Just about every beach volleyball player wants to know how to hit a volleyball better. Most players know that you should hit the ball at the highest point of your jump but not everyone accomplishes the task. Most players will jump, feel the top of their leap, and then swing. When this happens, you are actually contacting the volleyball on your way down because you only START swinging when you feel your top. One good key I’ve been using to help myself hit better (and while coaching players in our volleyball classes in Hermosa Beach, CA) is to start swinging while you are on your way up. This mindset allows you to REALLY contact the ball at the top of your jump.
If you hit the volleyball before your peak, it’s not altogether a bad thing. Most blockers jump just after the hitter anyway so you might get it past them before their max height and max penetration which makes them smaller and easier to tool. Nick Lucena has beat some (ok... all) of my blockers by hitting a few of his shots seemingly half way into his jump. I have to introduce another key concept that will help when trying to learn how to hit better in volleyball. Positive energy that you have going into your jump will generate more power into your spike. If you contact the volleyball on your way down or after the peak of your jump, you're going to lose significant power and height. This makes hitting on your way up good for shots and power swings.
I’ve struggled with this for the majority of my volleyball career. I have some long arms and I open them wide, stretch my chest and arch my back while I’m in the air. We DO want a big hitting window but if your muscle activation is incorrect it will lead to a very slow arm swing. Try to keep your hitting elbow high and back rather than reaching and dipping it behind you. Stay tall and don’t let your spine become a slinky.
Personally, I think my brain recognizes that I need to swing softer for a shot so when that signal gets interpreted through my body, I end up having a long slow arm swing which becomes very readable. Make your arm swing quick and light. See how fast and loose you can move your arm to the contact zone without putting power into the volleyball and you’ll keep the defense guessing. This hitting tip alone, could have helped me a thousand times over in beach volleyball AND playing indoor volleyball with speed offenses.
This flaw runs DEEP through the ranks of beach volleyball. Your brain knows that the ball has to go DOWN. So it makes your body parts pull DOWN. I remember when I first started playing and I had no idea how to spike a volleyball, I was taught to PIKE when I hit. This just doesn’t work for volleyball players the way it's supposed to. Check out any volleyball highlight video from the FIVB World League or the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour and you will see majority TALL, STRAIGHT bodies during and after spike contact.
The only thing that makes a ball go down is when your hand hits on the upper half of the volleyball. Instead of pulling your arm and shoulders down when you hit, think about GETTING TALL and finishing UP. If your hand wants to fall because of the follow through, that's OK but I recommend throwing your energy UP. Two helpful keys, I’ve been taught and subsequently use when teaching the people at our beach volleyball vacations are:
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“Go up and try to bite the ball on contact.”
“Imagine a a diamond in the middle of your chest. Bring that diamond up and through the ball when you swing.”
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Finger contact actually slows the ball down and creates ‘fluffy’ hits. The ball won’t ping off your hand and it will allow the defense one more millisecond to recognize where you are shooting. If you really want to know how to hit a volleyball better and more accurately, know this:
The fingers actually shouldn’t play a part in the attack contact.
They will finish OVER the ball or sometimes on the side but if you are letting them play a role in your contact, your shots won’t be as crisp and defenders will scoop you left and right. One of the best examples of this on the AVP Tour is Billy Allen. He has a devastating high line that FIRES off of his hand when he hits the volleyball.
This is another widely known concept that isn’t executed at a high level for 99% of beach volleyball players. Amateur attackers often get away with soft approaches and jumps because not that many blockers are great at seeing slow approaches and dropping to play defense late. At some point you are going to run into an athlete who can read AND play peel defense. They are going to peel on you and shrink your court as soon as they see you taking that half speed approach. The best shots come from the highest points.
If you don’t jump full out, your shots won’t fall. If the blocker peels on you late, you won’t have the speed or height to detonate on the open net. Early in my career, I would get into great shooting rhythms and then lose a point or two on a late peel. In AVP qualifiers and especially the Main Draw, that one, single point is the difference between winning and losing. Jump the same way with a quick step close every, single, time. A great guy to watch for this is John Hyden. His step-close is always quick without a long deep jump. It shouldn’t feel like you are summoning all of your muscles like a standing broad jump. Just make sure the last two steps are FAST and explosive instead of slow and strong.
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Author and Founder of VolleyCamp Hermosa and Better at Beach, Mark Burik has been a mainstay on the AVP Tour for the last 10 years and has represented Team USA in numerous FIVB World Tour competitions as well as the 2019 Pan Am Games. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram @MarkBurik
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