Rotation is the rule in volleyball that states that players will rotate in a clockwise fashion when their team sides out. Rotational strategy is essentially the art of aligning players on a team up so that each player is in a position on the court that allows them to do their job.
Side Out: Regaining the serve. In volleyball, teams take turns serving based on who won the last point. A team will continue to serve until they lose a point, at which time the opposing team will have achieved a “side out”. Then that team that won the point will serve
In our previous lesson, we discussed the positions on a volleyball team and a brief introduction to their jobs. Now let’s talk logistics about how these players work their way around the court.
A players job is largely tied to a specific spot on the court. For example the hitting positions are located in the front row. There are six spots on a team’s side of the court numbered (1-6).
Each position will have a player who is assigned to it. The numbers assigned to the spots do not change but as the game progresses and teams side out and rotate, different players will be assigned to these positions.
An issue that teams face in the sport of volleyball is that players rotate when their team sides out, displacing one player into the front row and another into the back row each rotation.
When a team regains the serve they will move one position in a clockwise rotation. So a player who was assigned the 5 position on the court, will move into the front row to the assigned 4 position after the team sides out. This is commonly where coaches will make substitutions because most front row players do not play back row, though there are exceptions.
Rotation seems like a simple concept, but it creates one of the main challenges of the game. Players cannot simply be in any place on the court. When the ball is served, players must be within the boundaries of the player(s) to the side(s) of them as well as to the player in front or behind them. This means that every player on the team has to be in their assigned spots until the ball is served.
Once the served ball crosses the plane of the net (aka enters the opposing team’s side of the court), players can be anywhere on the court. This goes for players on both teams.
The only stipulation here is that back row players are not allowed to jump and hit a ball in front of the ten foot line, they are also not allowed to block. If either of these happen, it is an automatic point for the opposing team.
Ten Foot Line: The line that sections off about 1/3 of the volleyball court. The ten foot line is ten feet from the net and runs parallel to it. It separates the front and back row.
This creates issues when a defensive player rotates into the front row, and let’s say is not a competent hitter. Defensive specialists specialize in defense.. This seems redundant, but there is probably someone on their team that is better at the offensive part of the game. Volleyball teams want to have the best players in their correct positions and things can go wrong quickly for a team who doesn’t.
So let’s say somehow things go wrong for a team and they end up with a DS in the front row (this does happen sometimes despite a coach’s best efforts). The defensive specialist becomes one of three people on the court allowed to attack from in front of the ten foot line, a strategically beneficial location. This puts a team at a huge disadvantage when trying to score points offensively because they don’t have their best players hitting.
So how do coaches solve this problem in normal circumstances? Well, we make substitutions to the players in the game with players on the bench. Let’s talk more about how this works and a basic strategy team’s use.
Substitutions In Volleyball
Substitution: A substitution in volleyball is where a player is taken out of the lineup or rotation, and replaced by another player. Substitutions are commonly called “subs” by players and coaches in the sport.
Volleyball Substitutions Rules:
A team will have a set number of substitutions which will vary depending which governing authority is being used.
Players must be substituted between points, once the service whistle is blown a team can no longer sub out players.
Players must be substituted in a designated substitution area .
Once a player is placed in a rotation they may only be subbed in and out for that position.
Up to three players may be substituted for the same position.
The libero, who is a defensive player, will have their own separate rules for subs. A liberos substitutions are not counted towards the team’s maximum allowed substitutions.
We’ve discussed that the number of substitutions in a volleyball game is going to vary depending on where you are playing and what level you are playing at. There are several governing bodies on the planet for volleyball.
Governing Bodies And Their Allotted Substitutions
The most common governing body internationally is the FIVB (International Federation of Volleyball) which allows 6 substitutions per set.
Teams are allowed 12 substitutions during a game when the governing body is USAV (United States of America Volleyball). USAV covers the United States national team functions and club activities both for minors and college players.
Finally we have NCAA rules who handle all collegiate games, these games have 15 substitutions per set.
Substitutions In An Official Game Scenario
As you’ve gathered from our rules on substitutions, there is a process to subbing out players. When a coach would like to make a substitution to their lineup, they may do so between points no matter what team is serving. Typically a coach will make substitutions after a side out because the players at that point rotate out of the front or back row.
A coach will signal to a player on their bench to enter the game, that player will run up to the ten foot line signaling the referee that they wish to enter the game. While this is taking place, the player on the court who is being removed from the game will run up and touch the palm of their hand to player’s they are substituting for (this was the procedure before corona virus and new rules will likely follow the pandemic) and await permission to switch.
Now it is up to the referees and the book keeper. The book keeper, in addition to other information, keeps track of all substitutions in a game and is responsible for keeping an accurate account of the rotations on both sides of the net. They also keep a tab of how many substitutions each team has used and will tell a coach when they are close to running out.
The referee will communicate with the book keeper to ensure they have the time they need to record the data, then they will tell the players they are able to switch.
At this point in time the players are free to swap. The substituted player is now assigned to the rotation of the player who left the court. Typically players are subbed out by the same players most games. A player will typically know when they are supposed to be subbed in or out because most teams make the same substitutions at the same rotation every game.
Beginning Game Line Ups
A coach will start a lineup and each court position will be assigned to a player. The team will serve until they lose a point, at which time the opposing team will rotate one position clockwise, and the player who rotated from the 2 position into the 1 position (right back) will serve.
Opposites In Volleyball
Rotation creates what we call opposites. Opposites in volleyball are players assigned to positions who rotate from back row to front at the same time. For example, positions 1 and 4, 2 and 5, 3 and 6, are opposite of each other.
The player who was assigned to position 2 before their team sided out will move into the back row at the same time that the player previously assigned position 5 moves into the front row.
When a coach sets up a lineup in a game, they will put like players as opposites of each other. This is because as one rotates into the front row they will be replaced by a same skilled player who has just rotated in the back row, OR that player is substituted for a same skilled player. Therefor all six positions are filled by a player who’s job specializes in that spot on the court.
A good example of a set of opposites are right side hitters and setters. Right side hitters are typically opposite of a setter when a coach makes a lineup. Setters will set from the back row and right side hitters will hit in the front row.
