Volleyball is a very technical sport that requires a variety of skill sets. As someone who spent a great deal of my youth playing volleyball on a school team, I have a great deal of appreciation for the sport. One of the most important elements of playing volleyball is serving the ball. The serve is vital to the success of the play, because if the ball does not get over the net, the point goes to the opposing team. However, a very strong serve has the ability to catch one’s opponents off guard.
Serving the ball is the first act of each play. Each play must begin with a serve because the serve is how the ball gets over the net to the opposing side in order for the point to commence. There are a variety of methods to serve the ball, and the method of choice largely depends on the server’s arm strength, control, and overall skill level. Much like tennis, the server is required to step behind the line on his or her end of the court to serve the ball. It is considered a foot fault if the server crosses the line and possession of the ball goes to the opponent.
In what is referred to as an underhand serve, the person serving the ball referred to as the server holds the ball in the hand opposite of his or her hitting hand. For example, left handed hitters hold the ball in the right hand and right handed hitters hold the ball in the left hand. The ball is held slightly below the waist. Then, the server is to slightly bend the knees and make contact with the ball using his or her hitting hand. The hand should form a fist with the thumb on top of the folded in fingers, and the server is to make contact using the area of the hand between the wrist and the knuckles. Contact should be made with the underside of the ball, and the hand holding the ball is to hold the ball steady. In order to make contact, bring the hitting arm back and swing it forward to make contact with the ball in order to get it over the net. The underhand serve is considered to be the most simple of all of the serving techniques because it is most commonly used by lower skilled levels of play. The underhand serve is my favorite type of serve because of its simplicity. This particular serve technique allows the server to take his or her time to serve the ball at his or her own pace, and there is no speed required. I personally used the underhand serve throughout my years of playing volleyball.
Overhand serves must begin with the left foot in front of the right approximately shoulder width apart in order to give the server balance. The ball should be brought to eye level with the left hand under the ball and the right hand on top of the ball. The server is to then use the left hand to toss the ball in the air only high enough so that the right hand can make contact with it on its way down. As the ball descends, use an open palm to make forward contact with the ball in order to get it over the net. Do not hit the ball downward because the ball will not go over the net, and it will more than likely hit the person in the row in front of you. I always found the overhand serve to be difficult because it requires a lot of arm strength. The server must be able to generate enough power to hit the ball with enough force to get it over the net. For anyone who may not have the necessary arm strength, the overhand serve could be challenging.
The jump serve is considered to be the most advanced serve technique and is most widely used by high skill leveled players. Unlike the overhand serve in which the feet are stationary, a player using the jump serve will toss the ball high in the air and will also take a step or two into the air before making open palm contact with the ball. With this particular serve, the player usually ends up stepping into the court after the serve, but it is not a foot fault as long as contact has been made with the ball before the player steps into the court. I have seen the jump serve performed at its best, as well as at its worst, and it does not take much for an attempt at a jump serve to turn into an epic fail. The jump serve requires speed, strength, and agility.
Volleyball is a sport with many technical aspects, many of which can be perfected over time with practice. Although certain serves are recommended for certain players depending on their skill level, any player can work on and perfect any one of the three serving techniques. Having tried all three types of serves, I can attest to the skill level necessary to accomplish each.