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Recommendations to help improve the serve toss

Improving a team’s serving is something that coaches of especially younger teams are always looking to do. Even when I was coaching at Exeter, I spent a fair amount of time focused on serving, to good benefit. Invariably, once raw strength is sufficient to get the ball over the net overhand, the biggest factor is serving performance is a consistent toss. The following question from a reader highlights this.

I coach a HS JV team. Each player has the potential to have great serves: they are strong and when the connect properly, their serves are rockets. However, they are inconsistent due to their toss. Their toss will sometime either be too low or to the side which creates a serve into the net or out.

What are your recommendations to help improve a perfect toss?

There are a couple of things I can suggest to help players with their toss.

Video
Record your players serving from either directly behind them or directly in front (behind is probably safer!). This will show quite clearly where players are tossing the ball, which is probably all over the place. Show them an example of a good toss, and then show them where there own tosses are in comparison.

Short Serves
A lot of screwy mechanical things can come into play when players serve full-court because they are thinking about power. Have them serve from mid-court where power is not a concern. That way they can focus on consistent tosses and good ball contact.

When I was at Exeter, nearly every training with the women’s team featured what I called a serving warm-up. It was players serving back and forth in pairs starting just about the 3m line and gradually backing up to the end line. This both served to warm-up their shoulders and to give them time to work on their mechanics. I would do this with any team where developing good serving technique is a priority.

I should note that even coaching professional players as I’m doing at Svedala there are toss-related issues (saw them when working with the TV Bühl guys last month as well). They aren’t usually as dramatic, and take on a different character, but they can be equally influential.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.