So when the hitter and setter, who are opposite of each other, rotate from the 2 and 5 position (see below) they are no longer in the spots they should be.
As these players rotate, the coach will send players to replace them. A different setter on the team will replace the right side hitter who was on the court. And a different right side hitter will replace the setter. (The concepts in this lesson adhere to a 6-2 lineup which is pretty standard. We will eventually cover different lineups.) Lining up opposites in a rotation is an essential part of a coaches strategy.
Players rotate after they side out.
Back row players may not jump and attack a ball in front of the ten foot line.
Players substitute in and out of the game to ensure the positions are filled by the most capable and specialized players.
Teams have a maximum number of substitutions per set.
Coaches utilize opposites as a way of beating the challenges of rotation.
In this lesson our coach discusses the basics of rotation, substitutions and opposites in the sport of volleyball. This article is designed to provide a basic knowledge of the rules and procedures that go along with these three concepts.
What Your PT Wants You To Know About Ankle Injury Prevention
Ankle injuries can be debilitating to the hard working athlete and can cause precious time to be lost from sport. To make matters worse, once the ankle is injured, it is more likely to be injured again.
But the good news: these injuries, and recurring injuries, can be prevented. The athlete can decrease their risk of injury with commitment to rehabilitation, education on the types of ankle injuries, education on how these injuries happen, and possibly the right brace or shoe. In this article we will dive into all of these categories in detail.
First, we talk in detail about the anatomical structures involved and the types of ankle injures. To truly understand a problem, knowledge is needed about both the components and the cause. Knowing these parts will lead to a quicker solution.
Next, we cover some steps to take if you have already been injured. The take away: it’s never a bad idea to get some advice from a medical professional.
Finally, we get to the good part: exercises, training tips, equipment, braces, taping and shoes. Here we go!
A Quick Review of the Ankle’s Anatomy
To understand why and how ankles are injured, it’s important to have a brief understanding of the bones, muscles, ligaments and movements of the ankle.
Lets Start With the Basic Movements
You can move your own ankle to gain a better understanding.
Point your toe like a ballerina, this is called plantarflexion.
“Flex” your foot by bringing your toes towards your face. This is called dorsiflexion.
Pretend there is a light shining from the bottom of your foot, and shine the light towards your opposite foot. This is called inversion.
Shine the light towards the outside of your body. This is called eversion.
Joint Structure of the Ankle
The ankle joint is actually composed of three (yes, three!) different joints:the Inferior Tibiofibular Joint, the Talocrural Joint, and the Subtalar Joint.
The tibia and fibula are the two bones of the lower leg which run parallel to each other, and at the bottom they touch to form the inferior tibiofibular joint. When these two bones join, they form a concave arch of bone, sometimes referred to as the ankle “mortise” as pictured below.
The talocrural joint is composed of the tibia and fibula on top of the talus bone. The talus forms a convex dome shape where it fits underneath the arch (mortise) made by the tibia and fibula.
In the picture below, the labeled “ankle joint” is the Talocrural Joint.
The last joint of the ankle is the subtalar joint, which is where the talus meets the bone underneath it, the calcaneus (what we typically think of as our “heel”).
There are 10 different muscles that cross the ankle joints. Although they are all important for stabilization and movement of the ankle in complex ways, a complete review of them would be out of the scope of this article. However, here is a list of their basic actions:
Tibialis Anterior – dorsiflexion, inversion
Tibialis Posterior – inversion, plantarflexion
Gastrocnemius – plantarflexion
Soleus – plantarflexion
Fibularis Longus, Brevis, and Tertius – a group of muscles that performs primarily eversion
Extensor Digitorum Longus – extends the toes, dorsiflexion
Flexor Digitorum Longus – flexes the toes, plantarflexion
Flexor Hallucis Longus – flexes big toe, minimally supinates and plantarflexes ankle
Here are some resources if you would like to further your knowledge:
A ligament is simply a band of fibrous tissue which connects bone to other bones, usually for stability and support. There are many ligaments associated with the joints of the ankle that are also important for stabilization. Ligaments at risk of damage will be discussed within individual injuries.
If you would like to further your knowledge, here are some resources:
According to a study by Verhagen et al., the typical volleyball ankle injury results in an average of 4.5 weeks lost from competition. To prevent these kinds of debilitating injuries and time lost from sport, we must first understand what they are, how they happen, and what kind of structures are involved.
Typically, the word injury has the connotation of a traumatic, brief event that can have lasting effects. This would be what is referred to as an “acute” injury. There are also “chronic” injuries, which usually result from overuse over time.
We will cover a couple of acute and chronic injuries. Although not an all inclusive list, we will focus on the most common ankle injuries in sport.
The Inversion Sprain
The most prevalent ankle injury in volleyball is an inversion sprain. This often occurs when a player lands on another player’s foot after blocking their opponent at the center line (Reeser, et al., 2006). The bottom of the foot rolls inwards, placing extreme strain on the muscles and ligaments found on the outside of the ankle.
You’ve likely experienced this same pain if you have “twisted your ankle” from your foot slipping off a curb. The pain is usually intense at first and then subsides after a couple of minutes. However, in sport this can affect performance as the athlete is hesitant to bear weight through that foot and even minor damage will increase chances of future injury.
This type of injury is often acute, with damage occurring with a single event. However, this can also be a recurring injury. Ligaments and structures become weakened over time with smaller, less severe events. Up to 80% of ankle sprains occur after previous injury, making proper rehabilitation after injury crucial to future health of the ankle (Bahr et al., 1997)
With inversion ankle sprains, the ligaments on the outside of the ankle can tear partially or completely. These important ligaments include the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL), and the calcaneofibular ligament (CFL). Without full integrity of these ligaments, the ankle joint becomes less stable and will rely more on the surrounding muscles to keep it in alignment, possibly causing further strain.
In addition to ligament damage, muscles that cross the outside of the ankle can be damaged as well. When the muscle is stretched or partially torn, we call this a muscle strain. The muscles most likely to be affected are the Fibularis Longus and Brevis.
