Hitting or "spiking" a volleyball is a challenging skill, but it’s also a lot of fun. For those reasons, Bishop’s high school coach Tod Mattox likes to make it a big part of volleyball training for every level of athlete. In this video, he offers step-by-step pointers for teaching young volleyball players how to hit the ball, from approach footwork to arm swing.
This video will cover:
- 00:30 – 02:43 Three keys to a good arm swing
- 02:44 – 04:04 Teaching footwork for the final two steps of a hitting approach
- O4:05 – 07:28 Drill: Hitters vs. Defenders (2-step approach)
- 07:29 – 08:00 Drill: Hitters vs. Defenders (4-step approach)
Arm swing technique for spiking the ball
Keywords help athletes grasp proper technique. Mattox uses three keyword phrases for players learning how to spike.
- “Sight 90” describes the location of the hand and arm before the spiking motion begins. For right-handed hitters, the right arm will be above the head and behind the body with the elbow above the ear and bent so the hitting hand is facing straight upward at a 90-degree angle. For left-handed hitters, the left arm is in this position. The non-hitting hand and arm will be in front of the body, pointing upward at the ball. The feet should be pointing toward the right sideline (for a right-handed hitter) but angled slightly toward the net.
- “Elbow Lead” is the next keyword phrase. This indicates that the elbow of the hitting arm should be in front of the player’s lower arm and hitting hand when the forward motion begins. As this motion progresses, the non-hitting hand and arm lowers so it’s in front of the player’s chest.
- “Lift and Whip” is the final arm swing phrase. This describes how players should elevate the hand and the arm before swinging.
Teaching the 2-step approach from “Flamingo” stance
Mattox has teams practice their hitting approaches every day. “The simplest way to teach an approach,” he says, “is [ by focusing] on the last two steps, which are the most important steps.”
Players start in a “Flamingo” stance, weight on the left foot, toes touching the 10-foot line (for right-handed hitters). Their right leg bends at the knee so the right foot is in the air behind the player’s body – like a flamingo.
Next, players do their two steps (called a “step close”) in slow motion, then jump and swing at an imaginary ball. Footwork is right, then left, then a 2-foot jump. By slowing down, players can refine their rhythm and timing.
Finally, players do reps at normal speed. To get maximum elevation, they swing their arms upward in unison before following through with their hitting motion. At this point, it’s still just an air spike. There’s no ball involved.
Emphasize safe and athletic landings – shoulders in front of the hips when the feet hit the ground. Players should end up in a forward-leaning position, not leaning back.
Drill: Defenders vs. Hitters
A team of hitters lines up on one side of the court, near a sideline. A team of defenders lines up on the other side of the court, in the middle, behind the service line.
Instead of having a player set the ball, a coach controls the action by tossing underhand “sets” to the hitters. They take turns doing a 2-step approach from the 10-foot line, then making their approach jump and spiking the ball across the net.
One at a time, defenders come from the front of the line to position themselves in the middle of the court and try to catch the offensive player’s spike. If they make the catch, they get a point.
Defensive players also get a point if the hitter hits the ball into the net.
Teams switch sides when the defensive team earns 15 points.The goal of the offensive team is to keep the game going as long as possible before the defensive team reaches 15.
Learn, then play
To review, a fun and effective way to teach spiking is to focus on:
- 2-step approach
- Arm swing
- Fun hitting drill
This progression helps players develop solid fundamentals, then rewards them with an enjoyable game-like competition. Making this a regular part of your practices will raise your players’ hitting percentages and help them win more matches.