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At their service.

An intelligent serving plan is needed to take advantage of the new rule

Volleyball continues to be a game of constant change. Not so much in the matter of basic rules, as in the way the rules are interpreted by the officials.

The critical balance between offense and defense is often jeopardized because most of the improvements are made in offense. Advances such as multi-option play-sets, the jump set, time patterns, and back-row attackers all help the offense.

So much so, in fact, that the rules-makers have been given the liberty of levelling the playing field, such as encouraging first hit and penetrating blocking.

One of the recent changes will finally allow the server to serve from anywhere along the baseline rather than strictly from the bottom right corner.

This change presents the serving team with a multitude of new angles against the serve-receiving formations, thus neutralizing or at least slowing down the initial attack off the serve-reception. In much the way a diamond cutter will use his tool to split a gem at its weakest point, the serve will be used to probe and exploit weaknesses in the serve-reception formation.

At first glance, it would appear that the rule will actually benefit the offense by putting the defense at a disadvantage. Actually, the main purpose of the change is to complicate the receiving team's attack off the serve-reception where most side-outs used to occur.

To accomplish this goal, the serving team must be equipped with an intelligent serving plan, with each player having his individualized plan.

Most coaches spend hours teaching players how to pass, set, hit, and block, but skip over the serve itself - without which they cannot score. Too many high school and club teams appear to be content to serve the ball randomly.

Coaches must teach their players to serve intelligently - master various types of serves and develop an aggressive mind-set that will turn the serve into a first-rate strike weapon rather than a haphazard way of starting a rally. (See "Aggressive Service Package for Volleyball" in the October 1986 issue of Scholastic Coach.)

The players should then be encouraged to experiment with different techniques and to hit various target areas from different baseline locations.

Any team that cannot consistently exploit weak areas in the serve-receive formations will be giving away a major advantage. Unfortunately, few high school teams can do this, especially when the game is on the line.

Intelligent coaches will make their players practice this skill in pressure situations. Once the players become consistent servers, they will be able to use the scouting report to determine the weaknesses in the opponents' serve-receive formation. The players will then be able to exploit these weaknesses to score points, or, at the very least, weaken the opponents' initial attack off their serve reception.

Having pinpointed the weaknesses, the coach can design a rotational matchup in which the server with the best serve can attack the opponents' weaknesses.

In doing this, the server may change the angle of his serve while pressuring the target area. He can do this by simply changing his location along the sideline.

Much like a pitcher who changes from an overhead to a sidearm delivery during an at bat, the server can change the angle at which the passer receives the ball. A change in the type of serve (float, top spin, side spin) can further complicate the passer's task.

If the opponents do not have any weak receivers, the coach may set up a serving strategy that will prioritize some or all of the following:

1. Serve from Position #1 to their Position #1 or from our #5 to their #5, as these cover the greatest distances, making them best for hard servers from out of the back of the court or from our #6 serve to their shooter #6.

2. Serve to the front middle hitter if he is in the serve-receiving patterns, as this will reduce his ability to hit a quick middle set.

3. Serve to the front outside hitter, as this may inhibit his ability to get to his attack position.

Note: A list of nine other targets appeared in my October 1985 article in Scholastic Coach (page 44).

A recent study indicated that the best serve is from service Position #6 to the receivers' Position #5, as it gives the server the best combination of distance and passing angle.

Without a serving strategy and an emphasis on serving consistency, the offense is going to squander its gift (liberalized serving position) disguised as a rule change.

Robert Demerchant Volleyball Coach Assiniboia Composite H.S. Saskatchewan, Canada
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Title Annotation:volleyball serves
Author:Demerchant, Robert
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Mar 1, 1996
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