Jousting in Volleyball

You know when those guys on horses are charging at each other with those big sticks and try to knock the other one off the horse first? Well, we do that in volleyball too!

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Of course, there are no horses involved, and we really shouldn’t be making contact with the other player. Jousting in volleyball is when a ball is in that weird gray zone of “is it coming over the net, is it not?” 

Ideally in his situation, your player will jump up to hit/block the ball instead of just stand there are and watch it drop (even if it’s on the other side of the net! We still want to be ready).

And I pity the fool who stands and watches while the opposing team goes up to smack it, almost certainly winning the point unchallenged.

Let’s breakdown a joust, shall we?


Jousting in volleyball is when the ball is falling somewhere near the centerline of the net, and both teams are able to make a play on it. It needs to be somewhere on the net, since *we are not able to reach across the net to play a ball (*simplified rules).

Often, middles are the ones who need to know how to joust, but all front row players will benefit from learning this skill.

In a joust, players from both sides will jump up and try to make a winning play on the ball.


There are two ways to win a joust. And yes, short people can win! Do not give your little players an excuse. 

#1: Contact the ball first, and redirect it away from the opposing player.

Tall players or players with a high reach should attempt to use this method. If they can be the first to make contact with the ball and redirect it away from the opposing team, they will often win the joust. 

For players who have less body control, I would suggest going up and trying to redirect the ball by swiping, rather than going up and trying to smash it. (But if it feels right, swing away!)

#2: Contact the ball second, by reading the opposing player and blocking their attempt back over them.

This is the method I suggest to my little ones. OR if the ball is mostly on the opposing side, this is probably your safest bet to win and stay out of the net.

This is more challenging, of course. You need to read the direction of the ball, read the hitter, and make a judgement about the direction they are most likely going to try to take the ball. But with practice, this can be the most effective!

Pushing the ball back over the opposing team’s hitter will often result in a point for your team, as this is very hard to dig up and an untrained front row player will swing behind them to pop the ball up, interfering with defensive players trying to pass the ball.


Jousting is one of those skills that you teach once or twice, and it makes a sudden impact to how your players understand the game. Although the time to teach your players often does not feel productive, it is a necessary skill that they need to know!

When I’m teaching jousting, I have my players get into groups of three if possible, although a group of four can work too! 

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There will be two jousters, a tosser/shagger, and an additional shagger if using a group of four. 

You can fit three groups on a net, but it is *VERY IMPORTANT* to discuss safety regarding a loose ball rolling under everyone’s feet. If your team is not capable of freezing when you yell “BALL!” then I suggest you skip this drill, or use less groups per net.

  • Two players face each other on opposite sides of the net.

  • Hands are up and ready for blocking position.

  • A third player is standing off to the side with a ball (the tosser).

  • The tosser will toss a high ball (slightly above the height of the antenna) to the middle of the net as best as they can.

  • Toss five from one side of the net, five from the other (the ball tends to float, so this gives each player a better chance).

  • Rotate! 

  • A fourth player can serve as a shagger if needed. Give them a ball to throw to the tosser if a blocked ball runs wild. That way you do not waste as much time shagging.

Make sure to follow this up with a drill which emphasizes jousting so the players can put their new skill into practice!

Before I let you go, I want to emphasize safety one last time. I busted an ankle in the middle of my junior season and it was one of my most sad moments in my volleyball career! Teach your team to stop moving/playing no matter WHAT is going on when they hear someone yell “ball!” You don’t want one to roll under them and have them land on it. 

OK, mom moment over. I hope you enjoy teaching your team to joust! It always elevates the level at which my team plays at, and I hope it will do the same for you too!