Symptoms of Inversion Ankle Sprain
Other symptoms of ankle sprain can include swelling, inability to bear weight on foot, a catching or popping sensation, bruising, pain to touch, and feeling on instability at the ankle.
Treatment of Inversion Ankle Sprains
Treatment is usually conservative, consisting of the RICE principle: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Certain ankle braces, taping techniques, and modification to landing techniques can also be used after injury. In extreme situations, bone fracture or complete tear of ligaments can occur, requiring more involved treatment.
The High Ankle Sprain
Another type of sprain that can be seen in athletes is the high ankle sprain. This has a different method of injury and different ligaments injured than in an inversion ankle sprain.
This occurs when the bottom of the foot is turned outwards (eversion), as opposed to being turned inwards with an inversion ankle sprain. This can occur with poor landing techniques, or potentially a blow to the outside of the ankle from another player.
The ligaments affected are those that hold the tibia and fibula together. When the foot is suddenly everted, the talus is jammed upwards and produces force that attempts to separate the tibia and fibula.
This causes extreme strain to the following ligaments that hold them together: anterior-inferior tibiofibular ligament (AITFL), posterior-inferior tibiofibular ligament (PITFL), Interosseus membrane, Interosseus ligament (IOL), and the inferior transverse ligament (ITL), (Molinari et al., 2009).
In addition, ligaments on the inside of the ankle can be damaged as well, and these are known as the Deltoid Ligaments.
Treatment and Recovery Times for High Ankle Sprain
Although less prevalent in volleyball players, the high ankle sprain can be more severe and more variable with recovery, with averages up to 52 days lost from sport (Molianary et al., 2009). Treatment can range from a non-weight bearing boot in more mild cases, to surgery in more severe cases.
A Quick Overview on Ankle Sprain Grading
Ankle sprains are categorized into “grades”, based on their severity and symptoms. The categories are Grade I, Grade II and Grade III. Grade I is the least severe and Grade III is the most severe.
Your orthopedic physician will decide the severity based on special tests of ligament integrity, amount of swelling and bruising, and ability or inability to walk on the affected foot.
These injuries get their own category since they all have one factor in common: over use. Intense practice schedules combined with lack of cross-training and no rest days can take a toll on a young person’s body, no matter how “strong” they may seem. The following are possible consequences.
Mayer et al. defines a stress fracture: “In contrast to acute fractures, which typically occur with a single maximal load, stress fractures occur due to repetitive, submaximal loading of a bone, leading to microfractures that are unable to heal due to bone resorption and bone formation imbalances.”
Simply put, repetitive stress over time can cause tiny breaks in the bone that do not heal. Stress fractures can affect all of the bones of the ankle and foot.
The repetitive stress that would cause this in volleyball is jumping and landing. That is why proper landing techniques are so important for preventing pain and injury. Read on to the exercise section below for helpful tips.
Stress Fractures in Female Athletes
Female athletes are more likely to have a stress fracture than males for many reasons, including a wider pelvis which affects force through the lower body, less muscle mass to protect bones from acute forces, and presence of the female athlete triad (Mayer et al., 2014).
Some of these factors are not able to be changed, such as bone structure and differences in physiology between the sexes. However, important factors such as nutrition and proper rest will be vital to decreasing stress fractures in our female athletes.
Symptoms of Stress Fractures
The most common symptoms of a stress fracture are inability to bear weight through the affected leg, and tenderness to the bone with palpation (aka, pressing on it).
Diagnosing Stress Fractures
Stress fractures can be difficult to diagnose, as x-rays will often not show any evidence for the first two weeks, and sometimes longer. This has to do with the bone’s slow healing process. Other imaging studies such as MRI or CT scans can be more helpful when the diagnosis is not clear. Your physician will make these judgments.
Treatment of Stress Fractures
Treatment for stress fractures will range depending on severity of fracture and which bone is fractured. This may include non-weight bearing for a certain amount of time, rest from sport, and physical therapy to maintain integrity of surrounding muscles and bones (Astur et al,. 2015). Certain fractures may require surgery for proper healing. Regardless, you can expect a healing time of at least 2-3 months.
It sounds complicated, but let’s break it down:
Plantar: this means the bottom of your foot
Fasciitis: fascia (thick connective tissue) + itis (inflammation)
So, this tissue (fascia) on the bottom of your foot is inflamed.
This causes pain to the bottom of the foot that can occur at any age and at any level of sport. Typically, the pain will be the most intense closest to the heel. This is where the connective tissue (plantar fascia) begins, and will extend to the toes.
The plantar fascia helps to absorb forces through the foot, and create tension when pushing off with the foot during walking, running, or jumping. All of these activities will be difficult when the plantar fascia is inflamed or painful.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
Causes can include one’s bone structure, muscle tightness, being overweight, achilles tendon tightness, overuse, incorrect training, and inadequate foot wear (Petraglia et al., 2017). Like with stress fractures, some factors can be changed, and others cannot.
Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis
Treatment can vary, and may include modification of practice schedule, improvement in body mechanics during sport, change of foot wear or foot inserts, laser therapy, massage, pain medication, and ultrasound.
Your physical therapist can assess posture and body mechanics to determine the best course of action.
When to See Your Doctor and When to Rest
When it comes to injuries, it’s important to know when to seek medical advice, or when to take a rest day.
Make an Appointment ASAP
If you are unable to bear weight though your foot/leg, or can only walk with limping, please seek immediate help from urgent care, your primary care physician, or orthopedic physician. This also applies for pain with palpation (touching), swelling, and pain that has increased over time.
If you are unsure in any way if it is okay to continue playing, seek professional medical advice rather than advice from teammates, coaches, or even parents who have “seen this type of injury before”.
Athletes can be known to push through the pain, in hopes to minimize time lost from sport or avoid letting down their team. However, this perseverance can potentially worsen the existing injury, resulting in even more time lost from sport.
On the subject of rest, the same concept of not wanting to lose time from sport applies. The best advice I can give you here is to listen to your body. When something is hurting, do not ignore it, do not try to play through it.
With demanding practice schedules and competitions combined with hectic daily life, athletes are prone to being overworked and getting over use injuries. Taking a day off during the week, especially when you are hurting, can be beneficial for your body to heal.
