Learning the Volleyball Serve

The volleyball serve begins play in volleyball and is the only time a player may actually hold the ball. 

Serving is the one skill that is completely within the control of the individual player. 

Tough serves can force opponents "out of system", reducing attacking options and enabling the serving team to react more effectively in setting up the defense. 

A 'let' serve is legal as long as it hits only the net, not the antenna, and travels between the antennae. 

Serving is similar to a throwing motion. 

A server must use his or her body weight to give momentum to the ball. 

The transfer of body weight from one foot to the other adds power to the serve. 

Beach Volleyball Serve

Beach Volleyball Serving

Various Styles of Serving

There are numerous volleyball serve variations...

  • Underhand

  • Overhand float serve

  • Roundhouse floater

  • Jump Serve

  • Sky ball

  • Topspin

  • Sidespin serve

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Volleyball Serving Tips

General Principles to Serving a Volleyball

  1. The same skill mechanics should be duplicated each time.

  2. The flight of the ball is determined by how close to the net and how high the ball is contacted.

  3. Contact the ball with the entire hand, especially the palm.

Underhand Serving

The underhand serve is the simplest and easiest to learn. 

For young players just beginning to play volleyball, the underhand serve can be a good starting point. 

Technique for serving underhand...

  1. The underhand volleyball serve is begun by the server standing with the hips perpendicular to the end line.

  2. The server's weight should be on the back foot. The ball is held in the non-serving hand.

  3. The server draws the serving hand back behind his or her body with a straight arm.

  4. The ball is held in front and to the serving arm's side.

  5. As the server steps forward, the serving arm begins to swing forward.

  6. Just as the ball is about to be contacted, the hand holding the ball gives a low toss.

  7. The ball is then contacted with the palm side of the serving hand. Make sure the elbow is straight.

  8. The body-weight, arm and hand should all finish in the direction of the target. Don't swing across the body or face the body away from the target.

Overhand Volleyball Serve

Overhand serving is much more commonly used after the beginner stage of volleyball. 

In fact, many young players start out learning to serve overhand. 

The two main types of overhand serves are the "floater" and the "topspin" serve. 

The purpose of the floater is to contact the ball in a way that makes the ball "float" around in the air as it travels across the net. The ball floating makes it tougher to pass.

A serve with topspin travels much more directly to a spot on the opposition’s side of the court. Topspin serves can be difficult to pass because the ball can get there very quickly and drop down to the floor fast. 

Technique for the overhand serve...

  1. The server should start by facing the area of the court he or she is aiming at. 
    With serving, AIMING is key.

  2. The ball is held in the non-serving hand, in front of the body. The serving arm should have the elbow raised above and behind the shoulder, and the hand up and behind the head.

  3. The bodyweight should be on the same side as the serving hand.

  4. The server then tosses the ball in front of his or her serving shoulder about 1/2 meter high in front of his or her shoulder, at a height of 1 meter.

  5. The toss should be high enough for the server to contact the ball above his or her head, and in front of his or her body.

  6. Next, the server steps with the foot opposite of the serving hand and then contacts the ball with a firm hand.

  7. All parts of the server's body should move towards the target. The follow-through and finish should be directly at the target.


The contact with the ball should be made 2/3 through the serving arm swing. The stopping of the hand quickly after contact with the ball, combined with a flat contact on the ball, will cause the ball to float or fly like a knuckle ball. 


A topspin volleyball serve would require a wrist snap at the contact point, to create a forward spin on the ball. 

› Learning to Serve