For the sake of making solid objective assessments of your team and players, and to see how they progress over time, it is worth compiling as many volleyball statistics on them as you can during both training and competition. One of the easier stats to keep is that for serving and passing effectiveness.

Let’s start with passing, as it leads into the serving stats I’ll be talking about.

Scoring Serve Receive Passing

The common practice among volleyball coaches is to score passing on a 0 to 3 scale. This is primarily for serve reception, but one could also rate free ball passing and even digging in the same way. The scale looks like this:

3 – Perfect or near perfect pass giving the setter all setting options

2 – Good pass, but the setter has primarily just two options (forward or back)

1 – Poor pass allowing the setter only one option, or forcing a non-setter to set.

0 – Ace or over-pass

Generally speaking, teams want to aim for an average score of 2.0 or better. Squads who are able to do that will usually run an effective offense.

On an individual basis, the best passers will come in around the 2.3-2.4 level on average. Obviously, you probably won’t see that kind of average for lower level players.

I have seen some coaches use modifications on this system. For example, 1 could be an over-pass, shifting the rest of the scale up such that a perfect pass is a 4 rather than a 3. In any case, feel free to adapt the system to suit the needs of your team and tie them in to how you perform for each quality rating.

Scoring Serves

As for serving, we use a 0-5 scale which is largely an inverted version of the passing scale.

5 – Ace

4 – Over-pass

3 – Opposing team passes a 1

2 – Opposing team passes a 2

1 – Opposing team passes a 3

0 – Error

As with passing, the objective here it to average 2 or better. Doing so means the other team cannot run its offense consistently, making your defense and transition game more effective. Again, you can make adjustments to suit your needs.

Stat Both Training and Matches

I strongly recommend you score serving and passing in training games as well as in matches. If you only score during matches then your bench players won’t ever get scored. Part of the reason for keeping volleyball statistics like this is to give your players very specific feedback on where they are currently and where they need to get.

Note, I am not in favor of taking stats in passing drills that do not strongly replicate game conditions. I have a couple of reasons for that. First, the serving is often not very realistic. Sometimes it’s overly aggressive. At other time’s it’s too conservative. Second, drills often don’t have the same cooperative dynamics as game play in terms of passers working out seams and things like that.

Scoring serving and passing also gives you a clear an unambiguous way of ranking players for lineup decisions. You’re less likely to have ruffled feathers when you decide to have Joe hidden in serve receive or Jane serving last in the rotation if the player knows they are not one of the better performers in those skills.

Make Sure It’s Consistent

Since the serve and pass are two sides of the same coin, keeping these serving and passing stats is quite easy. The one requirement, though, is that a consistent metric is used to make scoring judgements. If you don’t have consistent ratings then the averages derived won’t be reliable. It may sound easy to define a 3-pass, but it’s going to vary based on the athleticism of your setter and/or the ability of your middle hitter(s) to stay available for a front quick set. You can be more liberal with your scoring if your setter is quick and your middles mobile, but if you have a more slow-footed setter and/or lumbering middles the range of passes which could reasonably be called a 3 will be narrow.

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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.

    2 replies to "Scoring Serving and Passing Effectiveness"

    • Marek

      Hi John,

      My team just had their first tournament and our passing was on average 1.75 (this is 17U girls club team) So needles to say we need to improve our passing. When I read the above article, I noticed that you state that you are not in favor of taking stats in passing drills that do not strongly replicate game conditions and I understand that, However, apart for obviously playing games/scrimmages, I am curious if you do have any examples of actual practice drills that actually do replicate game conditions ? If so, please do share.


      • John Forman

        Marek – Let me start by saying when I recommend taking stats in games rather than drills, I’m not talking only about 6 v 6. You can take them in any small-sided game that includes serving and passing. The one consideration is making sure things are fairly realistic. For example, having two players passing a full court might not provide the most comparable set of scores, especially if you generally pass with three people in 6 v 6 play.

        As for drills, for me there are two primary conditions. First, there must be more than one passer as a major part of passing is understanding seam responsibilities. Second, the servers must have some skin in the game – meaning they can’t just be back there serving lollipops to help facilitate getting the drill done as quickly as possible (think counting drills), and they can’t just be back their bombing serves with no concern as to errors. Something that addresses both these issues is a servers vs. passers game where both sides are scoring (not just the passers, for example).

        All the above said, you really want you passers to have some secondary responsibility as well (e.g. transition to attack or hitter coverage), This is, after all, what happens in a game. You can add these secondary elements to a drill to make things more realistic overall.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.