How to Help My Kid at Home With Volleyball

Often times a child will absolutely fall in love with a sport, like volleyball, after playing it once in PE class. Unlike any other sport, volleyball players hit a ball over a net with their hands, requiring specialized abilities specific to the sport, such as serving and blocking. Played recreationally and competitively in schools, colleges and professionally throughout the world, volleyball is a highly competitive and popular sport. As such, many colleges offer volleyball scholarships, and helping your child practice her volleyball skills at home could help pay for her education.

Set up a practice area, using rope to mark the boundaries with stakes to hold the rope at the corners. While the standard volleyball court dimensions are 30-feet wide by 60-feet long, court dimensions and net height can vary, depending on the sex and age range of the players 1. For organized teams and leagues, contact your child’s coach for the proper court size and height setting for the net. If you don’t have enough space in your yard, an area roughly half the length of the court will suffice for practice. Alternatively, if you have no room at home, locate a volleyball court where you and your child can practice, such as at the YMCA or local recreation center, or set up a volleyball net at a park.

Perform passing drills. Passing the volleyball is the intentional movement of the ball between teammates. Passes can be underarm, known as the “forearm” pass, usually below the shoulders, or an overhanded pass, most often above the shoulders. To practice a forearm pass, toss the volleyball up in the air and have your player swing her arms in an upward motion, hitting the ball with the backs of her wrists. For overhead shots, the palms and fingers push off on the ball. Set up an empty pail and have your player try to hit the ball into the bucket as you toss her the ball. Start with easy passes, close to the pail, and move further out as she gains skill and confidence.

Execute hitting and spiking drills. Performed similar to a pass, a hit is a soft, lob-like shot into the opponent’s side of the court that is meant to make an opposing player hit the ball before the ball falls to the ground. A spike, on the other hand, is meant to overpower the players of the opposing team, so the ball cannot be returned. To practice spiking, have your volleyball prodigy stand in a crouching position perpendicular to the net. Standing on the same side of the net as your player, toss the ball in the air, so the ball rises above the net. As the ball comes down, instruct your child to jump up to meet the ball on its way down, and spike the ball with her dominant hand, driving the ball over the net with a downward swinging motion of her arm.

Practice blocking. A defensive play, blocking involves jumping up in front of the net, with both arms stretched straight above the head, to block the shot of an opposing player, just as the ball comes over the net. When executed properly, the blocked ball will fall back on the opponent’s side of the court. To practice the block, have your volleyball prodigy stand in a crouching position, facing the net. From the opposite side of the net, hold the ball at your chest with both hands and then throw the ball over the net to her while she practices blocking the ball.

Execute setting drills. Setting is the act of readying the ball for a teammate to hit or spike over the net. Essentially a set is just a pass to a teammate who is in the proper position to cleanly hit the ball into the opponents’ court. Practice setting drills similar to passing drills, but by having your child hit the ball so the ball rises above and then comes back down within a few feet of the net.

Start serving. Serving is the hardest part of the game of volleyball to master, so it requires the most practice. Once served, the ball must make it over the net on the fly, but not land out of bounds on the opponent’s side of the court. Ideally, the ball should be served to land between two of the opposing players, to hopefully cause confusion between the opposing players going after the ball. The goal in serving is to keep the ball close to the net with as flat a trajectory as possible, making it harder for the opposing team to return. There are two main types of serves: the underhand and overhand.

Begin with the underhand serve, as it is the easier of the two serves to master. Designed to just get the ball into play, the underhand serve constitutes lobbing the ball into the opponent’s court with an upward swinging motion of one arm. From a crouching posture, with her hips square to the net, have your child hold the ball in front of her body, just above the waist, with an outstretched arm in her non-dominant hand. Have her swing upward, through the center of the ball with her dominant hand while releasing, or dropping, the ball from her non-dominant hand. It can take a little practice to coordinate the serving movement, so if she struggles, have her practice just the hitting motion, without worrying about where the ball will end up, until she has the serving motion down.

Move to the overhand serve. Easy to understand but hard to execute, when mastered the overhand serve is a formidable offensive weapon. The overhand serve is performed by starting in the same position as the underhand serve. Have your player toss the ball in the air with her non-dominant hand and then jump up in the air to strike the ball, any time after the ball has reached its zenith, driving the ball over the net with a lateral, overhand swinging motion of the dominant hand. Some players prefer to hit the ball with an open hand, as it allows for more control over the direction of the ball, while others prefer a closed fist, feeling it gives the serve more power. The overhand serve takes practice, and a boatload of it. Many volleyball players go their entire careers without mastering the overhand serve, so be patient with your youngster, and implore her to be patient with herself.