How to Serve Better in Volleyball

Serving is how the game begins, and it’s always good to start with a bang.

It’s the only moment in the game where the player has complete control of the ball. Some leagues require you to serve within 8 seconds of the start of the game.

There are four main types of serves. Most amateur players use the underhand serve, but some professionals master the underhand serve as well. The three different kinds of overhand serves commonly used by professionals are the Topspin, the Floater serve and the Jump serve.

Underhand Serve

The most common serve for beginners is an underhand serve. It doesn’t involve a toss and therefore it’s easier to control.

Players can serve either underhand or overhand in professional play, and in fact a Brazilian player Renan Dal Zotto made the underhand serve popular when international audiences watched him play in the 1984 Olympics.

The steps of a good serve are basic: Stand with you’re your lead foot forward, rock back and forth, swing your arm under and hit the ball with the open-ended base of your hand.

The server must stand behind the end line at the back of the court, and remain there until having contact with the ball. The ball has to land over the net.

Olympic gold medalist and coach Misty May’s best advice about serving is to keep a flat hand, not cupped.

Beach Volleyball Serve
  • Start with one foot forward in a comfortable stance spaced about shoulder-length apart.
  • If right handed, hold the ball in the left hand just below the waist and in front of your right hip.
  • Lean shoulders and upper body slightly forward.
  • Focus on the contact point of the ball.
  • Swing the right arm back and then forward, like a pendulum.
  • Hit the ball with the flat part of the fist and the palm area.
  • Transfer weight to the front foot as the arm swings and contacts the ball.
  • Hit the ball just below the center of the ball.

Common mistakes: A swing without power will not make it over the net. Aim high at an object on the ceiling above the next and that will help you get it over.

Overhand Jump Serve

A toss is important in learning how to control an overhand shot. Learning how to be consistent with your toss makes it easier to contact the ball.

Follow through with your swing in both over and underhand serves.

  • Start with weight on your back foot.
  • The left hand holds the ball in front of your right side, with arm extended.
  • Your right should is back and ready to draw back.
  • Toss the ball in front of your right side.
  • Jump forward and hit, and follow through with the swing.

The Float Serve

In this serve, contact is made in front of the right side of the body. The hand hits solidly with the full hand in the middle of the ball creating no spin.

It is a bit like a knuckle ball thrown by a baseball pitcher. It is a tough serve to meet because it has an inconsistent trajectory.

The Topspin Serve

In this serve, you step under the toss and swing up, hitting under the ball. You toss the ball higher than you do with a Floater.

This serve is more predictable because it’s easier to control the trajectory of the ball.

“Serving is a most important skill and you will be a valuable member of your team if you work on your serve,” said professional volleyball player James Martin Natividad from the Philippines who is on Sportamix.