Wednesday, 29 May 2024

The Most Important Skill in Volleyball

Coaches in the world of volleyball often prioritize skills such as serving, passing, setting, spiking, blocking, and digging. These skills receive constant attention, with coaches providing players with technique advice during practice sessions and even in the heat of the game. Phrases like “reach!” “extend!” and “get on top of the ball!” are frequently heard from the sidelines or during timeout huddles. While these instructions are crucial, there is one skill that often goes unnoticed and unaddressed – reading.

The Importance of Reading in Volleyball

Coaches are often perplexed by the fact that they can see a tip coming from the sidelines, yet the players on the court fail to react. But why does this happen? Is it because the coach is better at reading the game? To address this issue, some coaches resort to flinging balls at their players during training, forcing them to dig the tosses. However, this approach fails to develop the players’ reading abilities. It teaches them that the ball will always be tipped over the net and drop to waist height before shooting out parallel to the floor. In reality, this scenario rarely occurs during a game.

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So, why is it that coaches can anticipate tips from the bench? The answer lies in their ability to observe precursors to a tip. They remember how their team has blocked a particular hitter in the past, they notice hesitation in the attacker’s movements, or they observe unexpected changes in the set. As a result, they can predict when a tip is about to happen. On the other hand, players tend to focus solely on the ball, rather than the player. Consequently, they react to a tip only after it has occurred. To improve this, players should learn to read the game flow and pay attention to the attacker, not just the ball.

The Importance of Anticipation in Volleyball

When you ask experienced coaches about the success rate of a serve receiver, they will tell you that a significant portion of it happens while the ball is still on the other side of the net. For those who have witnessed jump serves, they claim that anticipation accounts for about 90 percent of success. However, it is surprising to see how many coaches start their practice sessions with partner passing and peppering exercises right in front of the net. While these drills have their merits, they fail to replicate the challenges faced during an actual game.

Imagine two players who have mastered partner passing to the point of becoming Olympic gold medalists. Now, place them in a typical high school game scenario, where they have to receive a powerful serve from 50-60 feet away and pass it accurately to the setter, who is about 20 feet away and positioned at an angle. Their success rate would undoubtedly be lower than expected.

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In conclusion, while skills like serving, passing, setting, spiking, blocking, and digging are undoubtedly essential, the skill of reading is often overlooked and undervalued. Coaches and players alike should prioritize developing reading abilities to improve their overall performance on the court.


Q: How can I improve my reading skills in volleyball?
A: Improving reading skills in volleyball requires practice and experience. Focus on observing precursors to specific actions, such as an attacker’s movement patterns, changes in the set, or past performance of the opposing team. Pay attention to players rather than just the ball, and develop a sense of anticipation.

Q: Why is reading important in volleyball?
A: Reading is crucial in volleyball as it allows players to anticipate and react to actions on the court. It enables them to make timely decisions, such as preparing for a tip or adjusting their defensive positioning. Reading the game flow and paying attention to the intentions of the opponent can give players a competitive edge.


In the fast-paced world of volleyball, many coaches focus on the technical skills required to excel in the game. However, one skill often disregarded is reading. The ability to anticipate actions on the court can make a significant difference in a player’s performance. While serving, passing, setting, spiking, blocking, and digging are crucial, reading the game flow and paying attention to the attacker’s movements are equally important. Coaches should emphasize the development of reading skills, and players should strive to become proficient at observing precursors to specific actions. By doing so, they can enhance their overall performance and make smarter decisions on the court.

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If you want to enhance your performance on the volleyball court, start focusing on your reading skills today!