Consider the implications of a volleyball serve coming your way at 40+ mph.

While I was at USC women’s team practice back in 2013 they worked on hard serves. Their objective was to reach that speed, if not higher. Yes, they really did have a radar gun out to measure. 🙂

Consider just how quick a serve at that pace goes from the server’s hand to the passer. For reference, 40 mph is nearly 59 feet per second, or a little under 18 meters per second. That’s not far short of the length of the volleyball court. So passers have less than a second to react and get themselves and their platform in the right position. Quite a few of the serves I saw were actually faster than 40 mph (mainly from the jump servers – both float and topspin). Even the weaker serves were well into the 30s. Of course the top men’s jump servers reach spike level speeds – or higher.

The ball only needs to cover about 50 feet (14 or so meters) to reach the passer from serve contact. That’s not very far and a good serve has both the tempo to get the ball there quickly and movement to force passers to change position. This is why teaching good initial position and preparedness, efficient movement, and solid platform mechanics is so important for good serve receive passing – not to mention proper passer communication.

Coach Gimmillaro at Long Beach State focused a great deal on the mechanics of passing (and digging). He was a stickler for early platform preparation, moving in specific ways (run forward, shuffle back and to the side), and keeping stable strong body posture completely through the playing of the ball. Not surprisingly, his team is traditionally good in serve receive and defensive ball control.

John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Assistant Volleyball Coach at Radford University, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His previous 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. Learn more on his bio page.

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