If you don’t think the pain warrants a visit to a professional, notify your coach or parents and have an honest conversation with them about the pain level, type of pain, and frequency to decide the best course of action.
Incorporating cross traininginto your schedule can be beneficial as well. Cross training can include anything active that is not your sport. Some examples are: walking, biking, swimming, dancing, yoga.
So You Have an Ankle Injury, Now What?
First and foremost, listen to your physician and physical therapist. Their timelines for the healing process may not be what you want, but recovery protocols are based off of the body’s rate for healing, and you can’t rush nature!
If you have been advised by a medical professional to refrain from activity, use crutches, use a boot, or are given exercises to perform at home, PLEASE follow their recommendations.
Use this time off the court to continue to improve in your sport, helping your teammates, or improve in other areas of your life. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Watch footage of yourself, your team, or other athletes playing your sport. You’ll be surprised what a change in perspective can teach you.
Attend practices and observe your teammates. You may learn something about the way they play, or you may be able to give them advice to improve their game.
Come up with ways to raise funds for your team, get creative!
Focus on a class you’ve been neglecting.
Put time into a relationship with a friend or family member.
Start a new hobby or passion project.
If you want to prevent future injury, once you are cleared for physical activity, take a look at the exercise section below for proven, evidence based exercise and training tips.
Exercises to Prevent Ankle Injuries
This is the part you’ve all been waiting for (or possibly just scrolled to). Here are three major components to add to your training regimen that will improve your ankle stability, and thus, prevent injury.
Proprioceptive Training (Balance)
Proprioception is just a big fancy word for knowing where your body is in space. We have little receptors in all of our joints that signal our brains as to what position the joint is in at all times. Even though we aren’t consciously thinking about this all the time, our brains use this information constantly, and especially when springing into action.
When we improve proprioception, we are more in-tuned with our bodies, and our brain can signal the muscles it needs for action in a more efficient way. This is especially important for ankle injury prevention since this joint may be more prone to injury.
How Do I Start?
We train proprioception of the ankle by what we typically think of as balance training. This usually will consist of exercises that involve standing on an unstable surface and/or standing on one foot.
Start out with simple, stationary exercises and then as you master those, progressively challenge your balance. Proprioceptive training should be done for 3-5 minutes at a time, every day.
Examples of Proprioception Exercises:
Stand on one foot on a solid floor for 30 seconds
Once you can do this without falling or wobbling, add in closing your eyes.
Then, add another person giving your gentle nudges (perturbations) to your shoulder/upper back area
Perform single leg exercises (see section below for how-to)
Single leg dead lifts
Single leg bridge
Single leg hop
Stand on one foot while tossing a ball
Walk heel-toe while passing a ball
Performing exercises (in a safe environment) without shoes will provide your foot with less stability, thus, making the muscles work harder
Disclaimer: do not be that person that takes off your shoes in a gym, thanks.
Add in equipment for an extra challenge
After mastering the basics, consider adding a compliant surface, meaning something to stand on that is less stable than the floor
See the list below for equipment that may be helpful in challenging your balance and improving the proprioception of your ankles.
BOSU – a multi-use piece of equipment that is excellent for balance training and resembles half of a yoga ball. It can be used as shown, or flipped upside down for more of a challenge
Example exercises include squats, lunges with one foot on BOSU, and standing on one foot while tossing a ball
Wobble board – a circular wooden board with a protruding smaller circle on the bottom that has been used in studies such as one by Verhagen et al., 2004, which showed a decrease in ankle sprains when used before practice.
Caution should be used with players with pre-existing knee injuries
Example exercises include standing still on wobble board with eyes closed or tossing a ball to a partner
Biomechanics is the study of how one’s body moves during a certain action. Even small differences in how a movement is performed can affect how forces are placed on structures and may increase risk of injury. With technical training, we focus on the body’s biomechanics during the basic skills such as serving, blocking, and attacking.
For the ankle specifically, this will consist of perfecting strategies of jumping, landing, running, cutting (changing directions quickly).
Jumping and Landing
When you jump as high as you can, the forces during landing that go through your ankle, knees and hips can be up to 5 times your body weight (Tillman et al., 2004)! So landing techniques are beneficial to learn if the athlete is to prevent injury from these impactful, repetitive forces in sport.
Even greater force can be put through the leg joints if an athlete lands with one foot before the other or with their knee(s) straight. These are two key points to evaluate with your landing. These can also increase risk of knee injury (Tillman et al., 2004).
Have a friend record your landing from both an attack and a block with the slow motion setting on your phone camera. Get two angles: from the side and from the front. Watch closely for the following to see what may need to be improved:
One foot lands before the other
Knees are straight when feet make contact with the floor
Feet are closer together than the hips
Toes point inwards
Knees “cave in” towards each other, or touch
Heels do not touch the ground (athlete stays on balls of feet)
In no way is this an all inclusive list of biomechanical flaws with landing, but it should be a good start to improving!
Reasons Athletes May Have Poor Landing Techniques
Often, flaws with landing result from weakness somewhere in the leg(s). A professional, such as a physical therapist, can help you identify which muscles to strengthen based off of what flaws are observed.
On your own, you can aim to improve landing by jumping from a higher surface such as a park bench or bleachers. The point of this exercise would not be to jump high or far, but to focus on a soft, even, consistent landing. You could record yourself or have another person watch each landing and give you feedback.
Approach Technique for Hitters to Prevent Ankle Injury
An important tip for attacking: jump up vertically, rather than out towards the net. This will help to prevent landing on the center line, where most ankle injuries occur. This has been shown in two separate studies (Bahr et al., 1997, and Stasinopoulos, 2004) to reduce the occurrence of ankle injuries. Though this is not always possible in a game scenario, but making an attempt to avoid landing on the center line is a safe practice for yourself and the blocker.
Running and Cutting
In the sport of volleyball, an athlete typically isn’t running far, or rather doesn’t have much space to actually run. However the volleyball athlete does need to move quickly around the small court, requiring fast and agile running and cutting movements.
