This is an excerpt from Volleyball: Steps to Success by Rebecca Schmidt.

When you are attacking a ball in a match, you will seldom be standing there waiting for the set. You will be coming from a position in the serve-receive pattern or coming off a defensive assignment. How you get into position to start your approach will affect your effectiveness.


The turn-and-run technique (figure 4.4) is favored over backpedaling when making the transition from a defensive position to an offensive one. Although many players keep their shoulders square to the net and backpedal to get off the net to the 10-foot (3 m) line for their approach, this approach is slow and prevents players from getting back far enough to take an aggressive approach. The following guidelines will help your transition footwork and lead to a great attack.


When transitioning off the block, land on two feet. At one time, players were taught to land on one foot to shorten the time required to take a step off the net, but because of an increase in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, coaches have gone back to encouraging a two-footed landing. Open to the court to spot the dig. You are about to start a dead sprint for the 10-foot (3 m) line and to do that you want to be facing where you need to go. This also provides you the opportunity to evaluate the quality of the dig and whether you will have to make adjustments, for instance when a low, fast dig makes you stop your transition short to be ready to swing. Sprint to the optimal approach position. Make a quick hop to put your weight on the correct foot to start your approach (for a right-handed player, right foot if using a three-step approach and left if using a four-step approach) and square your hips to the net. Usually you will have to rotate approximately 180 degrees.

Figure 4.4 Turn-and-Run Transition


Land and Turn

  1. After the block, land on two feet.
  2. Open to the court.

Sprint and Set

  1. Sprint to the 10-foot (3 m) line.
  2. Hop onto correct approach foot.
  3. Square hips to net.

Attacking Drill 1 Self-Toss


One of the most effective ways to learn to put the arm swing and approach together is through self-toss attacking. At the 10-foot (3 m) line and with a ball in your dominant hand, toss the ball up so that it lands 1 to 2 feet (.3-.6 m) from the net. After your toss, start your approach and arm swing. Make contact with the ball with a loose, relaxed wrist to snap the ball in the direction you are facing. Work on attacking crosscourt, followed by rotating your shoulders through the ball to attack the line. After you have mastered attacking straight, work on adding the thumb-up and thumb-down shots. You should be able to accurately attack a self-tossed ball four out of five times before moving on to the next shot. When tossing the ball to slide attack, place the ball in your nondominant hand and toss a low ball directly to your dominant hand as you plant your last step.


To Increase Difficulty

  • Try to turn your thumb up or down on contact and cut the ball away from the direction you are facing.
  • Intentionally make a bad toss and adjust your approach to get your body to the ball.


To Decrease Difficulty

  • Move farther away from the net or even to the back row.
  • Have a partner toss the ball for you.


Success Check

  • Finish with a strong right-left closing step.
  • Draw both arms overhead.
  • Throw a relaxed hand through the ball with speed.


Score Your Success

  • Successful straight attack (4 out of 5 attempts) = 5 points
  • Successful crosscourt attack (4 out of 5 attempts) = 5 points
  • Successful slide attack (4 out of 5 attempts) = 5 points
  • Your score ___

Attacking Drill 2 Approach Stars


Adjusting to the set with your last two steps is a skill that many great hitters have mastered. This drill allows you to focus on only the last two steps to put yourself in a position to make an aggressive swing. To start this drill, your weight should be on your left foot (right foot for a left-handed hitter), about 5 feet (1.5 m) from the net. Follow table 4.1 to put your feet in a position that will allow you to be as tall as possible when attacking.


After you contact one ball, move back to the starting position for the next ball in the series until you have gone all the way through. After you are comfortable with the last two steps, complete the same pattern using a full approach.


To Increase Difficulty

  • Use a full approach.
  • Try to place your attack to more challenging locations on the court.


To Decrease Difficulty

  • Work on the footwork without a ball.
  • Throw a tennis ball across the net before hitting a volleyball.


Success Check

  • Focus on a strong right-left closing step in your approach.
  • Keep your shoulders open to the ball.
  • Throw a loose, relaxed hand through the ball.


Score Your Success

  • 5 or more attacks into the court with power = 10 points
  • 3 or 4 attacks into the court with power or 5 or more attacks into the court with little power = 5 points
  • 2 or fewer attacks into the court = 1 point
  • Your score ___

Learn more about Volleyball: Steps to Success.

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