Serving Drills to Train Proper Technique and Eliminate Bad Habits
Serving is typically the skill that a beginner will strive to master so the athlete can proudly say "Look, I can serve over the net!" There are different ways for a coach to teach proper serving technique, however, one fact is certain... repetition on proper serving technique will create good habits, and reception on improper serving technique will create bad habits.
And it is important for coaches to recognize the bad habits, and then help the player learn good habits by following steps when executing proper technique. Here's how JVA member KIVA (Louisville, KY) teaches their athletes to master the skill of serving.
4 Bad Habits of Serving
1. Elbow coming from low to high: reduces power, accuracy, and changes trajectory of the serve
- Want elbow starting high, at height of ear and swing straight thru the ball
- Contact point should be middle of the hand to middle of the ball.
- Players must simulate a bow and arrow movement and must be at ear or pony-tail height before toss.
A. Toss, Set, Trap on the wall.
B. Throw to Wall. One hand for advanced players. Two hands for younger players. Must start with elbow high.
C. X marks the spot. Mark an X on the wall in painters tape or pick one area to throw or serve to five times in a row. Partner stands on the side of the server with cell phone to record all five attempts. Partners watch together before the next partner starts.
With serving technique coaches can video the player using a cell phone in practice, so the player can watch starting position, toss, follow- through, hand contact, transfer of weight, approach for jump float.
The partner can video from behind the server, however when wanting the athlete to look at the starting point of their elbow, make sure to video from the side.
2. Toss is too high, left or right: reduces power, accuracy, and changes trajectory of the serve
- We want to toss the ball an arms length away in front of the hitting shoulder
- Controlling the toss is one of the most important aspects of controlling the serve
- Remind players it is a toss, not a throw. We have actually started to use the word LIFT to describe the toss.
Remind players it is a toss, not a throw. We have actually started to use the word LIFT to describe the toss.
A. Toss and Drop: Using tape to mark the spot where we want the ball to land (which should be in front of the hitting shoulder). Players must toss and let ball drop ten times in a row. The ball must fall straight in front of hitting shoulder an arms length away. Use the spot on floor to measure accuracy and consistency.
Players will want to speed through this, so remind them to take their time and focus on a perfect toss.
3. Closed Hand: reduces power, accuracy, and changes trajectory of the serve
- The more surface of the ball you can cover with your hand, the more control you will have over the ball
- Ask players to focus on the contact point, which is middle of the hand contacts the middle of the ball.
- Ask players to focus their vision, making sure they see when the hand contacts the ball.
A. Fist: player tries to contact ball with a closed fist.
B. Hit the ball: get a feel for a good hand contact with open hand.
C. Hit the ball: progress to hitting the ball to the floor.
- You can have the perfect toss, transfer of weight, and hand contact, but if you don't follow-thru straight, then you can't hit your target.
- Focus on stepping/ transfer of weight straight thru the ball and finishing with palm of hand facing the target. Unlike attacking, no wrist snap.
A. X marks the spot. Mark an X on the wall in painters tape or pick one area to throw or serve to five times in a row. Partner stands behind the server with the cell phone to record all five attempts. Partners watch together before the next partner starts.
B. 10- foot line challenge. Put payers across the net from each other on the 10-foot line to serve at each other with the focus on straight follow thru. Moving one step backwards if they get three in a row. (only the player that served three in a row straight gets to move)
C. Field Goal. Move the antennas to the middle of the net creating a smaller space for players to serve through. Can start with 15 net squares and move to 8 down to 4, and then just leave one antenna up to see if they can hit it. (can also use pool noodles and lace in-between the squares of the net)
Serving is a skill to incorporate into every practice so players can consistently spend time on their serve. Repetition with proper serving technique is the key to any player mastering this skill. Apply these drills and key words and hear those magic words "Look, I made my serve over the net!"
About the Author
Anne Kordes is the Associate Director of KIVA in Louisville, Kentucky. Courtney Robison is the Youth Director.