Blocking A Volleyball Like The Pros
by April Chapple
Pro volleyball players know that to get the most out of the block its important to "stay squared" to the volleyball net.
This means to keep your shoulders, your underarms as you jump, your chest, abs and hips parallel to the net keeping as little space as possible between you and the volleyball net while you block jump.
No matter how tall you are the following five steps will help you improve your volleyball blocking skill!
1. Watch your hitter with your shoulders parallel to the volleyball net.
To improve your volleyball blocking skill watch the hitter to get indications of how he/she intends to hit the ball...
Is he/she approaching you with their shoulders at an angle indicating that they are going to hit cross court or are their shoulders coming at you straight on with the intention of hitting the volleyball down the line?
Does he/she hit the ball low across the net?
Does he/she hit on her way down?
Ultimately you should even be able to see if your hitter is turning his/her shoulders to face outside the volleyball court indicating that he/she intends to wipe off your block.
Watching means Keeping Your eyes open. Don't laugh. I can show you hundreds of volleyball photography action shots of players blocking with their eyes closed.
Watch your blocker then Go get the ball. I say it this way to emphasize Reaching OVER the net to grab or block the volleyball.
2. Jump straight up and down...don't fly along the volleyball net.
Some blockers jump "up" in one spot and come "down" in another one.
Improve your blocking volleyball skill by learning to control your body while you watch your hitter so that where you go "up" to jump is where you come "down".
Why is this important?
Because you have three volleyball players in defense behind you who are figuring out where they have to be on the volleyball court based on where you set your block.
If your block is uncontrolled or all over the place YOUR teammates on defense aren't going to know where to set themselves up on the volleyball court in team defense.
Help your brothers and sisters out...come down in the same place that you JUMPED up from.
Secondly, for the outside blockers your middle blocker is relying on you to set up a solidly "closed" wall.
Walls don't move around they stay right where they were built.
It's your job to position yourself in front of your hitter's body.
Get there and don't jump out again or move side to side so your middle blocker knows exactly where to come to close up the block.
If you fly or jump to the outside your blocker will never be able to close up that space between the two of you and the other team's hitter will look like a celebrity volleyball spiker hitting between that hole you created between you and your middle blocker.
3. Keep Palms Up at Shoulder Height in Ready Position.
A lot of volleyball players and high school volleyball coaches have difficulty deciding where the hands need to be while moving along the net to block.
I've seen volleyball coaches teach players to keep their arms fully extended above their heads while moving along the net which actually slows you down and doesn't allow you to squat to maximize your full jump.
More commonly I've seen players of all ages drop their hands and arms way below the net BEFORE block jumping in an effort to gain a couple more inches to their jump.
a) usually slows your block jump timing because of the time it takes to go down before coming back up
b) increases your risk of touching the net when your arms are swinging up in front of you and
c) actually puts more distance between you and the volleyball net because of the extra space needed to swing your arms up in front of you so you are actually blocking farther AWAY from the net wasting a lot of your vertical jump.
"Tiger Hands", "Bear Hands" whatever you want to call it but you keep your lovely bear paws at shoulder height..six to ten inches in front of you, Palms facing the net, Fingers wide...Solid wrists....when you go down (squat) and then fully extending your arms reaching OVER the volleyball net when you come out of your squat to jump.
Speaking of squats...this is pretty much the same position you maintain when you do squats during your weight lifting workout in a gym with a bar on your shoulders, just keep your hands inside your body RIGHT in front of your shoulders.
Your body is already used to doing this movement over and over again.
Squatting with your hands at the height of your shoulders maintains body balance, allows you to stay close to the net gaining inches you can use to reach OVER the net to choke off that ball and allows you to maximize your powerful block jump.
If you can do it in the weight room...you can do it against a net on the volleyball court.
Trust your body memory to maintain your blocking volleyball skill.
4. Use Maximum Arm Length Since Your goal is to be able to fully extend your arms at the maximum point of your block jump...every time you jump.
There will be times for middle blockers especially where they will have to block a quick set which is so fast that they only have time to just get there hands over the net to stop the ball.
But outside hitters who block 4's and 5's, balls that are set high to the outside or shot out at a quicker pace to the outside have time to use the full extension of their arms to block the ball.
If you were born with arms that are 45" inches long then you should be reaching some 45+ inches as far OVER the net as you can get to perform this skill to the best of your ability.
You want to keep your arms fully extended for as long as necessary so don't put your arms up there and then pull them away before you've completed your block jump.
Hold your arms extended throughout the duration of your block jump when you land, land back down into a starting "Tiger Hands " position in case you have to block again.
5. Commit to Taking One Area Away.
If you have watched your hitter then you know if she is going to hit or tip either down the line or cross court, or wipe off the block...very simple.
Your job is to take ONE of these areas away.
You can only take cross court or you can only take line. Good volleyball blocking skill means committing to take one area of the volleyball court away.
What you decide to take away will depend on what your volleyball coach has told your team in pre game strategy -what team blocking strategy is going to be used for a particular hitter, or against a particular team.
If you don't have an established game plan then what you take away is determined by the indications you "see" the hitter giving you as to where she is going to hit.
Once you've decided to take an area away Don't go chasing the ball in mid air with your arms trying to cover everything. You just can't.
Besides when you set up early and take ONE area (either cross court or line) then your defense will cover your butt by taking away the other areas on the court.
If you are at the volleyball net trying to take everything away...then your back row teammates don't know where they need to be in defense.
Always work on improving your individual volleyball skills, remember the ball is in Your hands.