Drills that include fast explosive movement will require the precursor of ankle proprioception (balance) and strength to be performed correctly. Make sure you tend to those areas first if your movements are not as fast as you would like.
Using the Agility Ladder for Running and Cutting
The agility ladder is a great place to start for technical training of running and cutting. There are countless patterns of movement to perform with the ladder, and the faster you go, the harder it will be to maintain accuracy.
Simply put, weakness at the hips and knees can affect how force moves through the ankle during sport. These forces have the potential to cause injury. Strengthening the whole leg allows the athlete to dissipate forces to prevent injury on any one body structure.
Performing a variety of leg exercises, and adding additional weight where appropriate, can help improve strength throughout the entire leg. Here are a few to get you started:
Sumo (spread feet wide apart and toes pointing out 45 degrees)
Kettle Bell Swings
Additionally, gym machines that target specific muscles can help to isolate muscles and strengthen them individually. Usually they have pictures on the machine that tell you how they should be used. Start with a light weight and ask a gym attendant for assistance if needed.
Some to look for, or ask a gym attendant for, next time you are at the gym:
Knee extension (quads)
Knee flexion/curl (hamstrings)
Abduction/Adduction machine (glutes and inner thigh)
Calf raise (gastrocnemius and soleus)
Leg press (quads, glutes)
Braces, Taping and Shoes, Oh My!
The evidence shows that bracing is much more effective at preventing ankle sprains in athletes who already have prior injury (Kaminski et al., 2013).
If you have had ankle injury, bracing is a good idea.
If you haven’t had an ankle injury, it may not be worth the cost, but bracing won’t decrease the quality of your performance.
Wraps and Sleeves
First, let’s point out the kind of ankle braces that won’t prevent injury. The two main types that fall in this category are wraps and sleeves. These might be better for wearing after an injury to decrease the swelling in the ankle, but are NOT suggested for the purpose of preventing injury.
Braces for Injury Prevention
Now, we can move on to braces that can actually prevent injury. There are many options when choosing an ankle brace. As a PT, I have extensive education of the ankle anatomy and mechanism of injury. With that said, I have used this knowledge to pick out ankle braces that have rigid supports of both sides of the ankle to prevent sprains. This list in no particular order.
Active Ankle T2 Ankle Brace
Aircast Air-Stirrup Ankle Brace
Bionic Stirrup Ankle Brace
Bracing is just one component in ankle injury prevention. The athlete should not ignore the importance of incorporating ankle and leg strengthening (as seen in the section above) in preventing ankle injury.
Does Taping Really Help Prevent Ankle Injury?
This is a tough question to answer because there are so many different types of tape and taping techniques. Additionally, some of the scientific evidence says taping does prevent injury, and some say it inhibits athletic performance.
There is a suggested psychological benefit to taping. When you have a tape on, it stimulates the touch receptors on the skin and constantly sends signals to your brain. This constant signal can serve as a reminder for the athlete to be more “careful” when using their ankles for jumping, landing, running or cutting.
It may also help with proprioception of the ankle as discussed in the above section (where your ankle is in space). Thus, possibly improving balance or bodily awareness (Murray, 2001).
If you do choose to tape, have it done by an athletic trainer or physical therapist who is experienced or has certification in taping techniques. A bad taping technique might as well be no tape.
Overall, taping may be more costly, time consuming, and less effective than bracing. It is much more common to see volleyball players with ankle braces than taping techniques applied.
Shoes are very much a personal preference and sometimes can be trial and error with the individual. When trying on shoes, makes sure to simulate actions you will be performing in those shoes such as jumping high and running and few feet, then stopping. Here is a short list of preferred brands recommended by experienced volleyball players who were informally surveyed.
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Where these 6 positions are traditionally assigned
Right Side Hitter
There are 6 main positions in volleyball that players are categorized by they are:
Right Side Hitters
Each position will have certain tasks and areas of the court that the player is assigned to cover. These may change at coaches discretion, but for the most part remain pretty standard across the game. Let’s discuss in further detail.
What Is A Position In Volleyball?
A volleyball position is essentially a job that a player fulfills on the court. Positions are classified by offense, defense and setters. The position is tied to a spot on the volleyball court. For example outside hitters are almost always assigned to the left front court spot which is the spot 4 on the volleyball court.
There are six set spots on a court and they NEVER change. When someone refers to the left back spot on the court, no matter what player is there, it is called the five position or just “five”.
When a coach chooses players for a volleyball team they will generally put at least two of each position on the team to substitute out for each other, though this varies between levels of competition.For this reason, volleyball teams typically have between 10 and 14 players. We’ll discuss rotation and player substitutions in more detail in our next lesson. Now let’s get into the positions that players fulfill on a team.
The Six Volleyball Player Positions
There are six players on a team, one for each of the six spots on the court. There will USUALLY be one of each type of player on the court at a time per team. As we said before each position has a job tied to a spot.
One of the six jobs on the court is the task of running the offense. Similar to the quarterback on a football team, volleyball teams have setters who fulfill this role.
A setter will traditionally get the second contact on the ball which they receive from one of the other players on their team, though setters are sometimes forced to take the first contact when playing defense. Every player on the team plays defense. The setter redirects a pass (also known as a bump) to one of the front row players who we call hitters.
PRO TIP: “Bump” like “spike”, is a term that goes largely unsaid in the volleyball world, but seems to be permanently attached to the popular idea of the sport. If you want to be taken seriously as a player, coach or fan don’t use either of these terms! Instead use “pass” or “hit” respectively.
Setters are assigned to the 1 position on the court in most lineups, though all setters will aim to set in the front row between the 2 and 3 position then will play defense in the 1 or 2 spot.
Setting is arguably the most difficult job on the court. Setters must be incredibly smart in their decision making process and have more impact on the outcome of the game than any other.
Depending on how the coach sets up their lineup, a team will play 1-2 setters per game and in rare cases 3. Some setters will play a full 6 rotation game where they either set from the front row or play as a right side hitter.
As we discussed in prior lessons, there are two positions who play all the way around the court in special circumstances, setter/right side hitters are one of these examples.
