7 Easy Steps Any Player Can Take To Get Better At Volleyball


No matter what level of volleyball you play at we all enjoy becoming the best we can be. You might play competitive club volleyball, varsity for a school team, or even just play for fun in a recreational league or with your family on the beach. No matter the level, it is always fun to see improvement in your skills!

So how can you become a better volleyball player? You can get better at the sport of volleyball by: 

  1. Knowing The Rules
  2. Working Hard To Master The Skills Of Setting, Hitting, Passing And Serving
  3. Getting Help From An Experienced Coach
  4.  Learning Strategies And Increasing Your Volleyball IQ 
  5. Getting Stronger Using Strength And Conditioning Training 
  6. Learning Proper Court Communication
  7. Having Fun While You Play As Much As Possible 

The more you play, the better you will get! I speak from experience as someone who did not make their middle school team and went on to play in college. With hard work and perseverance you can be the volleyball player that you dream of being.

You are capable. There is no specific body type and no you do not have to be tall to be an awesome volleyball player. If you master the skills you can find success as a short player as a hitter, defensive specialist, or setter. 

You also do not have to spend obscene amounts of money on private lessons, though one on one coaching can be beneficial for time efficiency purposes!

No matter if you are a younger player who dreams of one day playing college volleyball, or if you are someone who simply wants to improve at the sport for your next family gathering you should play whenever you get the opportunity. 

Know The Rules Of The Sport Of Volleyball 

A volleyball referee not only makes sure the game is played fairly, they also ensure it is played safely.

It is tough to be considered good at a sport, any sport, if you do not play by the rules. Even at a common recreational league, if you are breaking rules unknowingly odds are you are not making friends or being invited to play on other teams. Here is why. 

Why do sports follow rules at all?

The rules are first and foremost put in place to prevent injuries. This is especially true in volleyball when it comes to rules that revolve around the net. I cannot tell you how many injuries I sustained in my youth from people coming under the net when they hit the ball.

It is incredibly common for hitters to have so much momentum as they chase down a set that they drift towards the net while in the air. When this happens they land with their feet on the opponent’s side of the net, and whoever was up blocking them is likely to land on those feet.

Hello broken ankles!! Do not do this. People would much rather play with a less skillful player than someone who puts their safety at risk. 

Because of this phenomena and others USAV created rules involving the line under the net as well as with touching the net. Other rules are designed to prevent concussions and knee injuries. For a full list of game rules check out our complete (and user friendly) guide to volleyball rules!

Master The Volleyball Skills

Setting

What Is Setting In Volleyball?

Setting or “overhand passing” is the skill set in the sport of volleyball where you receive the ball above your head with two open hands and redirect the ball to another player. This player may be one of the hitters, a back row player or perhaps even to a strategic spot on the other side of the net. 

Setting is not just for setters! Every player on the court should know how to do this fundamental skill because the setter will not be able to get every second ball. I was an outside hitter and at least once a game I had to set one of my teammates. It’s like stepping in to be quarterback. You have to set up your offense properly for a team to be successful.

For more detailed information on improving sets check out our article on proper setting written by an ex-college setter and an experienced coach.

Hitting AKA “Spiking ”

What Is Hitting In Volleyball?

Hitting which is also known as “attacking” and “spiking”, are the offensive maneuvers of the front row. For the back row players you are also allowed to hit, but only from behind the ten foot line. We call hitting from the back row “back row attacking” and it can be incredibly effective at winning games. 

There Are Five Important Components To Hitting/Spiking:

  1. Timing
  2. Three Step Approach And Jump
  3. Ball contact
  4. Proper Arm Swing Mechanics
  5. Follow Through With Core Involvement For Power Transfer
Timing

Timing is everything as a hitter. You want to make contact with the ball at the highest point possible. Proper timing can help you beat a block and will help you achieve an optimal angle for scoring.

Timing will vary from hitter to hitter depending on how fast the player is, how high they jump and where they like their sets. This is going to be 100% relative to you and practice will make perfect in identifying the right time to start your approach. 

The best way to practice and improve on your timing is to have someone set you.  Take a three or four step approach using your arms to assist your vertical jump then catch the ball slightly in front of you while in the air with your arms fully extended.  

Three Step Approach

Next is the three (or four) step approach and jump. A proper approach is very important because the momentum helps you jump higher and get power on the ball. As a coach I teach a three step approach to all of my volleyball players. Four step approaches can be very useful for some outside and right side hitters, but I encourage all beginners to start with a three step approach. 

Footwork for a three step approach for right handed players is left, right, left. Left handed players will have the opposite footwork: right, left, right.

Start with opposite foot forward (for right handed players this will be your right foot) and your weight on that foot ready to explosively push off. The first step will be a big one and will provide most of the forward motion and speed in the approach. 

The second two steps are what I like to refer to as plant steps and they will come quickly one after the other.

After your plant steps you will leap off of both feet using your arms to drive you upwards. The arms are especially important in the three step approach but we’ll save that for another article.

Ball Contact, Follow Through, And Proper Arm Swing Mechanics

As a retired outside hitter I could talk about this stuff all day. As a coach I specialize in hitters specifically “pin hitters”. To find out more about this and read a complete guide to hitting including detailed information on ball contact and proper arm swing mechanics, check out this article below.

