How to Teach Young Players to Hit a Volleyball

Dear Coach Houser:

OK, I've watched the video of your stepdaughter hitting about a zillion times and I think I'm beginning to get it. Quick question: we run a volleyball camp for 9-12 year olds who haven't played at all or very much. Would you teach this approach to that age group or try the bow/arrow and see what happens?

It seems to me that hitting is something that either a girl can do it, no matter what technique is used, or one can't. I've always told my players that a slightly "unorthodox" method is perfectly acceptable as long as the player can repeat it consistently, doesn't present any injury possibilities and most importantly produces results.

When teaching your rookie campers how to hit a volleyball I suggest you do the following:

First: I would make 100 percent sure they know the 3-step approach and the arm swing. That's a basic, absolute MUST learn.

Without this, your players will (a) look like a goof to anyone who knows anything about volleyball; (b) make their coaches look like goofs for either not knowing it or not requiring their players to learn it; and/or (c) never reach their spiking potential.

Second: As for the reaching/snapping, that will be taughter directly after the girls master the footwork & arm swing.

I recommend you ditch the bow-and-arrow.

Power of the Short-Toss

Before I write more about hitting a volleyball, do you and/or your assistants know how to "short-toss"? Short-toss is a coach standing at the net, with a ball in his hands.

The spiker does her spike approach, and when she jumps, the coach tosses the ball onto her hand. For the player, it's like hitting a quick set. .

The advantage: It gives the hitter the ability to give complete concentration to her spike approach. It's great for her to know that the ball will only be hit well if the coach tosses it perfectly onto her hand.

She may swing and miss. Fine. That will be coach's fault. She is to give her spike approach her complete attention.

Great for Warming Up

Many coaches short-toss as a pre-match warmup drill. I have never done it there, but will short-toss any other time, especially at my club team's practice, when someone just isn't getting what I'm trying to explain—for example, hitting the line.

So, with short-toss, I can explain it, and my players can try to execute the skill I'm describing without having to think about pounding a volleyball or timing the set. Yes, hitting hard is often cooler than learning a certain hitting skill.

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