Summer is officially underway and I've just finished up the second week of my volleyball club's camps! This last week we had a pretty young group (3rd through 6th grade) and I saw a LOT of hitting errors over and over again. There are a few simple solutions to some of the most common errors, and I wanted to share them with you!
Common Hitting Error #1: Swinging from Underneath the Ball
In order to have a strong, powerful swing, players need to make contact with the ball when it is just in front of their hitting arm. When players are younger (and shorter!), they tend to run up too close to the net and swing from there. This often results in the ball coming down more on top of the player rather than in front of them.
In order to fix this issue, we can take two steps: 1) Tell the player to take smaller steps during their approach (to increase the distance between them and the net), and 2) As coaches, toss the ball further off the net for them.
If we are using a setter, explain to the setter that the shorter players need the ball further from the net, and train the hitters to call for an "off" set as a reminder. For example, when you have a taller player come up and call "outside, outside, outside!" have your shorter player call "outside, outside, off, off, off!"
As long as you take either one (or both) of these steps and explain to the hitter to hit IN FRONT of the body, you should see improvements in their swing soon!
Common Hitting Error #2: Shot-Putting the Ball
Is shot-putting a word? I have no idea. But I think it communicates what this error usually looks like! The player will lower their elbow just before contact, and let the ball come to a short rest in their hand, after which they appear to PUSH the ball over the net instead of strike it.
Most often, the worst offenders are the youngest (aka, shortest) who try to push the ball over the net because they just refuse to believe that the ball will go over if they make contact behind the ball instead of underneath.
I have a couple of ways to work towards correcting this as well.
Option number one, have your players line up on the 10' line and walk down the line giving them high-fives. When you give them high-fives, hold your hand in front of their hitting shoulder and at the top of their reach, Each player's high-five should look like the ideal armswing. If a player is shy or doesn't go all-out on the high-five, just ask them to do it like they're going to hit the ball. Ask them to remember how it felt, and try to do it with the ball.
Option two is to have players get with a partner. Have them line up across the net from each other, and toss the ball to themselves followed by hitting the ball UNDER the net to their partner. Why does his help? Hitting down will teach players to hit a different part of the ball than they're used to. This is the same part we want to hit when going over the net, just at a different angle. Do about 15-20 reps each and then go back to hitting.
Common Hitting Error #3: Beginning the Approach by Swinging Arms Forward
This issue isn't as common as the two previous mistakes, but it certainly can impact the speed of an approach and limit a player! Sometimes players will swing their arms forward to start their approach, which takes away some of the momentum they could be building if they just left their arms by their side/down!
This one is easy to correct, because they'll understand what it means to keep their arms down, but you may have to remind them often! It can be easy to fall back into old habits. Try positive reinforcement when they do it correctly and watch as their approach speeds up and their timing on the hit improves.
What other mistakes do you see young players make?
Let other coaches know how you correct hitting errors you see your players making!