How to Return a Spiked Volleyball

Kerri Walsh of the United States digs a volleyball during a match in Beijing, China.
i Lintao Zhang/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

The ultimate goal in volleyball is to hit the ball over the net and within the lines so that the other team cannot return it properly. The best way to do this is to hit the ball hard and angled sharply down into the other team’s court. This is called a spike. If the other team spikes at you, it is very difficult to return. However, if you can return a spiked volleyball, commonly known as digging a spiked volleyball, you can give your team an edge by setting up the opportunity for them to spike the volleyball and win the point. Digging a volleyball takes preparation and practice.

    Step 1

    Get ready before the spike. When the other team has the ball, get into the ready position. Place your feet apart with your knees and waist slightly bent. Put more weight on your toes. Have your hands together with your thumbs side by side and the fingers of one hand loosely overlapping the fingers of the other hand. Keep your elbows slightly bent.

    Step 2

    Get into the best position for a dig when you see one coming on. You'll get a better feel for this with experience. A good place to start is to position yourself so you can see the player attempting to spike the volleyball. You don't want your view to be blocked out by your teammate that is trying to block the spike. If your teammate is between you and the opponent, she will most likely block the ball if it is hit in that direction anyways. If you are playing two-person beach volleyball, position yourself on the largest side of the court and again make sure you can see your opponent.

    Step 3

    Rotate your body to face the attacker when she is about to spike the volleyball, but don’t anticipate where the kill is going and start moving before it is hit. You will have far less range and reaction time than if you just wait until the ball is hit.

    Step 4

    Dig the volleyball. Straighten your elbows, slightly lift your arms, and lean or lunge toward the ball as you make contact with it. How much you lunge at it depends on how far away the ball is from you. The ball is being hit with plenty of power, so you are just trying to direct it in the correct direction as it deflects off your arms. Try to make contact on your forearms on the vertical mid-line of your body. If the ball is far away from you, get as low as you can to get underneath it as you move in to dig it. If you can’t reach it with both arms, use one arm to return it. If it is extremely far away, reach with your hand flat on the ground to get underneath it. This is known as a pancake. If a ball comes too high for you to do a standard dig, hit the ball above your head with your fingertips, similar to how you would set the ball except you keep your fingertips and wrists tensed.

    Step 5

    Transition to offense. Don't stand around and admire your dig. Move immediately into position to prepare to hit the ball if needed.


    • Continually practice your digging technique between games. Start with balls hit slowly at you before advancing to harder hit balls and balls hit farther and farther away from you so you can practice different techniques.


    • One way to practice how to get your lower half set properly when preparing to dig is to jump from a standstill several times. Notice how your feet are apart, your knees are bent and your weight is on the balls of your feet just before you jump. This is how your lower half should be set up when preparing to dig.


    • You can practice hitting the ball with one arm by yourself. All you need is a volleyball and an area where you can bounce it, which you could even do in your own room. Just practice hitting the ball straight up with your weaker arm. Don't do it very hard. The idea is to practice having control of it. You could even try bouncing it up and down on your arm.

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