The three main types of serves used in competitive volleyball is the Floater, Topspin, and Jump Serve. Each one has parts that make it particularly hard to return if executed correctly. But just as important as executing great serves is returning your opponent’s serves. It is important to get behind each serve and square your body with the ball to deliver a pass.
A float serve is one that has no movement causing the ball to move very unpredictably. The knuckling action of the ball can cause it to move left, right, or even drop instantly. The way you hit the ball is how you get this action on the ball. To hit a floater, you toss the ball up normally and make contact with it a little in front of your body. You strike the ball right behind the center of the ball but do not follow through all the way. Do so with an open hand and fingers spread, and do not snap your wrist. It will feel like you have to stop your arm shortly after hitting the ball, and this is the right feeling to ensure there is no spin.
The key to returning a float serve is attacking the ball. Once the ball gets over the net, it could move left, right, or drop straight to the floor. You must attack the ball at its high point before it makes a sudden movement. Doing this, will allow you to deliver a good pass to your setter, and set up your play to win the point.
A topspin serve is the most common competitive serve as it is delivered with a good pace and spin. Like in the name, the topspin of the ball will cause it to dive down towards the ground quickly once it clears the net. This serve can be very effective aimed at the back. The quickness of the dive can make the defense think the ball is going out but actually, it lands just in bounds. How to execute this serve is a little different than the floater. You toss the ball a little higher than normal and get directly below the ball. You will make contact with the ball a little below the center of the ball and snap your wrist like you are trying to wrap your wrist around the ball. This follow-through and snap will create the spin and pace of the ball to ensure a great topspin serve.
To return a topspin serve you must start by positioning yourself behind and under the ball. The pace and spin of this serve will create the force needed to pass the ball to your teammate so minimal arm movement is required. And the topspin serve is very straight so it should be easy to get behind. Once you have moved behind the ball, make sure to get down in a good passing position and relax your arms to deliver a soft pass. If you jump, swing, or do not get behind it and just reach out your arms, there is a good chance you will shank the pass, hit it to the ceiling, or hit it out of bounds.
Jump serves are the most advanced serve and should only be used by those who are very consistent with their standing serves. When jump serving, you can either deliver a floater or topspin serve. The benefit of doing a jump serve though is more pace behind the ball and a better angle for the ball to come down over the net. The most important part to execute a good jump serve is the toss. You cannot be consistent with your jump serve unless you are consistent with this toss. You will toss the ball significantly higher than the other serves as you need time to meet the ball. Once you toss the ball, you will take a left, right, left, just like you are hitting. Then you jump and make contact with the ball with the respective form for whichever serve you choose to deliver.
Returning a jump serve is the same as returning a floater or topspin depending on which variance they use. The difference is the time you have to get behind the ball. It is also more important to get under the ball and not add any force in your pass. You need to relax and almost absorb the ball as the pace of the ball itself will be enough to deliver a good pass to your setter. Pull the pass back towards your hips when you make contact with the ball, and this will give you good backspin on the ball and also let you control the passes pace and direction.
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