyball. If you use the right technique, the sting shouldn’t be too bad.  

The challenge is that you have to control the ball with this pass and also send it to another team member with one touch. It can take a lot of practice to get this right. Especially, because it is possible that you have to dive and slide at the same time. This means that you are not on stable footing and are moving while you are passing. This can be really difficult as you need to do a lot of things at the same time. Professional volleyball players are able to do this but for beginners, it can take a lot of practice. Let’s see how this works in practice in the following video. 

Overhand pass: starting the attack

The second pass in an attack is often an overhand pass. This is done by holding the palm of your hands under the ball and pushing it in the air. The advantage of this pass is that you have a lot of control over the ball and can push it high in the air. You also see the ball coming if you received a decent pass from the previous player. The challenge about this pass is that you have to have the right timing. If you don’t push the ball at the right moment, you won’t be able to keep the ball in the air.

In reality, this pass is quite easy to perform but the timing and how high you push the ball are essential. Volleyball can be played very fast and getting this pass just right is essential. You also need to adjust your pass based on the preferences of the other attackers. It can take quite a lot of experimentation before you get this right. There is a player on the court dedicated to giving this assist, they are called setters. Depending on the system (4-2, 6-2 or 5-1), there are one or two setters on the court. If there is only one setter, the libero might have to take up this responsibility if the setter is not able to do so. 

Spike: attacking

The final step in the attack is pushing the ball over the net. This can result in spectacular images as players use a lot of force and jump quite high when they do this. This is done by timing their jump and arm swing just right. A few seconds too early or too late can have a big impact on the attack. Often there is also a defensive block that the attacker has to take into account. You can evade this by adding effect to the ball or sending it in another direction by turning your hand. We have discussed spiking here as well.

Below is a great compilation of spikes that can open your eyes to how cool this type of attack can be. 

A spike can also be faked to confuse the defense. Some players jump in the air and swing their arm towards the ball and let it pass anyway. This can be an effective way to attack as it makes it confusing what is going on. You have to be careful that you don’t confuse the players on your own team as some might pass you the ball anyway. 

Tip: A sneaky attack

Attacks don’t have to be forceful. A small tip or touch can result in a surprise attack as the defense often expects the ball further down the court. The problem that a lot of teams have is that their attacks are too predictable. By switching between tips and spikes, it is possible to add more variety and make it harder to defend. A tip is quite similar to a spike in terms of execution but you just use less force. This can be done by swinging the arm slower. A tip gives you a lot of control and it is possible to send the ball to a very specific location on the court. It is an underutilized type of attack as a lot of players are afraid that they will hit the block of the other team when they use this. Granted, a tip can be easier to defend as you are using a very limited amount of power. Using too much force in an attack is not good either as you can send the ball out of the court.  

To conclude, we can say that you can touch a volleyball in multiple ways. You can use a lot of force, or be very subtle. You can use the palm of your hand or a fist. It is also possible to use your full hand or only the tips of your fingers. Finally, turning your hand in a certain direction can also affect where the ball will arrive. All of these small nuances can surprise the defense of the other team and allow you to score.