Beach volleyball drill of the week: Serve tough and win -- even when you're not supposed to win

The first time I touched a beach volleyball was in June of 2014. It was a blind draw fours tournament at a little bar off the Gulf of Mexico named Lagerhead’s. I was, as you might be able to guess, quite awful.

Regardless, a month later, I signed up for my first open tournament with my buddy, Shaun Rannals.

Keep in mind, at the time, an open tournament in the southeast was the equivalent of a AA, at best, in California. There was one legitimately open level team, Matt Blanke and JM Plummer, who remain two of my closest buds to this day. There were some other decent players – a teenage Evan Cory, who is now an athletic freak; JD Hamilton, one of my best friends, who was good but still had a long way to go (he has come that long way and then some); Derek Zimmermann, a former AVP main draw level player; Joey Keener, a ball control wizard and the most charismatic man on the planet.

The point I’m making is that it wasn’t quite as egregious as it sounds, a total novice playing in an open tournament a month or so after picking up a ball. 

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Still: “You’re not good enough.”

Those were the blunt but very true words of Keener, then one of the better players in the southeast who is now one of the most brilliant beach volleyball minds I know. But he didn’t just leave it there, didn’t just tell me I wasn’t good enough and then go find something better to do. My skills were trash, truly. I couldn’t pass or set, and I had no Earthly clue where my swings were going to go.

Keener’s solution?

“Work on your serve.”

The serve is, in my mind, the most important defensive skill in beach volleyball, and the easiest to practice. What Keener told me was magic to my ears. I love practicing by myself. So, similar to what I’d do when working on my shots, I’d set up targets to serve, and hit 50 to 100 jump serves by myself a few days a week.

If you want an excellent how-to on serving, that will have you serving better in one week, check out our course, Power, Accuracy, and Aces: The Serving Master Class


Shaun and I made the finals of that open tournament, losing, of course, to JM and Matt, who could have played with their eyes closed and still beat us. The only reason we made it there – and trust me when I say that this was the only reason – was because of serving. It’s what John Mayer, one of the toughest servers on the AVP when he played, calls a closed loop skill: You control every element of the serve, from start to finish. It’s the only such skill in beach volleyball, our version of a free throw.

There’s no reason to miss a free throw.

There’s no reason not to have a formidable serve.

This Drill of the Week is the simplest drill in the world: Grab a bag of balls and a court, and go serve. Serve from line to line, angle to angle. Serve short, serve deep. Serve floats, serve jumps. Serve hybrids. No matter what level you’re playing at, the serve is the first and best line of defense. Find what serves work for you. Sharpen them. Make them flatter, faster. Serve to space, not to people. 

Serve tough. 

At the highest level, if the other team is in system, you may as well walk back into serve receive, so high is their percentage of a side out. You can’t win without a good serve. It's that simple. 

It’s why you’ll find Reid Priddy with a bag of balls and a court decorated by cones, hammering out jump serves, finding his most efficient serves. It’s no surprise that he made one of the quickest jumps to the top of the AVP after switching from indoor. He won the biggest tournament in the world, the Manhattan Beach Open.

And he won it, primarily, with his serving.

Many of you watched the Doha four-star last week. Ever wonder why Evandro Goncalves has been winning with any partner he plays with for the past five years? 

Because he's been named the Best Serve on the FIVB for the past five years. 

Skill wise, I was not good enough to compete in an open when I did. Keener wasn’t being mean when he told me that; it was the kindest thing he could have done. He pointed me in the only direction I could reasonably go to expedite my process: The service line.

So grab a bag of balls and a court.

Go serve.

Previous Beach Volleyball Drills of the Week

Perfect your shots with the trash can drill

Master the art of setting

Approach on time, every time

Pass better than you ever have in 10 minutes

Get to EVERYTHING -- even trickle serves!


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If you want to get more power, more accuracy, more consistency and MORE ACES as well as the defensive mindset and strategies that win matches, you should sign up for our Beach Volleyball Mastery. We take you through the basic mechanics of serving and then work all the way up to advanced tactics and how to beat certain types of hitters and teams. Keep the other team on their heels and never give them a chance to get a comfortable attack

We also show you how to use the various types of standing float serves as well as jump floats, jump spikes and skyballs! Each serve should be used against certain types of players! Once inside the membership, you’ll be able to unlock “Power, Accuracy and Aces: The Serving Master Class" which will build you an arsenal of more strategic, more accurate, more powerful serves from the ground up. It comes complete with rehab protocol, gym exercises you need to increase arm speed, solo drills you can do at home, partner drills, accuracy exercises and elite throwing and hitting drills.

We also include with 9 more skill courses AND our 60 Day At-Home Max Vertical Jump Training Program.

Once you sign up, you'll be able to watch the in-depth tutorials, film your “before” videos, start and film your at-home drills and begin posting to our Private Facebook Group. Then, our coaches will break down your mechanics and spacing and timing at our weekly online meetings. Yes, that means we look at YOUR videos and we coach YOU!

Facebook Group CTA VolleyChat! Get Better at Beach Volleyball for posts about common questions/ problems >


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