The hitter is mainly responsible for… you guessed it! Hitting the ball. Hitting is largely known as spiking in the non volleyball world, but most experienced players, coaches, parents and fans don’t use that term.
Hitting is an offensive maneuver that a volleyball team uses in an attempt to score points on the other team.
There are 3 types of hitters in the game of volleyball, one for each of the spots in the front row (positions 4, 3, and 2 on the court). The hitting positions are outside hitters, middle hitters and right side hitters. Let’s briefly discuss what their jobs are.
The outside hitter is an offensive player who’s position is assigned to the “4” or the left front spot on the court. These hitters are generally the shortest in the front row and their job is mainly to attack or hit the ball. Other hitters, like middle hitters, by comparison, are more responsible for the blocking, though outside hitters will block as well.
An outside hitter will typically take more swings or attacks than any other player on the court. This is because they are open to the court meaning they are facing their team when hitting. Their right shoulder is open to their team (with right handed outsides). This makes outside hitters the easiest of the pin hitters to set.
Pin hitter: Outside and right side hitters. The term refers to the players who hit next to the “pins” or the antennas. The antennas are located on the net at the side lines and are a boundary for the court. The 4 and 2 spots on the court are considered pin hitting positions.
Outside hitters are the other example of a potential 6 rotation player, which simply means they are never substituted out. Outside hitters, like setters sometimes stay in the entirety of the game. This happens when an outside hitter is an exceptional back row player in addition to their hitting abilities.
The middle hitter is the player stationed in the middle front of the court which is also known as the 3 spot. Middles tend to be the tallest players on a volleyball team.
Middle hitters are an offensive position who are also a key defensive player. This is because the middle hitter is responsible for setting the block no matter what player on the opposing team is hitting. The pin hitters, by contrast, only block about half of the time depending on which player on the other team is attacking.
Middle hitter is the other position some argue is the most difficult job on the volleyball court. Middles must read the setter on the opposing team to anticipate which hitter will be getting the set. If a middle is late on the block, it is very hard for the defensive players behind them who are attempting to dig that hitter. Middles are also a key offensive player.
Middle hitters run more variations of sets than the average hitter. This is of course dependent on the pass that the setter receives. We’ll discuss the middle hitter and all of the positions in more detail later in our curriculum.
Right Side Hitter
Right side hitters which are also referred to as “opposites” are positioned on the right front spot on the court or the 2. We call right side hitters opposites because they are opposite of the setter in rotation.
Left handed people make excellent right side hitters because they are open to the court the same way right handed outside hitters are open to their team when they hit.
Right side hitters tend to be the second tallest position on the court. This is because they block more frequently than an outside hitter and a taller block is preferable.
Right side hitters block the outside hitters on the opposing team, and outside hitters will usually get more sets than any other hitting position.
Finally, we have defensive players. Defensive players are broken up into liberos and defensive specialists. They are mainly responsible for preventing the other team from scoring. They do this by making incredible saves when the opposing team attempts to score.
Defensive players are also called passers. Passers “pass” the ball. Whether that means receiving a serve, passing a free ball or digging an attack.
The libero is traditionally assigned to the left back position of the court which is also known as the 5 spot. Liberos do sometimes play middle back, but this is at player and coaches discretion.
The libero is the player on a volleyball team who wears a different colored jersey, like the goal keeper on a soccer team. Also similar in concept to a goal keeper, the libero is responsible for keeping the other team from scoring.
Libero’s main responsibilities include: serve, serve receive, passing, digging and coverage of the team’s offense. Essentially the libero, like other defensive players, redirects the ball to the setter when they receive the first contact on the team.
The libero is typically subbed in for the middle hitters who tend to be the worst defensive players on the team as far as back row goes, though this is obviously a generalization, middle hitters are sometimes excellent passers.
The key distinction between a libero and a defensive specialist is the substitution rules each position follows. Defensive specialists are subbed in and out by coaches using a traditional sub whereas liberos have their own set of rules which we’ll discuss in further detail later in our curriculum.
To simplify, know that the libero tends to be the best defensive player on the team and they will typically play 5 full rotations and 1 half rotation. They are essentially always in the game.
The defensive specialists or “DS” are typically used as a substitute for outside hitters. Both outside hitters who play in the back row and defensive specialists who might sub for them traditionally play in the middle back position which is assigned the numeric 6.
The objective of the DS is to defend the court, preventing the ball from hitting the ground within their territory as the opposing team performs its offensive maneuvers. The defender, when they have first contact, will pass the ball to the setter in the front right of the court.
A volleyball position is a job that a player fulfills
There are 6 positions in volleyball
The positions are classified by offense, defense and setters
Imagine a complex form of the childhood game where you and a friend would try to keep a balloon off the ground by batting it back into the air. Now we’re going to make it a competition between two teams of six people who move within adjacent boxes drawn on the ground.
Give them an obstacle, a net, between these boxes to hit over. Each team will be able to contact the balloon three times before it must go over the net. Finally, we’re going to make the game far more challenging by replacing the balloon with a ball that drops more quickly. You have yourself a volleyball game!
Volleyball As A Sport
Volleyball is an incredible and fast moving athletic event where teams of six players battle it out to see who can get to 25 points first . Unlike contact sports, volleyball teams are separated by a net that is over 7 feethigh.
Net heights vary whether you are playing men’s, women’s, or coed’s volleyball. A men’s net is 7’11 5/8″ women’s is 7’4 1/8″. Coed volleyball traditionally uses a men’s net height so 7’11 5/8″. Yes these are oddly specific heights, but hey those are the rules.
The sport is played with a special ball which is simply called, you guessed it! A volleyball. Teams hit the volleyball back and forth over the net. Easy enough to remember, right ?
The objective of the game is to score points by putting the ball into the other team’s court, either forcing an “error” or managing to get the volleyball to touch the court before the opposing team scores on you.
Error: An error in volleyball is when a ball does not make it back into the playable area of an opponents court. For example if a player, Ashleigh, attempted to pass the ball to the opposing team, but instead hit the ball into the net, this is considered an error.Other examples include missed serves, illegal contacts, getting blockedor “shanking” an offensive maneuver by the other team.
