Teaching young volleyball players the forearm pass is a top priority for all coaches. As three-time U.S. Olympic coach Terry Liskevych points out, no skill in the game has a greater impact on a team’s success.
“In my 50-plus years coaching, the importance of passing has never changed,” Liskevych says. “Passing determines the level you play on. Without the pass, nothing else can happen in the sequence of the game.”
A key to helping young players solidify their passing technique is getting them lots and lots of touches. That’s the primary purpose of this passing drill shared by Coach Cary Wendell Wallin, a former member of the U.S. national team who was the NCAA Player of the Year during her collegiate career at Stanford. This drill is time-efficient — tons of reps in just a few minutes — and it also teaches the valuable volleyball training skill of underhand tossing, which is used in many partner drills.
Three points of emphasis in this drill are:
- Forming a solid passing platform with your forearms
- Fundamental passing footwork
- Learning to handle serves that aren’t hit directly at you
Volleyball passing fundamentals
A common cue phrase in volleyball is “feet to the ball,” and it applies to passing. Moving your feet gives players the best possible chance to take the ball on or near their midline, which increases the likelihood of a good pass.
Another important aspect of consistent passing, according to U.S. Youth National Team Coach Jim Stone, is knowing when to form your platform.
Drill: passing from a toss — practicing short and deep balls
Start the drill by pairing each player with a partner. One player stands at the net and faces their own service line. The other player stands a few feet behind the 10-foot line, facing the player at the net.
The net player delivers underhand tosses to the passer, who moves her feet to the ball, creates a platform and contacts the ball with forearms together. The passer’s target is the tosser. After 10 reps, the players switch roles.
A good progression is to make the drill more game-like by having the tosser toss both short and deep. This requires the passer to be ready to move, then react quickly to the ball’s location.
Keys to passing short and deep serves
Wallin highlights the following keys to passing serves of different depths:
- Drop the lower part of your body closer to the floor.
- Raise your platform.
- Take shuffle steps to go backward.
- Hunch the shoulders and take the ball with a lower platform angle than when passing a short ball.
- If you can’t get back far enough to pass the ball with your platform at the normal height, pivot your body and create a platform to the side.
Work on passing at every practice
With its progression from simple, underhand tosses to more challenging short and deep passes, this drill is great for training technique and it can easily be done for a few minutes at every practice.
As players get more advanced, they will need to pass the ball more against live serves in training and less in a controlled drill like this. But early on, this partner passing drill will teach young players the necessary fundamentals to deliver a good ball to the setter.