Top 10 Volleyball Skills

Volleyball is more than 100 years old and played professionally on five continents in 221 countries. 

Only four years after basketball was invented, teacher William G. Morgan invented the game in 1895 to be a less aggressive game for older folks at the YMCA.

He meant it to be a combination of tennis, basketball, baseball and handball. Originally, the nets were low, at only 6-foot 6-inches tall, and people were shorter a century ago.

Truly an international sport from the beginning, the Philippines mastered the spike in 1916, the first world championship was held in Czechoslovakia in 1969, and it first became an Olympic event in Tokyo in 1964.

Beach volleyball became the rage in 1930, and two-person beach volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1996.

James Natividad Volleyball Player

“It is a fun sport, but you have to have the proper mindset to play good volleyball,” said professional volleyball player James Martin Natividad from the Philippines who has an athlete’s profile on Sportamix.

At 21 years old, Natividad is a medalist in both indoor and outdoor volleyball, and said, “It is always important to get a good coach and train well, and train real hard. You have to know many different skills.”

As simple as the game seems to be, there are at least 10 basic moves you need to master to become a good volleyball player

1. Serving

The serve starts the game, and is usually done underhanded for beginners. An overhand serve can have a topspin that throws off opponents.

Official rules say the players have only 8 seconds to serve the ball after the game begins. Also, your foot can’t go over the serving line before you hit the ball.

Beach volleyball player Alejandra Simon  getting ready to bump

2. Bumping

Some coaches consider a controlled bump as the most important skill of the game. It’s passing the ball by hitting it with your forearm, underhanded. Sometimes it’s difficult to control a bump, but it can be used effectively with practice.

3. Volleying

Volleying means contacting the ball, usually overhead, with your thumbs held upright together and your index fingers together in a diamond shape. It’s not usually mastered by beginning players because it’s so easy to get a violation if you use the wrong technique, or handle the ball incorrectly.

A volley is not only used on the same side of the net, it’s used to get the ball over the net.

4. Attacking

An attack is a basic way of getting a ball over the net to an opponent. A spike is a more direct, faster way of performing an attack. The main goal of a successful attack is placing the ball on the other side in an area that is too hard you’re your opponent to get.

5. Spiking

A one-armed overhead swing sending the ball over the net with a lot of power is called a spike. It is often one of the most dramatic plays in volleyball. People who are good at spiking  are physically strong and have high jumps.

Volleyball skill illustration

6. Blocking

Coaches don’t often dwell too much on blocking as a skill for their volleyball players. If you’re not good with blocking, it’s not going hurt the team.

A block is a defensive move, when a player jumps up at the same time at the net and stops a ball from landing on their side of the net.

No part of the body can touch the net, and your feet must remain on your team’s side of the center line.

7. Rolling

Another form of attacking is a rolling shot. Instead of hitting the ball as hard as possible as in a spike, this hit places the ball more strategically. The swing is a bit slower, and it can be done by jumping at the same time, or with the player’s feet on the ground.

Generally there is a spin on the ball because the contact is with a slightly open palm. This can be one of the most strategic offensive moves.

8. Diving

This is a move that can hurt if done incorrectly. It involves crashing to the floor in an last-ditch attempt to keep the ball from touching the floor on your side.

The best way to keep yourself from injury is to break your fall with the side of your knee and then side of your hip and then chest. Avoid having all parts of your body hitting at the same time. And, make contact with the ball before you hit the floor.

9. Digging

A dig is a way to keep your team in the game by sending the ball to the other side of the net. It means that you are passing the ball after a hard-driven ball is hit to you by the other team.

10. Setting

Usually the second hit on your side, the set is a specialized type of volley that allows your teammate to spike the ball across the net.

This is different from a regular volley because you are setting up and aiming the ball in a specific way and hitting it high enough so that the next hitter has enough time to make their spike successful.

The best kind of set is about a foot away from the net, giving the hitter enough space to swing their whole arm through with the hit.

Watch some of the best plays, and some of the funniest volleys in the game’s history in the compilation of clips below.