Teach them how to throw

A big developmental issue with female athletes in volleyball is a tendency to hit from a body position where the hips are square to the net. I’m not talking about final position, but instead starting position. In other words, they don’t initiate their swing from a hips open position. They look more like this:

USAV-Swing-Bad

…than like this:

USAV-Swing-Good

Granted, the balls are at different point in the two photos, but I think you get what I mean. If you don’t, watch your players hit. How many of them have the open shoulder and hips of the guy above when they jump? How many of them jump with hips and shoulders basically square to the net?

The square position many female players attack from (and I once wrote about a male player doing basically the same thing on a jump float serve) means they cannot generate as much power in their swing because they are not producing it from their core. It also means they are at increased risk of lower back and shoulder injuries. This comes from more back arching and trying to generate power from the shoulder respectively.

Volleyball Coaching Wizard Tom Tait in his interview describes the mechanics of hitting a volleyball as run-jump-throw. I contend that because girls don’t learn to throw in a mechanically correct fashion (foot opposite the throwing arm should be forward) at a young age like boys do, it leads to the square body posture that is so problematic in their hitting.

I have talked with a number of folks about the need for young female players to be taught how to throw early in their development. It’s something I recommended to those coaching the little ones at Svedala when I was there. I recently had that discussion with Ruth Nelson, another Wizard who is the developer of the Bring Your Own Parent program for kids ages 5 to 10. She was in total agreement.

I know some coaches have their players throw footballs back and forth as a shoulder exercise. This is generally just for older players, though, as they have big enough hands to hold and catch those bigger balls. For the little ones you’d probably want to use something smaller, like a tennis ball. I’ll leave someone more qualified than myself to address the mechanical differences.

Regardless, if you’re working with younger – or potentially just inexperienced – female athletes, it’s worth incorporating throwing time in your training. You will likely help them become more powerful hitters and reduce their risk of injury.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John recently compelted 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.

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