USA Youth National Team Coach Jim Stone shares a great volleyball serving tip on why serving the seams is a more effective strategy than serving one of the six court zones. As he explains, when servers can consistently place the ball in the seams between the passers or between a passer and the sideline, they put more pressure on the serve receive team and create more point-scoring opportunities.
Traditional volleyball serving zones
Let’s start by examining the layout of a volleyball court. On each side of the net, there are six zones, three in the front row and three in the back row. Here are the specific locations:
- Zone 1 – right back
- Zone 2 – right front
- Zone 3 – middle front
- Zone 4 – left front
- Zone 5 – left back
- Zone 6 – middle back
Serving to zones is a common strategy
Coaches often instruct players to serve a particular zone to take advantage of a weaker passer. However, when there’s a passer in the targeted zone, a serve that goes directly into that zone doesn’t really stress the serve receive team, Stone says. “Most passers can deal with a ball that’s right at them.” This is true for a jump serve or a float serve.
Serving seams works better than serving zones
Stone suggests that servers learn to attack the seams to make it tougher on the serve receive team. “If (the server) can get people moving sideways to pass,” he says, “they’ve done their job.”
As an example, let’s consider a team with three passers, a common serve-receive formation. If the server is targeting the seams, he/she would have four to choose from:
- Between the left back passer and the left sideline.
- Between the left back passer and the middle back passer.
- Between the middle back passer and the right back passer.
- Between the right back passer and the right sideline.
Side-to-side movement isn’t the only way to stress a passer. Another good volleyball serving tip is to vary the depth of the serve. If you can combine short or deep location with a serve that’s also in the seam, it’s particularly effective.
Short serves in the seam force the passer to move into the front row, which can cause crowding and confusion with players who are already in that area. By serving deep, you often force the passer to take the ball up high, which is more likely to result in a shank or a below-average pass.
Try this: Seam serving for points
Accuracy for seam serving can be improved using this drill from Ray Bechard, head volleyball coach at the University of Kansas.
The goal is to serve to one side of the target player, not directly at the player. Points are awarded for each serve that is away from the passer. This drill is competitive and fun and a good way for players to get seam serving reps.
Target seams, challenge your opponent
Serving is often the single biggest difference-maker between victory and defeat. Once your players master the fundamentals of a float serve, help them turn their serves into even bigger weapons by teaching them how seam serves make a passer’s job a lot more difficult.