Hitting the ball successfully in volleyball has as much to do with your footwork as it does with your arm swing. In this video, former NCAA Player of the Year, Cary Wendell Wallin, covers the basics of a three-step hitting approach for right- and left-handed hitters. She includes a simple volleyball drill to reinforce good technique.
The video will cover:
- (00:23-00:45) Approach drills you can do at home
- (00:59-01:14) 3-step approach vs. 4-step approach
- (O1:15-02:22) Footwork: left foot, right foot, left foot
- (02:23-02:41) Clapping to learn footwork rhythm
- (02:50-04:35) How your arms help your approach jump
- (04:36-04:52) Hitting approach drill
The 3-Step volleyball hitting approach
Wallin favors the 3-step approach over the 4-step approach for young volleyball players because sets usually aren’t very high at that level of the game, so it’s difficult to fit in four steps before a player can contact the ball.
Start with your weight over the forward foot
- For a right-handed player, the right foot will be the forward foot; for a left-handed player, the left foot will be the forward foot.
- Leaning forward over the front foot is important. When players stand too straight up or lean back, they often fall into the bad habit of only taking a two-step approach. The three-step hitting approach creates much more momentum, leading to a higher jump.
- While leaning forward, players should have their arms dangling in front of them, relaxed.
Take your 3 approach steps
- The first step is a big step, taken with the left foot (for right-handers).
- The second and third steps are in quick succession – right, then left for right-handers; left, then right for left-handers. Wallin refers to this part of the approach as the “double step.” Just boom, boom.
- That third step, which is the final step, is known as “the break step.” When the player's foot hits the floor on the third step, it should be slightly pigeon-toed. This helps stop the forward motion and transfers momentum upward, increasing jump height.
Teach the rhythm of the footwork by clapping
- A teaching strategy that Wallin finds effective is having players clap to the rhythm of the steps. As she demonstrates in the video, there’s a pause after the first clap. Then, the second and third clap come in quick succession. Clap … clap, clap.
- A key point to emphasize is that the second and third steps are closely connected – “like a cha-cha dance step,” Wallin says.
Good arm technique improves the volleyball hitting approach
- Arm movement is an essential part of executing a good 3-step approach.
- Arms should be loose and pointed down to the floor before the player takes the first step.
- As the player takes the first BIG step, both arms should swing forward … but not too high. Swinging them too high can make the hitter late to the ball.
- On the second step, the arms swing backward in unison until they are completely behind the body.
- On the third step, the arms swing upward. The non-hitting hand extends straight, pointing toward the ball. The hitting arm is back, bent at the elbow in a bow-and-arrow shape.
How to practice the 3-step approach
Working on the 3-step approach is fairly simple. It can be done anywhere, anytime. Wallin has her players practice it frequently at clinics or in training sessions by standing behind the 10-foot line and taking repeated approaches toward the net.
“[This allows them to] review it without having to worry about timing or where the ball is or where the set is going,” Wallin says. “I also tell them to do it at home. On their way to brush their teeth or do their homework; they can be doing approaches around the house. It’s going to help you jump higher, and it’s going to help you be more natural at it and not have to think about it. Approach homework is a good way for girls to get a lot better at volleyball.”