This is Part 2 of a three part series on "How to Hit Better in Beach Volleyball: 10x Your Attacking with These Tips for Hitting Shots" . If you missed it, Check Out Part 1 Here. Feel free to read them in any order.
Early in my beach volleyball career, hours and hours of watching Olympic Gold Medalist, Todd Rogers, taught me this concept. Today, the guys to watch are Bruno Oscar Schmidt (also a Gold Medalist) from Brazil and Casey Patterson. Those guys get good, fast looks before they jump and hit. To explain the concept, we have to step back and go over some basics. If you haven't seen our video on approach footwork, make sure you watch it because if you want to learn how to hit a volleyball but you don't have the basic footwork, life on the beach volleyball court is going to be tough for you.
The order of your approach steps should be “Right..... Left... RIGHTLEFT” for right handed players. You should also have a big double arm lift which gets both of your arms firing back behind your head so they can generate lift when the come forward. Check out Andrew Dentler below.
Dentler uses a great double arm lift and at this moment, his eyes are shooting forward at the court rather than up at the ball.
At VolleyCamp Hermosa in Los Angeles, California (where we run private lessons for volleyball along with our classes and camps) we train the sequence, “Right, Left, LOOK Left.”
On your STEP-close, when your arms have fired back, your eyes should glance forward into the volleyball court. Just before you jump to hit, this snap shot of the court should give you an idea of the open spaces and any defensive movement.
If you are only looking up at the ball, you will not have any idea where the defender is and any shot you hit is merely a guess. If you shoot the ball without truly seeing the defender first, it’s not a good shot. It’s just a shot in the dark.
PRO TIP: Make sure you don’t concern yourself with looking too long. That mistake causes you to slow down too much and become indecisive. It will prevent you from being explosive and hitting at the peak of your jump. Get your look. Be confident in the choice. ACCELERATE the ball to the open space.
Likely and example of a long swing with an exaggerated big back arch. BOOOO...
When you're learning how to hit a volleyball and long after you think you're done learning, you have to understand that quick contact on your shots makes it harder for the defender to get a beat on the ball. It also makes the time from initial contact to the ground significantly shorter. We want to ball to get to the ground fast! We are talking about milliseconds but THAT IS THE DIFFERENCE between a kill and something that gets dug.
When you visualize shooting high line or hitting cut shots, don’t imagine a slow, soft arm swing. That’s a mistake I made for far too long. Instead, think about hitting with short, quick contact. Your decision should be made on your way up and once it's made, your goal should be to get the ball from your hand to the ground as quickly as possible.
Think about when you were a kid choreographing a sword fight. You made the strikes, long and slow so that your playmate had the opportunity to block them. The same concept applies to your shots. If you create a long, slow, soft movement, defenders and blockers both have the opportunity to get early reads. Quick and snappy is the way to win.
Raise your hand if you visualize the high line as UP! and over... (The whole classroom lifts a hand.) Now take that raised hand and punch yourself in the face! The best version of the high line shot is NOT arching. Likewise, the cut shot shouldn’t have a loopy trajectory and it also doesn’t need tons of spin. It's not a bad thing if it does have a lot of spin but every time I coach a lesson with an intermediate to advanced player, they try to practice their cut shots with more importance on spin than accuracy and that won't lead to points.
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The ultimate high line is hit down but over the block. I fully realize that not all of us are Ryan Doherty and can make this an actuality. BUT, if we all played mindfully and understood that LOOP GIVES DEFENDERS MORE TIME, we would make the change and all be getting dug less. Find the shot that has zero or at least minimal upward trajectory. Likewise, if you have the height and ability to hit a power spike down into the front two thirds of the court, then your cut shot should have complete downward trajectory as well.
When the ball doesn't have to spend time going UP before it goes down, the defender has less time to react and you can still hit the deep corner with pace.
PRO TIP: Understand that the velocity, trajectory and success ratio of your cut shots change drastically depending on where you are attacking from. If you are off the net, you can't hit as steep. If you are attacking from middle of the net, your cutty won't be as sharp because, you can't accelerate it in the court with the same speed as you can from the pin.
The Thin Beast, Phil Dalhausser blocking against Johnny H-Bomb Hyden on the AVP Tour
You will come up against some bigger blockers and these goons present some problems for us little guys. When the blocker can out jump you, there are several ways to get it over them. If you want to learn how to hit a volleyball over a big blocker, write down these tips for hitting a volleyball.
I'll surely catch some flak for this tip but in my experience it's going to be important to find a MIDDLE ground between what's traditionally taught and what's necessary for getting points in the moment. I had this growing pain in a bad way. For years, I tried to drastically wrap my hand around the ball when hitting shots. I would practice my standing cut shots by contorting my wrist, trying to take tiny slices of the ball and creating tons of spin to make a cut shot fall. I would never face the direction of my cut shot because I thought it needed to be SOOOOOO deceptive every time.
Please remember this tip if you really want to learn how to hit a volleyball for points. You don't need to face the opposite direction every time you shoot. You just need to be able to hit all of your swings from the SAME position. As right-handed left sider: YOU SHOULD BE FACING DEAD ON THAT ANGLE which means you will most often be facing the direction of your cut shot when you hit it.
If you are a right-handed hitter on the right side, your body will probably be facing the back middle of the court most often when hitting your cut shot.
Ageless Wonder, John Hyden performs hits a cut shot. Note the contact point on the ball!
The real secret is to just put it where it needs to go. If you watch and study John Hyden, you’ll see a player who literally SLAPS the ball around the court. He doesn’t bend balls or use tons of rotating wristy shots. In some cases, he even intentionally hits a spatch ball (a hybrid between topspin and sloat that doesn't have a predictable flight path) to put even more pressure on the defense. Here's your best tip for how to hit better shots in beach volleyball: Treat it like a game of billiards. Hit the ball on the opposite face of where it needs to go and it will go there. Don’t worry about carving the ball or adding spinny wristy movements. Your wrist will have to rotate to accomplish this in the long run but do your best to simplify and mentally release the idea of maximum spin. If this concept isn't totally clear, shoot a message to [email protected] and we'll find a way to clarify it.
Canadian (now American) Olympian Chaim Schalk: via FIVB
If you are tall or you have hops and you are hitting from the left, just hit on top of the ball but with less force. If you are hitting from the right just stay on the top half of the ball and put it down. If you're a small to medium player, you'll have to contact on the the equator of the side of the ball. If you contact the ball on the equator, then you are just directing it but gravity will continue bringing the ball down so you don't have to worry about adding more downward force.
There IS a time for turning and rotating your wrist to get sharper angles out of less than ideal hitting positions but please, practice the simple movements first. I spent a lot of time training with and against Chaim Schalk this year. He also has some of the simplest cut shots in beach volleyball. Watch him up close when he hits and you’ll see that he just needs to get on top of the ball and his cut shots have almost zero side or corner spin. Any player who even comes close to top ten in the world is a good person to learn from and he LIVED there for some time.
DON'T STOP HERE. CHECK OUT PART 3 OF THIS SERIES: How to Hit Better in Beach Volleyball: 10x Your Attacking with These Tips for Hitting Shots
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Author and Founder of VolleyCamp Hermosa, Mark Burik has been a mainstay on the AVP Tour for the last 5 years and has represented Team USA in numerous FIVB World Tour competitions. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram @MarkBurik
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