Karch Kiraly once blogged on the subject of serving. Those of us of a certain generation know Karch as one of the best to have ever played the game. He won two indoor Olympic gold medals (1984 and 1988) and a beach gold (1996). These days, however, he’s known as the coach of the USA women’s national team (2020 Olympic gold medalists). Karch’s gripe is that the quality of serving among Juniors and college players just isn’t good enough. His observation is that American players are well behind their peers internationally. Why? Because it doesn’t get trained enough, quite simply.

Anyone who coaches in the younger age groups (10s, 12s,) knows serving is important. A lot of coaches after that, though, simply don’t give it the attention it deserves. Karch makes the point that coaches will sacrifice time working on serving for something else they consider a higher priority. In part this is because they waste time in areas like warm-ups. His comments are similar to those I made in Are your warm-up wasting valuable time?. He even encouraged players to work on serving themselves. After all, it’s a skill that requires no one else to help get reps.

Karch also talks in the blog post about the need to develop both speed and accuracy in serving to put opposing teams under pressure. He mentioned using a radar gun to measure serve velocity. Being able to serve where you want with pace is the key to creating problems for the other team’s serve receive offense. And being able to mix paces adds an extra dimension.

The one thing I would insert in here is that if you don’t have a radar gun to get players specific feedback on the power of their serves it can be hard to encourage them in that direction. You likely will have to use drills and/or games which encourage aggressive serving to get them to push the envelope.

Oh, and the better your team serves the better your team will pass. It’s a simple fact. The harder the serves they get in training from each other, the better equipped they’ll be to handle them from other teams. The trick for the coach is to know when sub-par passing is the result of problems in skill or simply a reflection of tough serving. The two cases require different approaches.

So basically the bottom line is make sure you don’t neglect serving in your training plan.

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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.

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