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How important is a good serve in beach volleyball?

Beach Volleyball Serves

Sinjin Smith (Volleyball Player) gives expert video advice on: How important is a good serve in beach volleyball?; What is the 'underhand serve'?; What is a 'floater serve'? and more...

How important is a good serve in beach volleyball?

The serve in beach volleyball is a weapon. You can score points on your serve. And you can score them directly by acing the opponents or you can put your opponents in a very bad position, and make it difficult for them to bring the ball back over the net. So the serve is key. It is the start of the rally, and it is a way of scoring points directly and it puts the team on defense.

What is the 'underhand serve'?

The underhand serve can be important if you don't have the strength to serve the ball overhand into the court. And this is very simple. For right handers, hold the ball in your left hand, and turn sideways to the court slightly. Your chest can be forward, your body slightly sideways and you want to take your fist like this, a flat area. That way there's less chance of a mistake. I'm going to contact the ball right here, so I'm holding the ball here and I take my arm back and throw the ball up just a few inches. It doesn't have to go any higher than that. If you throw it higher, it's going to be a problem. Just high enough in this area, so that when I bring my arm through, I can contact it right here towards the other side of the court. This is the simplest serve. Anybody can do this underhand serve - from kids to grown ups. Holding the ball here, throwing it just a few inches up, coming through straight like this, and contacting the ball right here.

What is a 'floater serve'?

What you want to do for right-handers is to start with your left foot behind the service line. You don't need to take a step to hit a regular float serve. The next step is to hold the ball out in front of you, with your body perpendicular to the edge of the court. So if I'm serving in this direction, my body should be facing in this direction. Then, I'll throw the ball up just above my head, and I'll come forward with my elbow, reach up, and snap the ball above my head driving it into the other side of the court. I'm turning my body for power when I contact the ball, and I'm leaning forward so that my momentum takes me into the court. You don't want to take a step before you hit the ball, though; the step comes after you contact the ball. So if I'm holding the ball out, I'm ready to serve, I throw the ball up above my head, contact the ball high above my head (see video for point of contact), with this part of my hand (see video), just like the spike. Just to reiterate, you need to contact the ball above my head, snap, follow through, into the court. That's how you serve.

What is a 'sky ball serve'?

Sky ball can be a great weapon, particularly if it's windy. What you want to do, there are several different ways to serve a sky ball, but the way I like to do it is the simplest way. What I do is I turn, if the court is this way, I want the ball to go this way. I turn sideways to the court, I hold the ball with my left hand, and it's much like an underhand serve, but I'm going to serve the ball up in the air. Holding the ball here, my arm comes back, same part of my hand as an underhand serve, I'm going to contact the ball right here, the flat part of my hand right here. I'm going to throw the ball up just a few inches and come through, and send the ball to the sky, let the wind take the ball over to the other side of the court. It's a real problem to pass, particularly if you haven't seen that serve all game long. It's a good serve to use.

What is the 'jump serve'?

A jump serve is very important in the game of beach volleyball because you can score the point very quickly. It is essentially a weapon. The key to jump serving is starting behind the line, making sure that you have an approach. This is much like a spike but you're going to broad jump into the ball. You toss the ball up - some people use their right or their left, or two hands, it doesn't really matter - whatever way you feel comfortable throwing the ball up in the air in front of you with control. Once you throw that ball up you want to take a spike approach, jump up in the air, contact the ball high smashing it over into the other side of the court, hopefully with enough control where you can place it on the angle, in the middle, or on the line. It's a great weapon to score points if you do it correctly.

All professionals should have a jump serve in their repertoire of serves. It's the one that is the fiercest weapon. If you hit a really good jump serve, it's very difficult to pass. But all professional players also have a good float serve - based on the wind conditions, you may want to use a float serve. You can get the float serve in 100% of the time. With the jump serve, there is a chance of making a mistake because you are hitting it very hard. With the float serve you aren't certainly hitting it as hard - you are keeping it in play and letting the wind do the work for you.

Is there a specific strategy to serving in beach volleyball?

Trying to decide what serve to use on the beach is difficult, because there's so many of them. You want to start out with your best serve. See if it gets your opponents in trouble. If it doesn't, then you want to change the serve. What I like to do is throw in a serve every once in a while, maybe a short serve, that forces the passer to move forward, and then to get an approach, he has to move back again before he gets his approach to come forward. Another serve that a lot of people don't use but like to throw in once in a while is the deep serve. It doesn't have to be a difficult looking serve but if you can force the passer to move backwards, he has to pass the ball farther to the setter, a harder ball to set, and then the hitter who was the passer has to move much further to get to the net to attack the ball.