In volleyball, like tennis, the ball is considered “in” if it hits anywhere within the 30 x 30 foot area including even the slightest contact with the outline of the court.
When a volleyball hits the ground, or a team violates a rule, the point is over and will be awarded to one of the two teams. The goal of volleyball is to prevent the other team from getting the volleyball to hit the ground in your area while also attempting to put the volleyball down in theirs. Defending your court is called defense where as attempting to get the ball to touch the opposing team’s court is what we call offense.
Offense: attempting to score on the opposing team by maneuvering the ball to hit the ground on their side of the court. There are many forms of offense, however the most common is the “hit” or “attack”.
Defense: defending your side of the court from an opponents offensive maneuvers. Defense is a job that every player on the court takes part in whether that role is blocking or attempting to dig that hitter or pick up tips.
2 teams divided by a net.
Net heights: women’s 7’4 1/8″, men’s &’11 1/8″.
6 players each team, 3 front row and 3 back row.
A volleyball court is 59′ by 29.5′ (18 x 9 meters) divided in the middle by the net. People will typically just round these numbers to 30′ x 60′ when describing a court.
Each side is 29.5′ x 29.5′ (9 x 9 meters).
A ball is “in” if it hits anywhere in the court including making contact with any part of the line.
The ball is considered “out” if it: hits the court outside of the 18 x 9 meter playing space, makes contact with the antennas in any way, hits a wall or ceiling outside of the playable area, or the ref stand and net poles.
Games are played to 25 points.
Best 3 of 5 games (or best 2 of 3 depending on the division).
Maximum 3 contacts per team before sending the ball over the net.
Players are not permitted to touch the ball twice in a row.
A block is not considered a touch.
If two players make contact with the ball simultaneously it is considered 1 legal contact and either may take the next contact so long as the team is not out of contacts (maximum of 3).
A player may make contact with any part of their body.
A player may not catch or make extended contact with the volleyball.
A player is not permitted to throw the volleyball.
The ball may be played out of the net both in rally and in serve.
The player assigned to the “1” court position on the serving team will serve the ball.
The server will have 8 seconds to serve the ball.
Players must start in their assigned position (or within boundaries of the player in front and to the sides of them) until after the ball has been served.
A serve may not be blocked or attacked from within the ten foot line.
A volleyball team will have a maximum of three touches on the volleyball. There is no minimum requirement on how many touches you must make before sending the ball back over the net.
You can make legal contact with a volleyball in a number of ways, the most traditional and competitive are the platform pass (aka “pass” or “bump”), the overhand set (aka “set”), and the attack (aka “hit” or “spike”), though there are others which we will eventually discuss.
The 3 Traditional Volleyball Contacts
Platform Pass: Passing, which is also known as a “pass” or “bump” is the use of the forearms to redirect a volleyball. In a competitive setting, passing is generally the first of three contacts and is traditionally aimed towards the setter who stands on the front right side of the court.
Bump Set: You can also “set” your teammate (set them up for an attack) using the platform pass form of contact. This is known as the bump set.
Set: A set is a form of legal contact in volleyball in where contact is made over a player’s head with both hands simultaneously. The set utilizes the finger tips which gives a lot control over where the ball goes. A set, in it’s traditional form is meant to go to a hitter. It is the set up for an offensive play.
Overhand Pass: Similar to the set is the overhand pass. An overhand pass has the same form as the set, where the ball is directed using the fingertips over the player’s head. The distinguishable difference is that an overhand pass is typically the first contact which is directed to the setter and not to a hitter.
Attack: An attack (aka “hit” or “spike”) is the form of contact that is traditionally used in offensive maneuvers. In a traditional form an attack is aimed at the opposing team’s court in an attempt to score. An attack involves a player leaping off of the ground to make contact overhead with the palm of the hitter’s dominant hand. An attack generally takes place in front of the ten foot line.
Back Row Attack: A back row attack is simply an attack that takes place in the back row which is just behind the ten foot line.
Volleyball Court Dimensions
A volleyball court is 18 meters by 9 meters in length and width. In feet this comes out to be 59 feet by 29.5 feet. Most people when discussing a volleyball court will just say that it is 60 feet by 30 feet, or 30 by 30 feet per side because it’s “close enough”. This is fine, just know those aren’t the official court standards.
Antennas sit on either side of a volleyball court and are directly over the side lines of the court. This means they are also placed 9 meters apart or 29.5 feet. Antennas stick up 32″ above the top of the net.
The net sits over 7’4 1/8″ for women and 7’11 1/8″ for men’s regulation games. Coed volleyball games are typically played at the men’s net height.
The base line which is also known as the service line is one of the out boundaries on the court.
Ten Foot Line
The line that runs through the upper 1/3 of each side of a volleyball court is called the ten food line, it is also referred to as the attack line.
The center line is the line that runs directly underneath the net and separates the teams. The center line may not be crossed by players.
Side lines are another boundary of the court. The lines run parallel to each other and are 29.5 feet apart.
Scoring In Volleyball
You can score on the other team in one of two ways, you can either put the volleyball down on the opposing team’s 30′ x 30′ court, or you will gain a point if the opposing team makes an error by hitting the ball out or failing to put the ball back on their opponents side of the court after their maximum allowed three contacts.
That is the simplest explanation I can offer but within those guidelines there is an insane amount of strategy and ways to give your team an advantage over your opponent.
Indoor Volleyball Scoring
Volleyball matches are made up of smaller games which are also known as sets. Each game is played to 25 points with a win by two scoring pattern. There will be between 2 and 5 games in a volleyball match but this depends on the division that you are playing.
Win- By- 2: a game will continue to be played past 25 points if a team is not more than two points ahead of a competitor. Because of this rule, volleyball games can sometimes be played well into the 30’s and even the 40 point range. This happens with evenly matched teams and can be very intense for anyone involved player, fan or coach.
Varsity games, both high school and collegiate are played best 3 games out of 5. Club volleyball games and recreational leagues are played the best 2 out of 3 games.
The tie breaker game (the fifth game in a varsity game or the third game in a club match) is always played to 15 points and the teams will switch sides when one team gets 8 points.
