The best defense in beach volleyball, according to Reid Priddy, a man who knows an awful lot about defense in beach volleyball, is not actual defense. It has nothing to do with running down line shots or how to properly dig a hard driven. It isn’t about positioning or footwork. It isn’t about blocking, where to put your hands and how to time it.
The best defense in beach volleyball is the jump serve.
At any level of the game, if the opposing team is in system -- in system meaning: They’ve made a pass to where they want, and can run the set they want -- they have a significantly higher side out percentage than if they are not. But if they’re out of system? If the serve has forced them to pass behind them or to the left or right?
Now we’re talking.
A good float serve can do the trick, yes. But if any of you were watching the most recent Manhattan Beach Open, won by Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb -- and previously won by Reid Priddy and Trevor Crabb -- you’ll have noticed the deadliest of weapons was Bourne’s jump serve. It was Bourne’s jump serve that proved to be a nightmare against Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb in the quarterfinals. And it was his jump serve again that led to the demise of Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger in the finals.
The jump serve is one of the most formidable weapons in the game of beach volleyball, not only the best defensive tool a team can have, but also the first line of defense. You don’t need to know how to dig a line shot if you’re picking up aces, do you? You don’t need to block a ball if the other team is so out of system they can’t swing.
Below are three easy steps you can take to develop one of the best jump serves on the beach.
The most important element of the jump serve is the toss. It’s everything. You’re just setting yourself. It’s nothing more complicated than that. And yet, the most common mistake of jump servers is that they do not give themselves the proper toss. Sometimes this is too low. Sometimes it’s too far inside, sometimes too far outside. Which is why this first drill is all about the toss.
In this jump serving drill, you’re going to stand about three quarters of the way from the net -- and you’re not even going to jump. You’re simply going to toss, making sure to give yourself enough time to make a good step close and hit a nice, smooth, standing shot over the net. Really examine your toss here: Make sure it’s high enough and in front of you enough so you’re able to make a good, powerful step close and hit the ball in front of you with spin. We’re not float serving here; we’re top-spin serving. Make sure to get a good wrist snap on top of the ball to create that top-spin that will make the ball dive to the sand.
Do at least 20 reps of this before moving on to jump serving drill No. 2.
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In this jump serving drill, you’re not going to toss to yourself. Instead, your partner or coach or friend or one of those insanely talented volleyball-playing dogs will toss to you. Here, instead of making a simple step-close, you’ll be making your full approach step-close: right, left, right-left.
Now: Why aren’t we tossing to ourselves? Why is someone else tossing to us? We’re never going to have someone else toss to us in a match!
What this will force you to do -- just like in a beach volleyball match -- is to wait, wait, wait, and stay behind the ball. Sometimes your partner or coach is going to toss you somewhere you don’t want it, with a height you don’t particularly like. That’s ok, because we’re training our patience and our feet. We want to use our feet to get to the ball, even if it’s a bad set, to make our approach aggressive and explosive, just as we would a set. That’s all a jump-serve is, anyway: A hit way off the net. Our approach to it is really no different.
“This is a good drill that will allow you to adjust to the toss,” AVP professional beach volleyball player Brandon Joyner said. “Make sure you’re not rushing in, taking a slow first step and speeding up through the approach.”
Now that we’ve mastered our toss, and we’ve worked on our feet and approach to the ball, we’re finally going to just hit jump serves. Focus on hitting different targets with different speeds. Focus on your toss and your approach. Don’t simply go out there and blindly hit a million jump serves. Make each serve have a purpose: Where are we hitting it and how? Where are we tossing and how high?
It’s important not to let the mind get distracted here.
Each rep has a purpose.
Each rep could be the difference between winning and losing.
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