Passing is a necessary skill needed to boost your play level from good to great. I have heard a college coach say, "We find a lot of good defensive players, but when we find a great passer we stick with her."
What is a pass in volleyball?
A volleyball pass is a forearm pass with straightened arms near the torso area. The pass is usually the first contact, going upwards towards the setter who can then use the pass to set up the attacker. And passing is often most used in serve receive, which occurs a lot in volleyball.
Being a consistently great serve-receive passer will enable you to play above others as you are constantly giving good and playable balls to the hands of the setter.
Maintain A Positive Mindset
To become a better passer you need to have a positive mindset towards passing. You cannot think, oh great– another passing drill as you walk towards the passing line when the coach tells you to complete a drill. Instead, you need to be excited, committed, and focused to pass. You should be thinking, Yes! More passing and put full effort into every touch of the ball. A sure way to get better at passing is to do it over and over again, and that means to not take it for granted when you are completing a drill but to focus on the pass, platform, and angle of the ball.
While you need to be focused on the pass, you also have to understand that every ball that bounces off your forearm platform is not going to be perfect. If you have an expectation of perfection then you will fail. There are talented servers, and there are moments where you will not pass a great ball. Instead of sulking in that bad pass, move on and focus on how you can fix your error and give a settable ball to your setter.
Less is More
The more your feet move, the more your body moves up and down, the more your forearm moves, the more movement you have before you contact the ball the more likely you are going to error in your contact. Your serve receive stance will look a little different than your defensive stance, oftentimes it will be more relaxed. But your stance should enable you to move quickly from side to side or forward if needed in order to pass the server's ball.
Calm your feet and focus on making your movement simple. Have your platform out early and form the correct angle you need in order to direct the ball towards the setter. Less is more in passing and the more simple your move is the better control you will have.
Communicating while the other team is serving, where the serve is going, then communicating after the pass by either saying someone's name or letting everyone know what kind of pass it is will enable you and your teammates to be more prepared than if all the movement was done in silence. Communication is so important in volleyball and the more you communicate the more you will be prepared and ready to react.
Learning to read a server and read the ball faster will also increase your passing skills. Some coaches claim that you should know which passer the ball is going to before the serve passes the net on your side. Looking at the server and which direction their feet are point to as well as their shoulders will help increase your chance of reading the serve correctly. While some servers are better at serving and able to discreetly serve to various positions, most servers will serve where they face while they are serving.
Having a strong volleyball IQ and awareness of the court around you will obviously enable you to control your surroundings better. So the good news is that the more you play volleyball the more likely that you will start to understand how the game is played and your volleyball IQ will grow.
Learn From Others
Watching others play volleyball is also a great way to experience the game as well, especially higher level volleyball players. You can even find videos on Youtube and volleyball sites that have tutorials and drills that you can do to improve your passing skill (or any skill that you're looking to improve on).
JVA, Junior Volleyball Association is a great example of a resource that one can use to search for tips and drills that will help increase your skills.
Volleyball is a game of serving and passing, while all the "fun" stuff is mixed in, like blocking and attacking, the game of volleyball starts with a serve and a pass.
If a team can't pass well, then it won't be able to hit very well because all the balls up to the attacker will be out of system.
Passing is key and if you and your team become better at passing, you will be harder to beat.
Rebekah Morris is a contributing writer and former D-III volleyball player at Minnesota-Morris, with over a decade of experience at the club, high school, and collegiate levels. She currently serves as head coach at her former high school in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.