Five Keys to Volleyball Serving Success

In volleyball, the serve is the most critical component of the game. Fail to deliver and a loss is certain, but master the serve and victory is almost undeniable. Whether he/she is a novice or professional athlete, brushing up on the basics of the serve is essential in improving game performance.


To deliver a serve effectively, the fundamentals of the overhand serve should be mastered before moving on to more advanced techniques.

1. Body Position – Feet, hips, and shoulders face the desired direction of the serve. If right handed, the left foot should be slightly in front of the right foot.

2. Ball Position – Place the ball in the non-serving hand at chest height. Elbow should be loose with a slight bend.

3. Arm Position – The elbow and hand of the serving arm should be bent at 90° angle, approximately ear height, with hand open, and wrist locked. Elbow should remain at ear level or above throughout the serve to avoid hitting the net.

4. Ball Toss – The most critical element of the serve is the ball toss. It should be 12″-18″ above the server’s head, and positioned in front of the serving shoulder. Keep the motion simple and reach high.

5. Ball Contact – Strike the ball with the heel of the hand through the middle of the ball. Hand should be open and flat, wrist locked, arm extended, and step forward. Follow through the motion, finishing with the striking hand in line with the body. This guarantees maximum velocity and power.


Poor Toss – Consistency is the most critical aspect of the toss. Maintain the same height and position with each toss, aim for one point on the volleyball, and strike with as much force as possible.

Loose Wrist or Hand – Serving wrist and hand should be stiff when striking the ball.

Lack of Confidence – Practice makes perfect, not only in the physical aspect of the game, but in the mental. Attempt to simulate the pressures of the game during practice with various drills.


Drills are necessary in creating an unwavering serve. Without drills, a reliable performance cannot be achieved. The bottom line is that REPETITION builds muscle memory. Muscle memory leads to CONSISTENCY. Consistency leads to scoring. Consistent scoring equates WINNING.

Beginner Level Serve Drill (Requires 2 Players)

Have one player stand on each side of the court, taking turns serving to one another. Begin at the 10′ line, an adequate point to serve the ball from without overexerting. Gradually progress backwards every 5 serves until eventually arriving behind the baseline. As the skill level improves, begin moving to different areas of the court in order to perfect placement of the serve.

Intermediate Level Serve Drill (Team Drill)

This drill’s purpose is to improve accuracy. Divide team into 2 squads, with 1 on each side of the net. In zone 1 on each side of the net, place a chair. Have 1 player from each squad represented in a chair. The remaining members attempt to place the serve close enough for the individual in the chair to catch the ball in the air. If the ball is caught, the server must run under the net, exchange places with the person in the chair, while that person then joins the team of servers. Continue this sequence, moving the chair to a new zone with the change of persons in the chair.


Like any sport, strategy can make or break the outcome of a volleyball game. When executed properly, strategy can build team confidence and momentum. However before ever drafting these tactics, first familiarize the players with the types of serves. Secondly, educate players on the zones of the court. Lastly, understand the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses – the key to an effective offense.


Volleyball is a physically demanding sport that requires strength, flexibility, and explosive power. In order to prevent injuries and improve overall performance, players should engage in resistance training. This training is vital in preparing athletes for the physical demands experienced during a game. Specific focus should be given to core strength which facilitates balance. Joint flexibility and tendon strength are other areas that require concentration.

Nicole Thomas

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