A somewhat desperate coach posted the following plea in a Facebook group.

I need help! I am a second year JV Coach and it is the second year my team is having issues with reading the ball. 90% of my team over runs the ball and ends up forearm passing the ball at the elbows or above. The other 10% ends up forearm passing off their hands. I’ve done drills like tossing or hitting the ball and having them catch it with a straight platform but it’s not sticking. Is there anything else I can do or some drills that have worked for you?

OK, my first piece of advice is to throw out the idea of catching the ball. If the problem is the players not passing the ball with the correct part of their arm, how exactly is making them catch the ball with a part of their body that is also not the correct part of their arm going to help? It’s just reinforcing the issue.

Second thing, make sure they actually understand the expectation. They might not. And even if they do, it never hurts to reinforce. If they do it right when you toss a simple ball to them, and when they pass back and forth, then good. If not, then you have to get that sorted out first.

Most likely the issue here is one of tracking and perception. The players don’t yet have the perceptual abilities to position themselves correctly and time ball contact. Unfortunately, there’s no simple fix for the coach. Each player can only gain those skills through repetition. Over-the-net pepper is a good way to get lots of reps, especially if you limit them to two contacts.

One thing that could help the kids out is to take the focus off of any kind of accuracy. Put it more on the process – in this case making contact with the right part of the arm. Something that might work in this case as a form of external feedback is to get them to pass the ball high. Balls that hit players’ hands tend to come out at a lower trajectory. Balls that hit more elbows and upper arms will tend to go up, but because that part of the arm is softer, the ball doesn’t rebound off it as well, so it’s hard to get the ball to go very high. It takes proper forearm contact to get the ball to go above the height of the antenna.

The other advantage to getting them to pass it high is it gives their teammate(s) more time to get underneath.

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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.

    1 Response to "Helping passers with bad arm contact"

    • Richard Ghesquire

      My name is Richard Ghesquire from the listowel panthers volleyball club. with this coaches problem of reading a ball coming over. We do a exercise to help the players to adjust to this problem. We square off the back corner of the court. Then l tape off a ratios line. This the area for the player that will be defending the ball. Then you space out three players across the ratios area with a balls. The coach put in one of her best players to demonstrate the moves and angles of play. Then put in the players who are having problems in having the outside players throwing balls at you at different angles. As the player gets better then the coach will blow her whistle and have the players step back changing the players perception of the ball projection. So when you enter a match the problem of lost balls should diminish after several practices of doing this. So then they will take the proper reaction to the served ball.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.