Ask Coach Houser: The Art of Hitting a Volleyball

Coach Houser:
I read an article that you wrote on the arm swing when hitting a volleyball. I have a lot of questions.

(Note:: The coach's questions are in black, my responses are in regular text.)

On the arm swing, you say a player should be keeping their thumbs pointed together. Do you swing both arms up with thumbs pointed together.

I teach my players to keep their hands together (thumbs pointed at each other) until their hands pass their face. Would you like to see a video of it? Anyone who wants to me to attach a video to an email, please email me at

Then you say keep right arm straight and high and use wrist snap and abs to hit ball.

Correct. I don't imagine that hardly any player can keep the arm completely 100 percent straight. But, I teach it this way because after watching thousands of players from 5' to 6'6", this is what allows a girl to hit a volleyball at the best of her ability.

It allows her to reach her potential. All other techniques either (a) make a girl play shorter or (b) forces a girl to be more athletic because it's just plain harder (and takes longer) to master.

I coach a club team and still play and looking for another approach for this problem and would like to try yours. What is your thought on right arm high and then bend at elbow to get hand back.

This is probably what the majority of girls do, even though I don't teach it. When I'm giving lessons, I say, "The two most important aspects of spiking a volleyball are: How high you can reach, hard strong you can snap & crunch. Now what did I not say? Yep, I didn't say power. I also didn't say jump."

Like I said above, it's nearly 100 percent impossible to use no elbow at all. However, young players feel like they HAVE to hit the ball hard! Thus, they utilize the pecs, the elbow, the shoulder, and whatever else they can muster to get that extra power that they think they need.

These girls (and their coaches) don't realize that the three-step spiking progression—assuming a girl knows her three-step spike approach—is (a) ball travels down, (b) location, then (b) velocity. I will tell a girl, "If you hit the ball 60 mph and out, in the net or you are blocked, what have you accomplished? But if you hit the ball 30 and it goes down at the digger's feet, then you have something that coaches can use."

It's nearly impossible to get the "down" requirement any other way than by what I'm describing, unless a girl trusts other methods that, like I said above, take both more years and more athleticism to master.

I have discontinued the bow and arrow teaching.

Less than one percent of bow and arrow girls/women that I've worked with will reach up at maximum height to hit a volleyball. I've met/seen only one exception in 25 years: I worked with a girl in Alaska in 2009 who could bow and arrow, then quickly "slither" her arm up and reach up and snap/crunch. I was amazed, I told her and her coach, and I my never see it again.

Coach Tom Houser is director of STAR Volleyball Camps as well as author of the "I Can't Wait" Drill Collection and Ebooks. For more info on the ebook as well as upcoming camps check out

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