Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Thoughts on Service

A great speaker once shared an interesting technique to overcome nervousness and uncertainty when speaking before an audience of power and dignity. He imagined them sitting before him dressed only in their underwear. This humorous visualization helped him approach the situation with confidence and intensity.

This technique can be applied to the concept of service as well. When it comes to serving in volleyball, your audience – the opponents – are already waiting in a vulnerable state. Unlike delivering a speech where the audience has the option to listen or not, your opponents must respond when you address the ball. It’s important to remember that they are the ones who should feel tense, not you.

The serve is the only play in volleyball that is completely within the control of one player – you. Unlike other aspects of the game, where you must react to external factors, the serve allows you to impose your will on your opponents. One of the easiest ways to gain points is through an un-returned serve. While it may not be possible to ace every time, striving for 100 percent consistency in your serves can be a game-changer.

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In Practice and Competition, You Should:

  • Serve from consistent spots: Whether you prefer deep, short, or a combination of both, sticking to specific spots in your routine can help improve accuracy. Additionally, maintaining a consistent serving stance regardless of your intended target can minimize clues for the opponents, giving you an advantage.
  • Make a decision about each serve: Your objective should always be to serve to open areas of the court, not towards specific individuals. Serve where they aren’t, not where they are, and focus on keeping the ball in play. In certain situations, you may need to use your imagination during practice if no service receivers or patterns are evident on the other side of the court.
  • Consider factors that influence direction: Factors such as weak receivers, substitutes, upset players, and open areas caused by incorrect reception patterns can help determine the direction of your serve. Assessing these factors and adjusting your serve accordingly can give you an edge.
  • Serve tough and non-spinning balls: Aim to serve every ball without spin, allowing it to “float.” This can be achieved through a low, consistent, non-spinning toss. Coaching yourself to avoid spin on every serve is crucial. The goal is to make both the ball and the receiver move unpredictably. However, there may be times when a purposefully spun serve can be effective, as it follows a more predictable line of flight.
  • Know when to take a chance: While it’s important to strive for consistent serves, there are moments when taking calculated risks can be advantageous. You can take a chance when the coach advises or when your team is leading and needs to break a non-scoring rut. However, there are certain situations when serving in is a must, such as your team’s first serve of the game, after a timeout, when the previous server made an error, after winning a long rally, after a block for a point, or during game point.
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In addition to these guidelines, there are other instances where ensuring your serve goes in is crucial. These include when you have fallen more than three points behind, when either team is within three points of winning the game, after scoring three consecutive points, or when the opponents have scored two or more points in a row.

If you find yourself feeling nervous or unsure during a critical moment that requires a 100 percent successful serve, try serving a good floater right into the middle of the court. This type of serve hits the seam of the two back row players, goes over the head of the center receiver (if there is one), and as long as you get it to float consistently, it will be tough to receive. Remember to be consistent in your preparation, make the ball and receiver move, and stay in control.

-With thanks to R.M. Bell, Vancouver, Canada


Q: What is the purpose of visualization when serving?
A: Visualization techniques can help athletes, like volleyball players, overcome nervousness and approach their game with confidence and intensity. By imagining their opponents in a vulnerable state, such as sitting in their underwear, players can feel more in control and focused on their performance.

Q: Why is consistency important in serving?
A: Consistency is crucial in serving because it reduces errors and provides a strategic advantage. By serving consistently to specific spots and maintaining a consistent serving stance, players can improve their accuracy and make it more challenging for opponents to predict their target.

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Q: When should I take a chance with my serve?
A: Taking a chance with your serve can be beneficial in certain situations. For example, if your team is leading and needs to break a non-scoring rut or if the coach advises it. However, it’s important to assess the game dynamics and make calculated decisions to minimize risks.


Mastering the art of serving in volleyball requires skill, strategy, and mental focus. By following these guidelines and incorporating visualization techniques, players can improve their serving consistency, accuracy, and overall performance. Remember to serve where the opponents aren’t, make every ball tough and non-spinning, and seize opportunities to take a chance when appropriate. With practice and dedication, you can become a formidable server on the court. For more volleyball tips and resources, visit Alpinetgheep.