No matter which team sport you play, everyone wants to score. If you’re a basketball player, you want to put the ball through the hoop. If you play soccer, you want to knock the ball into the net. In volleyball, you want to leap high and spike the ball and put a point on the board for your team. Successful volleyball teams only achieve those kills after one or two good passes. You can be valuable to your team, whether you spike the ball or not, by learning the types of passes and practicing the required techniques.
When the ball flies over the net to your side of the court, your team’s first pass is typically an underhand pass. This pass may set up a front row player for a kill, but more likely you’ll try to direct your pass to the setter. Ideally, you’ll hit the ball high enough that your setter can play the ball while it’s over her head. This also gives her time to decide where to pass the ball. Of course, if the opponent’s shot comes screaming low over the net, you may have to go into survival mode and dig for the ball, doing whatever is necessary to keep it off the floor.
Underhand Pass Technique
Unless you’re near the net blocking, when the opponents have the ball prepare yourself by setting your feet shoulder-width apart, with your shoulders above your knees, your knees flexed a bit and your weight on the balls of your feet. Extend your arms forward but keep your hands apart. If the ball comes your way, put your hands together by making a fist with one hand, then cup your fist with the other hand. Extend your arms so your forearms are parallel. Shift your weight forward by bending from the waist and set your right foot a bit forward of the left. Flex your knees as the ball approaches, then hit the ball with both of your lower forearms simultaneously, pushing up with your legs to provide power to your pass.
Setters typically use an overhead pass to position your best attacker for a kill. The setter often passes to a spot, rather than directly to the attacker. The set must be high enough to give her teammate time to drive to the net and gain momentum that she’ll unleash into her spike. The target should be close, but not directly on top of, the net, giving the attacker enough room to direct the ball past any blockers. If the first pass was poor, or if a desperate teammate simply dug the ball up, you may have to remain in survival mode and lob a high pass -- to a front row player, if possible -- trusting one of your teammates to bang it over the net.
Overhead Pass Technique
Set yourself with your feet shoulder-width apart and one foot slightly forward of the other. Flex your knees a bit, but not as much as the underhand passer, and set most of your weight over your heels. Square your body to your target as you place your hands in front of you and over your head. Touch the tips of your thumbs and index fingers together and spread your remaining fingers wide. Play the ball against your thumbs and the pads of your other fingers when the ball is about 3 to 5 inches above your eyes. Push up with your legs and arms as you hit the ball -- without snapping your wrists -- and follow through toward the target.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.