They switch sides to keep the game fair. Sometimes one side of the court has a distinct advantage for example better lighting. This doesn’t sound like a big deal but it can make a difference if two teams are evenly matched.
Games of volleyball played outside either on grass or a sand court are played best 2 out of 3 games. The games are played to 21 points. A similarity between scoring in indoor volleyball and beach volleyball is that the games are always win by 2 points. The tie breaker game is played to 15 points
Beach volleyball is traditionally played with teams of two players.
2 teams of 6 players each
3 contacts per team allowed before sending the ball back to the other side of the net
There are two sides of a volleyball court which are divided by a net
30 x 30 foot court space per side. Total court is 60 x 30 feet with a net running across the center of the court.
Net heights: 7’4 1/8″ for women 7’11 1/8″ for men
The objective of the game is to defend your side of the court while also attempting to place the ball on the ground within your opponents court
Games are played to 25 points
A point will end when the volleyball hits the ground or is ruled out of bounds
Indoor volleyball is a game played by a team of 6 players who defend their 30×30 foot side of the court. The objective of the game is to score on your opponent by getting the ball to hit the ground on their 30×30 foot side of the volleyball court. The one catch is you have to do this by moving the ball over a 7 foot 4 and 1/8 inch high net which divides the two teams.
We have compiled all of the most commonly asked volleyball questions into one page for your convenience. If you are a new parent or fan trying to understand what happens in a volleyball match and how a team wins, we have everything you need to know.
How Does A Volleyball Game End?
These categories will discuss the scoring system that volleyball uses and how a team will win.
A volleyball game will end when a team wins the majority of the games in a match. This is traditionally the best 3 out of 5 games to 25 with a 15 point tie breaker
It is important to note that volleyball’s scoring method changed to rally scoring in 2001. This dictated that points were scored after every serve and that teams could score even when they did not serve the ball. The original scoring system was called side-out scoring. With side-out scoring a team had to have served to score a point.
Winning An Indoor Volleyball Match
How Many Sets In A Volleyball Game?
High school and college volleyball games are played the best 3 out of 5 games or “sets” where as club volleyball games are played the best 2 out of 3 games. An indoor volleyball match will end when one team manages to win the majority of the games in a match.
An indoor volleyball game or “set” is won when one team reaches 25 points. Volleyball games are always win by two scoring, so if a game between two teams is 24-24 the teams must get 2 points before their opponent scores one in order to win.
Winning A Beach Volleyball Match
Beach volleyball matches are played the best 2 out of 3 games (aka sets). Each game will be played to 21 points except the 3rd set which will be played to 15 points. The games are always win by at least 2 points. Once a team manages to win two of these three games, the volleyball match will be over
How Long Is A Volleyball Game?
These categories discuss the length of time you will spend watching or playing a volleyball game on average. High school and college level games will be longer than club volleyball and beach volleyball games.
High School and College Volleyball Game Length
You can expect high school and college volleyball matches to take at least an hour and a half from start to finish. Better matched teams will play for longer as they battle for the victory of the match. Here’s how we got that number.
High School Volleyball Matches are typically played via best three out of five games. So each Match will have between 3-5 individual games (aka sets) to 25 points. The tie breaker or 5th set in a match is played only to 15 points, so it is a bit shorter.
Indoor volleyball games , on average take around 30 minutes to complete. The tie breaker game to fifteen points will generally take around 20 minutes.
Indoor Club Volleyball Game Length
Club volleyball matches on average take around an hour to complete from start to finish. You can expect the match will last at least 45 minutes.
Each game will last between 20 and 30 minutes and the matches are played best two out of three games.
Beach Volleyball Game Length
Beach volleyball Matches on average take an hour to finish. The best out of 3 games are played to 21 points with a 15 point tie breaker.
Each game will on average take about 25 minutes to complete and each match will have 2-3 games.
How Many Players On A Volleyball Team
6 vs 6
An indoor volleyball team will have six players on the court at a time. They will play against another team who also have six players. This is the traditional indoor volleyball game invented in 1895. High school, college and indoor club volleyball tournaments will play with 6 players per team.
2 vs 2
Beach volleyball will traditionally have two players on each side of the net. This version of the sport was originally invented in California in the 1920’s. Beach volleyball played with teams of two has grown increasingly popular and became an Olympic sport in 1996 and an NCAA sport in 2012.
4 vs 4
In some cases you will see grass tournaments where the sport is played in teams of four. This is less common than the 6 vs 6 and the 2 vs 2 player lineups. There is no official volleyball organization which recognizes 4 man volleyball.
When and Where Was Volleyball First Played
Volleyball was first invented in the United States at a YMCA in Massachusetts by a man named William G. Morgan. This was in the year 1895 and the sport was originally named Mintonette. Inspiration for the sport came from a combination of tennis, basketball, baseball and handball.
Soon after a fan watching a game proclaimed that a more appropriate name for the sport would be volleyball as the teams seemed to volley back and forth over the net.
Though volleyball was invented in the USA it only just recently got to be as popular in the country as it was in the rest of the world. There are over 46 million people in the United States who play the sport of volleyball regularly. In comparison over 800 million people around the world play the sport on a weekly basis.
The sport has changed quite a bit since it was invented over 125 years ago. Here are some main events that led to the popularity of the sport
Timeline Of Volleyball
1895- The sport of Mintonette was invented in the United States
1896- The sport is renamed volleyball
1900- The first volleyball was invented exclusively for the sport
1916- Variations of the set and hit were added to the game
1920- Beach Volleyball is invented in California
1920- Rules were amended to three hits per side and back row attacking
1928- USAV was formed to facilitate rules
1948- The first beach volleyball tournament with 2 player teams was held
1949- The first ever world championship was held for volleyball
1964- Indoor volleyball was added to the Olympic Games
1978- The AVP was created
1996- 2 player beach volleyball was added as an Olympic sport
2001- rules ammended did away with side out scoring replacing it with rally
2020- Today volleyball is 125 years old and is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. It is currently the 3rd most popular sport in the world and boys volleyball is the fastest growing sport in North America.
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:
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.