There are 3 steps to teaching a child to overhand serve and you can absolutely teach it in a way that makes sense to them.
Teaching a child to play volleyball can be incredible for the self confidence and self esteem of the child. By showing them it is possible to conquer a task that seemed so daunting reinforces that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to.
It is so important to teach children that they can do hard things because it ensures they grow up to be strong and self sufficient people. For this reason it is especially important to assist your child through challenges, but not to solve their problems for them.
We’re here to help you break down this challenging volleyball skill into a manageable way that you can teach a child where you both have fun! Here are the steps, which we’ll break down in more detail!
The 3 Steps To Teach A Child To Overhand Serve
- The toss or lift
- The contact with the volleyball
- The weight transfer for power
When the child can first break down these motions into manageable chunks it makes it far easier to put them together in a way they can understand and do.
You will need:
- A volleyball
- An outdoor space preferably a volleyball court
Tips On Teaching Volleyball To Children
Make It Relatable
The best way I have found to teaching children anything new is to compare it to something they already know. I will compare the contact of serving to something they do regularly like give high fives. When I teach where to hit the volleyball I tell them to imagine it is a globe and ask them to hit a certain region on that globe like the equator.
Don’t Make It Overwhelming
With children you should always make sure that you are setting them up for success by making what you are asking them to do achievable.
A good example of this is lowering the net and moving the child to the ten foot line on the court and having them attempt to serve from there. You want them to master the motions and the form and gradually make the challenge more difficult for them by slowly raising the net and moving them farther away from it.
Do not expect your child to get this skill right off the bat. It is a skill that some fully grown teenagers struggle with. The lesson we are teaching children when they learn to serve is that perfection is not a requirement. Shoot, progress isn’t even a requirement. What is important to highlight is dedication and self improvement that a complex new challenge like learning to overhand serve teaches.
Make It Fun
Volleyball is an awesome sport to play, but it is a sport that people tend to get good at as they get older. With a child younger than 14 it is more important to make the experience fun than anything else. If you fail at this, they will not want to play at all.
Step 1: Teaching The Toss
The first thing anyone should master when learning to serve is the toss, this is also true for children. Without a proper toss the rest of the motions can be really hard to learn. Make sure they have this step mastered (which could take a couple practice sessions) and then move on to contact and weight shift.
Starting footwork should have one foot slightly in front of the other. This foot will be the child’s left foot if they are right handed and vice versa.
I like to use the term “lift” when describing a volleyball toss to children. It gives them a good idea that we are not throwing the ball super high in the air. It is a nice conservative motion.
The lift should be slightly out in front of the player where if it were to land it would come back down around their forward foot’s big toe.
The toss should be high enough to just be out of the child’s reach. Practice making ten consistent tosses with the child where the ball is allowed to land. A fun way to reinforce this concept is with an X made of tape on the ground. Have the child align themselves in the proper starting serving stance where the X is right in front of their big toe.
Step 2: Teaching The Contact
The best way to teach a child contact on a volleyball serve is by comparing it to a high five. A high five is something they know how to do, they’ve established control over the movement and it is something fun or rewarding.
After making a good toss the child should begin to shift their weight from their back foot to their front. As they lean forward with their arm fully extended they will make contact out in front of themselves. SMACK.
It should be like giving the ball a high five! You should practice the type of contact before getting into pairing the toss and hitting a moving ball. Practice this by putting your hand up in front and above your child’s hitting arm (their dominant arm). Have them practice the weight shift we talk about below and give you solid high fives with a firm wrist.
Most children’s natural reaction after the high five is to pull back slightly leave their hand in the air. This is exactly the same motion we want to mimic in the serve, so tell them how well they are doing.
Where To Hit The Ball
It is best to compare a volleyball to something more relatable for a child, like a globe. Most kids have seen or held a globe in their lifetime. When teaching serve contact encourage your younger athletes to hit the ball just under the equator. As they get better at serving and grow taller they will begin to aim for the equator instead
Step 3: Teaching Weight Shift
The weight shift is how a volleyball player manages to get power on the ball. The weight shift involved with serving a volleyball is very similar to that of someone throwing something. You really have to put your weight behind the movement to throw it far.
Well in volleyball the net is 30 feet away, and a shifting of your weight is important for serving the ball over that net! (Though your child should be learning to serve from somewhere around the ten foot line and the net should be lowered. )
Obviously this would all sound like gibberish to a seven year old. So instead of telling them, show them. The flamingo drill is my favorite way to show children how it is more than your arm and making contact that gives a volleyball player power.
The Flamingo Drill
Have the player stand in proper serving stance, then pick their back foot up off of the ground. They should look like flamingos when they stand on one leg.
Next have the child attempt to throw the ball over the net without taking another step. They will find it challenging and may end up loosing their balance which most find fun. Talk with them and ask them if they thought that was tough to do. Most will tell you it was.
Now you should have the child repeat this motion this time encouraging them to take a big step with the leg they have lifted up. The child, while taking a step towards their target as the ball leaves their hands will mock the weight shift that volleyball players experience when they hit the ball.
After they have figured out the concept try to add it into the contact of a volleyball serve.
Step 4: Putting It All Together
Take your time laughing and having fun with each of the first three steps. When the child is ready and is in a positive state of mind, it’s time to put all of these components into a serve.
Start your child about ten feet from the net. If your child is really young you should absolutely consider putting them on a court to scale with their size. They actually make child sized volleyball nets for future volleyball stars that are so cute. Again, you want to make the goal achievable and realistic.
Now begin allowing the child to attempt to serve. Commend them on things like dedication and will to improve, do not tell them how good they are at the skill. When you tell a child they are really good, it tends to slow down their future growth.
Good Luck!! When your child is ready, head over to the beginners guide of serving which goes more in detail about the serving process
How You Can Spin Your Child’s Coping Mechanisms Into Positive Growth Opportunities
This is where the child tries to avoid the challenge completely. It is important to remember that it is human nature to avoid hard things and what the child is experiencing is totally normal. Here are 6 ways to positively combat this response.
- Acknowledge that their feelings are natural
- Help them take the first step towards success, but let them take the initiative.
- Let them try.
- If they fail, talk it out.
- Avoid meltdowns and take a break if one shows up.
- Show them that they are capable of success without you and tell them you have confidence that they can do this.
We want to teach children that it is okay to confront a difficult situation and that while we may not have control of the challenge, we can control how we react to that challenge.
This final response involves looking towards taking action in light of a difficult situation. We want to teach children to look forward to facing challenges versus dreading them. Teach them that challenges make them stronger and better as people.