Before we talk strategy, here’s a quick reminder…
Serving is the only skill in the game that you have complete control over. If you can’t serve well, you can get better by practicing. Getting control of your serve, being able to serve tough or easy, to the best passer or the worst will have an impact on how successful you are in volleyball and how fun the game is for you and your team.
Where should I serve?
There are lots of answers to this question, and you have some decisions to make before I give you the answers. Are you trying to put the other team in trouble, or are you trying to get a good rally from a weak team?
Serving to win
If you are trying to serve to win, your first job is to determine which passer on the other team is least comfortable passing the ball. Obviously, serving this person can increase your chances of success. Here are a few tips once you have identified that person:
1. Don’t serve directly to that person. Serve tough, to an area where that person (and not the other passers) will have to play the ball. This tip is basically “Make the passer move”. If they are poor at passing, chances are they are poorer when they have to hurry to get into position.
2. Use the sidelines and the endline. I you can keep your serve on the perimeter of the court, the passer is always off balance and has trouble determining if the serve is in or out.
3. Vary your serves. The passer is constantly evaluating his/her own passing based on the previous plays. Stay ahead of this evaluation by serving different speeds and trajectories.
Serving for fun
The opposite rules apply here. Try to serve the best player on a weak team so that they can generate an offense. Serve the middle of the court, with a high trajectory. The more control you have, the better, because no one likes to be patronized with an underhand serve that almost hits the roof. Once you can control your serve, use it to make your opponent’s better by challenging them without serving them off the court.
Intimidation, help, and deception… in one simple step
It is an unwritten rule in volleyball that you have a good look into the eyes of the player you are about to serve. If you are serving to win, this can add to the troubles of the passer you have identified to serve. If they have passed successfully a few times on you, and they are returning your stare with equal intensity, wink, blow them a kiss, look them straight in the eyes, and serve someone else. You might catch someone sleeping.
You can use your eyes to help a weaker team, too. Just make sure you serve the right person. Looking one player in the eyes and then blasting a serve somewhere else will definitely catch a weak team off guard.
This probably seems pretty mean to some of you – finding the weak link and serving them to death. It’s a game, and all games have a winner and loser. You must decide on your own approach and the best way to enjoy the game. For some people and some teams, the game itself, long rallies and good plays are important. For others, success is measured in wins and losses. I was in the second category for about 12 years, so a lot of my strategic advice is aimed at winning. The important thing for you is, decide what is best for your team, and then play accordingly.
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