The objective of every attack is to get a kill, requiring a combination of finesse and power. This post explains how to get that critical volleyball kill.
A volleyball kill is when the ball finds the floor on the opponent’s side of the net or prevents the opponent returning the ball legally. While getting a kill is the goal of every attacker, simply forcing the opponent to handle difficult balls can result in points for your team. You can attack a ball in many ways and different situations require different techniques. In our book, Volleyball Steps to Success author Becky Schmidt runs through a variety of techniques that will prepare you for every situation.
Technique for the volleyball kill
Schmidt simply describes attacking in volleyball as a three-step process:
- Run to the ball
- Jump to the ball
- Throw your hand through the ball.
That may sound simple, but hitting a moving object as hard as you can while also in the air is a challenging feat. Below, we discuss the techniques that will allow you to attack with consistency and power along with the strategies used to score points.
Your movement to the ball in attacking plays an important role. Your approach develops a horizontal momentum that can be transferred into a strong vertical jump. From there your torso must be in a position to generate torque to facilitate your ability to reach as high as possible when contacting the ball. To learn more about getting an extra spring in your step have a read of How shock plyometrics can make you more explosive.
Four step approach
The four-step approach is the best way to move to the ball for an attack. The following steps describe the four-step approach for a right-handed hitter; a left-handed hitter uses the opposite footwork.
Start a step behind the 10-foot (3 m) line facing the net with your weight on your left foot and at a 45-degree angle to where you intend to hit the ball. Take a small step toward the net with your right foot and begin to lean forward, keeping a slight bend in your knees (figure A).
- Start behind 10-foot (3 m) line
- Face the net
- Put weight on left foot
- Stand at 45-degree angle to where the ball will go
- Take a small step with right foot and lean forward.
Take a larger step with your left foot and bend deeper at the knee and at the waist (figure B). Keep your arms relaxed and by your sides.
- Take a long step with the left foot
- Bend deeper at knees and waist
- Keep arms relaxed by sides.
Leap off your left foot and reach with your right foot so that your third step is long (figure C). When you place your right foot on the ground, point your toe towards the court and parallel to the net. While taking the third step, swing your arms and hands back and lean forward with your shoulders.
- Leap off left foot and take a long step with right foot
- Point right toes toward the court and right foot parallel to net
- Swing arms and hands back
- Lean forward with shoulders.
Rotate your hips and plant your left foot parallel to your right foot about shoulder-width apart (figure D). Draw both arms forward and overhead as you transfer your horizontal momentum up and jump to the ball, use both feet to jump.
- Rotate hips and plant left foot parallel to right foot
- Position feet shoulder-width apart
- Draw arms forward and overhead
- Jump to the ball off two feet.
The first couple steps of your approach should be somewhat slow, but momentum should increase quickly so that the last two steps are fast. This is called a crescendo approach.
Sometimes there is not enough time or space to perform all four steps of this approach pattern. Middle hitters, for instance, might only be able to get two steps off the net before they need to begin their approach. While you may lose momentum, power and reach, you must be able to adapt and put yourself in the best position possible to aggressively attack the ball. If you have time for only two steps, then use the last two steps to plant to the set, jump and swing. If you have time for three, use the last three. Volleyball is a game of opportunity, not perfection and requires players to make constant adjustments in order to get the most out of every rally.
Ideally, your approach will put you in a position to contact the ball as high as possible and have many attacking options. To achieve maximal consistency and power through the arm swing, Schmidt has put together some guidelines.
- After you are in the air and both hands are up to reach for the ball, draw your dominant elbow back and bend the elbow so that your hand comes behind your head (figure E).
- Your elbows should be at the same height with both hands up, making a T at your shoulders. Rotate your hips and shoulders toward the opponent’s court in order to add torque to your attack (figure F).
- Reach your dominant elbow to the ball and extend your hand to follow while letting your nondominant arm fall and bend naturally (you don’t need to focus on this; it should do it on its own). With a large palm, drive your hand through the centre of the ball while at maximum jump height, allowing your wrist to naturally snap over the ball (figure G).
- Let your hand fall back to your hip after you make contact and get into position to play defence.
Draw Elbow Back
- From the last step of approach, swing both arms above head
- Bring dominant elbow back
- Bend dominant elbow so hand goes behind the head
- Position elbows at the same height.
- Rotate hips and shoulders toward the opponent’s court
- Reach dominant elbow to ball
- Extend elbow to throw hand toward the ball.
- Drive palm through the centre of the ball
- Snap wrist naturally over the ball
- Return hand to hip after contact
- Get in defensive position.
You have to reach out, forward, or behind yourself to make good contact with the ball.
Adjust the steps of the approach to put yourself in position to get maximal reach.
Learn more about attacking play as well as serving, defending and match play in our book Volleyball Steps to Success.
If you love your volleyball and want to develop and learn more about the game take a look at:
- The Volleyball Coaching Bible, Volume II
- Complete Conditioning for Volleyball
- Thinking Volleyball
- The Volleyball Drill Book
- Volleyball Systems & Strategies