Volleyball Hitting Tips Part 1
Size matters. Especially in the gym. But as is true in bed, you can still be a great player with an average height.
Height doesn’t matter too much at the high school level. Unless you’re playing against the beach schools out in southern California,blocks in the high school level are low enough for most players to do something with and be successful.
But at the college level and even more so at the professional level, height becomes much more important and frankly, essential for players to even compete. It’s rare in the collegiate level that you’ll see an attacker below 6″3. If you’ve been keeping up with the recent World League 2011 Finals, you’ll see this is true for the top teams, especially for Russia who boasts an average height of 6″7′ for its players! And they just happened to win this year’s World League Finals in case you haven’t heard.
So as we all know, height has a huge impact on your performance. But rest assured, there are ways you can make up for those missing inches and still be an integral part of whatever team you play for. No, this does not mean that if you’re 4″5′ you can dominate in the front row but if you’re a 5″9 player with solid basics, you can work on different aspects of your game to compete with blockers much taller than yourself. In this article, we’ll go over hitting. So let’s take a look at what methods are available to improve your game at the net as an average-height player.
Part I- Be a Smart Hitter
Young players especially at the high school level love to marvel at the guy who can rip the ball at 100mph during warm-ups. But once the game starts, the guy turns out to be a fluke who also gets stuffed the hardest. Sure it’s cool to have that ability to crush the ball on an open net but unless you have an amazing setter who can get you no-block every time there will be at least one blocker in your face 9 times out of 10. So how can you use the block if you’re the average Joe?
You need to be a smart hitter and not try to facial every set you get. Too many players at the high school or club level, and even myself try to unload on every hit. But to be a mature and valued player, you need to hit smart. There are various ways to use the block and score even on a bad set. Let’s dive into it.
1) Look at the Block
It’s inherently hard for small players to look at where the block is placed, mainly because we’re not up there to see it for as long as bigger players are. However, looking at the block prior to hitting the volleyball is crucial and players can improve their hitting percentage dramatically just by taking this simple step.
While going up after the approach, quickly take a look at the block to see 1)how many blockers you have up and 2)where the block is placed. This shouldn’t necessarily require that you turn you head to see the block. God gave you peripheral vision for a reason and that is so that you can avoid being a stupid volleyball player.
Now that you can see the block, check how many blockers you have on you. If you have a single blocker up, feel free to unload on the ball away from the block. Most players love to hit (or only know how to hit) the “angle” shot across the diagonal of the court. But if the blockers know that you are capable of hitting the line shot, they will line up directly across your body to block the line.
In the picture, Russia’s Grankin does a good job of taking away as much of the diagonal and the line as he can. But not every blocker will have the ability to stretch out like Grankin and you will thus have a clear line or angle shot. But even against a good block like the one shown here, you still have enough room to swing hard at the ball without touching the block. So if you see a single blocker up to block the line, swing as hard as you can across the angle to get the kill. Unless the blocker is a superb reader or just a lucky bastard, you should win against a single blocker 9 times out of 10.
But having a single blocker up is a rarity – a luxury for most players. More often than not, hitters have 4 hands trying to block the ball and it’s not always easy to get over it. But as a smart hitter, you can find loopholes to take advantage of every little mistake made by the blocker.
As rare as a single block is, a perfectly well formed double block is also rare. There will often be a “seam”, or a gap, between the two blocks. You can then take advantage of the block by hitting right into the seam. If the seam is big enough, the ball will go through the block and can create some trouble for the defense.
However, even a minor seam can be useful. Even if you see a seam in the block that might not be as big as the ball, you can still swing fast against the seam and the ball will often hit against the blockers’ hands and fall on the other side of the net. You don’t have to blast at the seam when you see one. The key though is to swing before the seam is closed. So when you do see it, swing as fast as you can to get the ball between that little space in the block and you will dramatically increase the chance of getting a kill.
4) The Tool
But what if you do have a perfectly formed double or even a triple block, or a single blocker who can read you like the Oracle? Yes, you can do the Tool-Time.
If you don’t see a seam in the block or find that the blocker is lined up exactly where you planned to hit the ball, you can use the blocker’s hands to tool the ball out of bounds to get a kill. In a single block situation, you want to hit the ball at the blocker’s outside hands. This means that on the outside set, you would aim at the blocker’s right hand and left hand if you’re hitting on the opposite side.
The key is to hit the ball before the blocker’s hands are correctly set to roof your ball straight to the floor. Pros love this hit because when done right, it’s almost unstoppable as the ball often goes out on your side and defense can’t get to the ball before it hits the floor. And don’t forget to shout “tool-time” and taunt the crap out of the blocker. Volleyball is a mind game.
5) The Tight Set
Now, you can be a great hitter with these tools but your setter might kill your chances by giving you a tight set near the net. A lot of young hitters DGAF when stuck in a tight set and blame the setter. This should be the last thing you do unless your setter does this for every perfect pass. So don’t be a sore loser and understand that nobody’s perfect. It’s especially hard to set a money-set on a bad pass. Instead, you can use the tight set to get an easy kill off the block or at least save the ball from getting roofed.
In a tight set, you can try to tool the ball against the blocker’s hands. Once the block is formed, aim for the outside hands to tool the ball out of bounds. Young blockers often get too excited against a tight set and fail to form the block correctly and you can take full advantage of this by tooling the ball to get a kill and embarrass the other team’s blocker.
There is also a tight-set specific tool you can use against any block. When mastered, this technique is very, very effective and can get you a kill a majority of the time. While in the air, press the ball against the hands of the blocker until both you and the blocker are touching the ball. Then swipe the ball against the blocker’s hands towards the antenna. When done right, this is one of the easiest and the most satisfying kill that makes a fool out of any blocker.
Looking at the block is one of the things that can set an attacker apart from the inexperienced amateurs who try to crush every ball to the ground only to get stuffed by unexpected blocks. Start taking a peek at the block and practice using the block to get a kill and you’re on your way to become a valuable hitter that will get more lovin’ from your setters.