Passing AKA “Bumping”

Passing is arguably the most important skill in volleyball. The traditional volleyball platform pass is shown in the photo above. Passing is the first contact your team will be trying to make when the opposing team sends the ball back over the net. This can take the form of serve receive when you pass a serve, digging which is passing a hard driven hit, or passing a free ball.

The object of passing is to redirect the ball to another player on your team. This will traditionally be the setter who takes the second of the three contacts.

It is crucial to know how to pass NO MATTER WHAT POSITION YOU PLAY. Passing is the fundamental skill of volleyball that every player utilizes every game. If you want to get better at volleyball, passing is a great place to start.

If a team cannot produce a high, consistent pass to their setter, the setter will be challenged to set the hitters and ultimately those hitters will have less of a chance of scoring. Volleyball is all about building off of what your teammate has given you. It all starts with a pass as every volleyball coach ever will tell you!

Passing requires:

  1. A Flat Even Platform For Contact
  2. Limited Arm Movement For Control (No Swinging!)
  3. Power From The Legs
  4. Absorbing Power Off Of A Hard Driven Ball

Practice The Basic Volleyball Passing Stance

Your feet should be staggered one slightly in front of the other and shoulder width apart. You want your weight to be on the balls of your feet ready to move. You do not want to be too far back on your heels because the ball will come quickly and you want to be ready.

Serving

Every player should know how to serve! Every point in volleyball starts with a serve and not having a consistent one will cost your team a lot of points.

You should serve at the level consistent to where you play. If you just play for fun on the beach, an underhand serve is fine. If you really want to step up your game, learn to overhand serve. An overhand serve is a definite level up for beginning players. Overhand serves are far more difficult to pass than underhand serves so you can get more aces!

3 Steps To Learning An Overhand Serve

  1. The Toss Or “Lift”,
  2. Contact Of The Volleyball
  3. Weight Shift With Follow Through.

If you are struggling to learn an overhand serve be sure to check out our article below. It is an easy and detailed guide to overhand serving.

Learn The Strategies

Strategic volleyball is all about putting the ball in a smart place or running a defensive game which makes it more difficult for your opponent to score. These spots are going to vary based on the defense and offense that the opposing team is running.

You can learn the strategies of the game by increasing your volleyball IQ or your knowledge of the sport. Volleyball IQ is something that increases the longer you play volleyball (and other sports help too).

However you can jump start that volleyball IQ as a new player by utilizing online resources. These include things like watching game footage on YouTube and reading free resources written by experts. You can also purchase online programs that teach you everything you need to know in a concise and efficient way where all of your information is in one place.

Getting Stronger Using Strength And Conditioning Exercises

Strength and conditioning is a great way to improve your overall athleticism which will make you a much better athlete! You can use strength and conditioning to improve your level of play in volleyball by

  1. Increasing Your Vertical Jump
  2. Elevating Core Strength Improves Your Entire Game
  3. Preventing Injuries
  4. Building In Game Endurance
  5. Improving Vital In Game Mobility

Check out all of our volleyball specific strength and conditioning guides here.

Learn Proper Court Communication

Volleyball is a team sport it is near impossible to be successful in any team sport without communication among teammates. This is especially true with volleyball. Volleyball has the most people in the smallest space working towards a common goal.

If you want to be a talented volleyball player you have to learn how to talk both on and off the court. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Calling The Ball

When you are taking a ball you need to tell your teammates you’ve got it by calling “MINE!”. Be sure to enunciate clearly and call the ball loud enough that every player on the court can hear you. A common error in court communication is not being loud enough. You are likely playing in a loud gym so keep that in mind.

Talk About What The Other Team Is Doing

You should always take notice of what the other team has in terms of strengths and weaknesses. Point out if a strong hitter is back in the front row. Communicate where the setter is on the other team specifically if they are front or back row. Talk to your teammates about the server stepping up to serve, do they float serve or is it likely going to be a topspin serve. Do they serve short or do they serve deep? Tell your team.

This communication should not stop once the point has begun. Blockers must communicate with each other when double blocking which most teams practice. Hitters have to talk to their setters when calling their sets. Setters must yell “setter out” when they touch the first ball to tell their team that someone else is going to have to set.

I could talk for hours on court communication. If you want more detailed knowledge we have an entire article on what to say and when on the volleyball court.

Play As Much As Possible And Have Fun

The best athletes are the ones who dedicate themselves to improving by getting as many touches on a volleyball as possible. You should take every opportunity to play pick up games, attend extra practices, and practice the sport at home.

If you really want to improve in the sport of volleyball you should try your best to play at least three times a week. Even if that means heading out into your backyard alone and practicing for an hour. There are tons of drills you can do at home that you don’t even need a partner for.

Coach Alyx

CEO and Founder of Volleyball Solutions. Coach Alyx has been playing and coaching women's indoor volleyball for over 15 years. "Volleyball is my culture. It is an incredible opportunity I have to share my knowledge of the sport, as well as the raw character it develops, with our next generation of players."

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