Here’s a question submitted by reader.

I frequently come across players who contact the ball while spiking &/or serving down their midline instead of out in front of their attacking/serving shoulder. Any advice on how to correct this habit? The result for them is usually an attack or serve into the middle of the net.

I’m going to address this from two angles which relate to the sort of feedback coming into play.

External Feedback

This is where the focus is on the outcome rather than the mechanics. It’s something I talked about in this earlier post. In this situation you coach them to try to hit the ball in a certain direction. It is then up to the player to work out how to do that. The result of each repetition provides the feedback as to their success or failure to do so (a.k.a knowledge of performance).

I’ll use the example above of the player striking the ball in their mid-line rather than in front of their shoulder. This generally sees a couple things happen. Because the hand must move across the body to play the ball, the ball will generally go in that direction (to the left for a righty, to the right for lefty). That’s one. The other is the player often contacts the ball at a lower point and more on top. In other words, they aren’t making contact at full reach. The result – in particular for hitters – is a ball in the net.

Internal or Technical Feedback

This is where you focus on the actual mechanics involved.

I think the best way to address this sort of problem is with video. Show the player what they’re doing. Immediately after the repetition is best, if possible. That most closely connects the action with the feedback.

Actually, the best way to start that sort of feedback process is to show them video of the proper technique. It could either be of them doing it right, or of someone else. The idea is simply to have a firm basis for comparison. That way you can then ask them after they see their own repetition if it matches the baseline one.

A camera angle from either directly behind or directly in front tends to be the most useful for this particular mid-line situation. That provides the best perspective on the location of the ball relative to the shoulder.

Mix internal and external

You can also mix the two approaches. In fact, in a situation like this it might be the best way to go. If you link the location of ball contact (internal) with outcome (external) in the player’s mind, then they can easily use outcomes to understand what they did. They essentially coach themselves.

6 Steps to Better Practices - Free Guide

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter today and get this free guide to making your practices the best, along with loads more coaching tips and information.

No spam ever. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

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.

    2 replies to "Reader Question: How can I fix mid-line serving and attacking"

    • Marek

      Can you please provide a link to the video that shows how to do it properly?


      • John Forman

        Marek – I don’t have one on-hand. You can obviously search YouTube to try to find something useful. The trick is making it something appropriate for your context. By that I mean a video that your player(s) find relevant to themselves – same gender, similar age, similar physical ability, etc. That’s why recording a player in your team using good technique might be the best way to go. Even better is catching the player you’re working with getting it right.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.