First Touches: Keys to Success in Volleyball!

by Orest Stanko

If you ask any athlete that I have coached to date, “…what is Orest’s singular preoccupation as a volleyball coach?” he/she will undoubtedly remark, “…first touches”.

Simply put, serving and service receive are the foundations of winning volleyball, regardless of the level that you’re playing. If you serve ineffectively and/or have poor serve receive, you will not be successful whether you’re playing indoor or beach. It’s that simple!

I like to frame it in more theatrical terms. When the opposition is serving your team’s first touch is the pass, and your objective is to create “serenity“. Conversely, when your team is serving, your objective is to create “chaos“.

A by-product of a perfect pass is a calm environment. A perfect pass enables the setter to assume an ideal position at the net from which he/she can take advantage of multiple options. At an elite level this usually means four (4) offensive possibilities whether the setter is front-row or penetrating. Everyone can calmly assume their on-court responsibilities. Serenity! On the beach it can even be more dramatic. A great pass can make a good setter a great setter. Well, maybe not great, but certainly better.

On the other hand, a tough serve that causes a poor pass generates “chaos”. Offensive options are limited and/or predictable which enables a more effective opposing block/defence alignment; outside hitters see their setter struggling to get to a poor pass and they become tense and uncertain regarding what kind of set they can expect; players notice the coach rolling his/her eyes; Chaos!

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So what’s the message? Service receive and serving need attention during your practices and especially at the younger, developmental stages. More importantly, you need to be able to quantify whether or not the team is serving or passing well regardless of the age or level. Too often in circumstances when I ask a coach whose team lost, “where did you encounter difficulty?” and the response is, “our serving and passing was poor”, I discover that there is no statistical evidence to substantiate the assessment. Keeping track of serve and service receive efficiency and especially in practices provides important, irrefutable data that will enable you to: set your objectives and prepare your practices based on empirical evidence; challenge your athletes and create a more competitive environment in practice sessions; prepare the team to compete by practicing the way you want to play; achieve “Serenity” and create “Chaos“.

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