I had a question come in from a reader the other day regarding a U14 volleyball player. It went like this:

“I have a player who keeps serving beyond the opponents court during a game. We have tried having her stand back further, slow down her swing, attempted top spins but nothing helps. At practice she can serve into the court and she typically tries to float serve.”

The thing I find interesting about this is that we’re talking about the opposite problem I usually see with young girls serving. Normally the problem is getting them to consistently serve over the net. Serving too long is generally not an issue!

If this player can consistently serve the ball into the court during training, but has problems during matches then it would seem there is a mental issue. This isn’t uncommon. I can think of a few ways it could potentially be addressed.

From a mechanical perspective you could have the player work on flatter serves. Oftentimes long serves come about because the player puts more upward trajectory on their serve than they should, resulting in a ball that sails. This can come about from a fear of serving into the net. If this sort of thing is an issue, having the player focus on the height of her serve could help. For example, you could have her aim to have her serves go no higher than the height of the antennae.

A more distraction oriented approach would be to get the player thinking in terms of targets rather than in/out. If she’s capable of serving long at that age, then it’s perfectly reasonable to have her start working on accuracy. Even just something as simple as left or right half of the court could be useful.

Of course something we always want to be doing is trying to create similar “pressure” on serving in training as players will experience in matches. That is both mental and physical. Make them serve after they’ve had to do something physical to simulate serving after playing a rally. Make there be some kind of positive or negative consequence to player serves.

These are the things that immediately come to mind for me. Have you had to deal with this sort of situation? If so, let us know how you handled it by leaving a comment below.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.