Girls, have you ever played in a volleyball game where the pace seemed so fast that everything just seemed to be BEYOND your control? Many times you play in a volleyball game that seems to control you, when in reality there are several things you can do to change or control the game so that YOU can speed up or slow down the pace or the rhythm of the match.
Here are my top four suggestions:
Play the Ball Low
Give yourself time to play the volleyball perfectly especially on a free ball or down ball by playing the ball in a low but balanced position. Don't stand up to pass the ball by taking the ball up high when it's at your shoulder level. Use the few more inches it takes for the volleyball to descend to get yourself in a good low position to deliver a perfectly passed ball to the target.
Those few seconds you allow for the ball to descend to a lower point before you pass it, not only gives you time to gain more control of the pass, but it also buys time for your hitters to get back in transition. This move will also allow you to control the speed of your next play, thus affecting the tempo of the volleyball match. Here's how:
Speed Up or Slow Down Your Pass
Hours of serve/receive practice in the gym should get you to automatically pass the ball with a medium arc of about four to six feet above the height of the volleyball net right to the setters hands.
You can control the speed of your team's attack by raising your pass/serve receive so that the ball has a much higher arc, reaching eight to 10 feet in the air, so you are slowing down the pace of the game.
You would probably do this when the opposing team is running a faster offense and it feels like your team just isn't establishing its own team rhythm. Slow everything down, give the setters time to think, the hitters time to see the volleyball court, and your teammates time to refocus on concentrating on the basics in order to get back into the game.
Or, you can speed up your pass by purposefully passing a ball that is right at one or two feet above the height of the volleyball net with some pace on it. You should practice this with your team attack and transition drill practices. On free balls, you can purposefully speed up your free ball or even down ball passes, without losing precision and control in order to run a faster paced attack. You can make this a set play that can be called by the setter when she sees an easy high free or down ball coming over, she calls this play so the receivers know that she will be in position to set and the middle blockers will be ready to speed up their approach for this fast attack play.
Walk Back To Serve
This suggestion may seem a little crafty but after a long rally you may consider walking back to or taking your time getting back to the server's position. Whenever you run back to serve you are speeding up the play of the game. Sometimes it may be necessary to give your front row hitters a breather or give your middles a chance to catch their breath, so without risking a yellow card or any delay of game warnings you can always "tie your shoe" just before or as you are heading back to serve. The referee will have to wait for you to finish.
Non-Setters Should Set High
In a perfect game the setter should touch every second ball but since when does this happen? If you are the right side hitter or an off side hitter you'll find that you will have to step in to set the ball several times during a volleyball match.
In order to maintain control of the pace of the game make sure you get your knees, hips, shoulders and forehead lined up underneath the ball to get into a nice low position to set a nice high ball to either outside hitter.
Don't risk increasing the pace of the game by shooting a fast set to the outside which neither you nor the hitter you are setting have practiced. Establish your own team's rhythm and maintain control by setting high to the outside and letting your hitter do the rest.
Now go out and control the pace of your game. Remember the ball is in your hands.
April Chapple is a freelance volleyball writer and columnist for USA Volleyball magazine. She is also the author of numerous online articles on playing and coaching elite volleyball as well as the upcoming ebook "How to Stop Serving Like a Wimp." She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.