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Don't settle for just getting the ball over the net. Make your serve an offensive weapon.
BY C.C. SANDORFI
If you've mastered the underhand serve, it's time to learn the overhand, which adds a lot of dimension to your game. While the underhand serve does its job getting the ball over the net, it's obviously not an offensive weapon because it's fairly easy to pass. Once you master the overhand serve, you'll find it easier to control. Just like hitting, hand position determines where the ball will go. Hit it dead-on, and it goes straight, hit it slightly off center, and it goes cross court. Depending on how hard you strike it, the serve can be short or deep or a "lollipop" or a devastating bullet-train.
Setting Up the Serve
Stand at about a 45-degree angle to the net, holding the ball in your non-serving hand. Keep your serving hand on it for balance. The foot opposite your serving hand should be slightly forward (the left foot for righthanders). Center your weight on your rear foot.
The ideal toss varies in height according to the server's preference. Usually, the ball is just high enough that your hitting arm must extend to contact it. But the location should be the same: directly in front of your hitting shoulder.
Prepare to Launch
As you toss the ball, draw your hitting arm back, keeping your elbow at shoulder level as your hand reaches about your ear. Also, as you toss the ball, step forward with the leading foot (again, if you're a rightie, that's your left foot), shifting your weight to that foot.
While your body weight shifts forward, extend your arm up. Your hip and shoulders should rotate toward the ball, helped on by your step forward. Your arm, now extended, should swing forward to contact the ball. Strike it with the meat of your hand, letting your hand wrap over the ball as you hit it. Don't follow through as far as you do when hitting, but, rather, let your hand freeze in the air after you make contact.
Your body rotation and momentum help create the power behind the serve. Watch an especially hard server, and you'll notice a sort of hip thrust behind the extreme velocity. It's not all about shoulder power. As in all things, mechanics are most important.
This serve takes time to master because it involves several small body changes all happening at once. If you're having a lot of trouble, make sure that your toss is both consistent and in the right area. More good serves are killed by bad tosses than by any other mistake in execution.
Building on the Basics
When you feel good about this serve, try varying the height of the toss, how hard you contact the ball and the spot where you strike it. Try to find your power zone where you can most comfortably serve the ball hardest while still retaining control and your finesse zones where you can best drop in trick serves. Practice your accuracy by serving at targets, and vary the look of your serve by starting at different points along the serving line.
VOLLEYBALL MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 1997