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Get Outdoors

Volleyball 101

I started playing volleyball in sixth grade in Toronto, Ontario. At this point, everyone played; it was part of the curriculum of our gym class. The competition and the thrill of the game made me really get into it and I wanted to become better at it. I joined a club team and have been playing ever since.

When it comes down to it, volleyball is not that hard to learn. You only really have to grasp four skills—the bump, set, hit and serve. It's the mastery of these skills that makes you a good player. Hand-eye coordination has a large part to do with this.

The Basics

Maintain steady arms, overlap your hands and bring your thumbs inward, keeping your forearms tightly together. One of the important things to remember is not to swing your arms. Keep them steady and let the ball bounce off them. Bumping is a drill that should be practiced all the time because it's the first stepping-stone of your volleyball ability.

Extend your arms above your head and spread the fingers of both hands. Your thumbs will face in toward each other, creating a "window" or diamond shape with your index fingers. Then with cushioning hands you cradle the ball with just your fingertips and set it up for another player. Your fingers are slightly bent instead of straight—think "piano hands".

This is a full body motion. Approach the net, bring your feet together, jump up and (if you're right handed) bring your left hand down for momentum, while you extend your right hand above your head. Crunch your abs in as your hand makes contact with the ball, pushing it down over the net. You need to have good timing, good form and solid follow-through to spike. Also, the taller the hitter is, the better. This is also true for blockers. Height can be very important at the net.

This is the first step towards scoring a point. The goal when serving is to place the ball exactly in the spot you want it to go on the other side of the net. You need to keep your eye on the ball during a serve. The proper way to serve is overhand. If you're right handed, bring the ball up in the air, cradled in your left hand, while bringing your right arm behind your head. Straighten your left arm and release the ball with a full swing of your right arm.

Serving underhand is a good way to get a feel for the contact between the ball and your hand and is a good way for beginners to start.

Your Best Defense

In addition to these three key skills, you should also have some sort of individual defense. The defense is the most trouble for people who aren't aggressive. You have to learn to not be afraid of the ball. If you are receiving a hit from the opposing team, you have to remember to stay low and be on your toes. Being low to the ground gives you the most control over your pass. Also, it is a lot easier to move side to side when your knees are bent as opposed to straight. Kneepads are crucial if you are playing on an indoor court. I learned the hard way when I forgot to bring them to practice one day! My coach made me dive without them. I still have a scar on my knee for forgetting I wasn't wearing them.

Dive into It

Outdoor volleyball is better in terms of your flexibility in diving for the ball. Diving is a skill that takes time to learn how to do. You first have to learn how to dive properly so that you're effective in your pass and don't hurt yourself. Once you can do this, you start to dive in your game without thinking. The goal of the game is for your team to set up a bump, set and a hit that will send the other team into defense mode. A strong hit placed in the right spot can be very hard to return.

It's common for beginners to pass the ball back and forth over the net because there is no established teamwork and players don't have the ability to control exactly where their pass is going. Once you are able to have a rally with another team you are able to take more chances with your plays and try to work different plays.

Get Started

There are centers everywhere that offer intramural games for all different age groups and playing abilities. Getting involved with a team at the same ability level as you will keep you active, help you develop strong teamwork and let you make friends that have the same interests. The ultimate satisfaction is winning your games, but you need to practice in order to get there. So contact your local recreation center today and get into a volleyball program that works for you.

— Whitney Milne

 Volleyball resources:

 For rules on how to play the game:

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