After your players have developed their serving accuracy, it’s time to put their skills to work!
Depending on your team’s age and skill level, there are plenty of serving strategies to consider. We’ll review a few basic strategies, plus consider a few more to get your brain muscles flexing!
Serving Strategy #1: Just Get It In
Alright, this isn’t the most advanced strategy. And you don’t necessarily want to TELL your players the name of this strategy. But I like to use this one when I begin teaching my players to serve to zones.
As a player, it can be scary the first time your coach asks you to serve to a zone. Present them the challenge of serving to Zone 6 (the “easiest” zone to hit on the court) in order to build their confidence.
If they miss, it’ll probably still go in and you can try for Zone 6 again next time. If they hit it? They’ll be thrilled that they hit a zone on purpose. This is ideal for teams who are just learning to serve to zones.
Serving Strategy #2: Down the Line/Cross Court
After players are able to aim successfully in practice, and particularly if they have already seen success with Zone 6, try to get them to move to serving Zones 1 and 5.
Assuming your player serves from behind Zone 1, down line will be Zone 5, and cross court will be Zone 1. For younger teams, you can ask them to serve to the half in front of them, or the half across from them. This widens the zone a little in their minds, and therefore makes it easier.
Older teams should work on pushing these serves closer to the perimeter, and deep.
Work on this at practice by laying down cones to show where the ideal serve would land.
Serving Strategy #3: Serve Short
Players (and coaches) tend to get obsessed with serving harder and harder and harder… But sometimes it’s the soft serve that gets your team easy points (and messes with the other teams head).
Serving short is a great strategy for a quite few reasons:
1. It’s usually unexpected.
2. Mixing up hard and soft serves keeps the opposing team guessing and limits their adjustments to a tough server.
3. There’s usually one or two open spots on the court in the front row.
4. You could weaken the opposing team’s attack (more on this later).
5. Servers who struggle to power the ball over can gain confidence if their short serves are framed in a positive light.
If your team struggles to serve short, I’ve found this is often because they think it needs to drop and land in front of the 10’ line. I extend Zones 2, 3, and 4 to about 1-2 feet behind the 10’ line, and this usually makes it SEEM easier to hit.
Serving Strategy #4: Seams
Which is easier, passing a ball that is obviously coming right to you? Or a ball that is between you and another passer?
Getting passers to move to the ball increases the chance you’ll force a passing error. Serve it between two players and communication enters into the mix, making it even more challenging for them to get the ball to target. I recommend this especially against mentally weak teams who argue about responsibility. Sure it’s mean… but it works.
READ MORE: VOLLEYBALL SCRIMMAGE ALTERNATIVE: VEGAS
A “seam” is the area between two passers. More advanced/older teams can try to push the ball away from the libero but still keep it in the seam, leading to additional frustration for the opposing team. But for beginner teams, just try to keep it from going directly to a player.
Serving Strategy #5: Mix It Up
Servers who have mastered a deep topspin, or short float serve (or any other type of serve for that matter) are beneficial to their team and can usually be relied on for a point or two every time they go back to the service line. But players who are able to move the ball around the court? They’re invaluable.
The worst feeling as a coach is watching your team struggle to pass up a serve which is constantly moving around the court. If the serve’s always going deep? Just take a step back! Always short? Move up!
But when you’re facing a server who serves deep cross court, short line, and then starts attacking different seams? You’re left helpless and just hope that she misses her serve for cryin out loud.
Spending time with your players to teach them how to hit different targets on the court will pay you back in easy points later on.
There are many more advanced serving strategies we can discuss in another article in the future. For now, feel free to leave a comment sharing a serving strategy you use with your own team!