Volleyball Basics: Setting, Spiking, and Passing

August 3, 2023

If you’re interested in joining a volleyball team, league or drop-in game, then it’s important that you understand the basics of the game. Specifically, in this blog, we’re going to talk about fundamental skills you need to have for playing volleyball such as Setting, Spiking, and Passing. In volleyball, a rally is typically executed using those three skills, so having a good understanding of them is a must.

If you’re new to volleyball then it’s probably a good idea to brush up on the basics of the sport, we’ve written a blog covering everything you need to know about volleyball from A-Z. Once you’ve taken a look through that you can confidently dive into the topics covered below, so let's get into it! 

Passing (Bumping): The First Touch

You’ve probably heard that a volleyball rally typically plays out in one way, bump, set, spike. This is the correct way a rally should go. When the opposing team serves the ball over the net the first contact a player has with the ball is the bump, the bump is a maneuver used to pass the ball to the setter. 

In order to properly pass the ball you need to have proper form. Proper bumping form is as follows: Bend your knees and keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Join your hands together, thumbs parallel, and hit the ball with the flat surface of your forearms. Aim to pass the ball high and toward the setter.

When bumping a ball it’s important to keep in mind that you aren’t swinging your arms to make contact with the ball, instead, you need to keep your arms stiff and use your body to direct the ball in the direction you want it to go. Reading how this is done might not make as much sense as actually seeing it so check out this video on how to properly bump a ball. 

Once you’ve got the basics down for form you then need to practice aiming. The objective of the bump is to pass the ball to the setter who will position the ball for the attacker to spike it over the net. When the ball is coming toward you, ensure you’re in proper form, visualize where you want the ball to go (toward the setter) and then use the motion of your body to direct the ball. Hitting the ball right up into the air or in any random direction won’t do much for your team, so it’s important that you master aiming your passes before your first game. 

For more directions on how you can improve your passing skills check out our blog “7 Tips for Better Passing in Volleyball” 

Setting: The Second Touch 

The set is the tactical backbone of every successful volleyball play. It's the second touch after the pass, and it's designed to position the ball for a teammate to spike. A good setter can control the game's tempo and create great scoring opportunities.

A setter's job is to read his or her teammates so that they can interpret when a ball is being passed to them, and which player is ready to spike. Once the ball is over the net, a setter needs to carefully watch his teammates, whoever is passing the ball will do their best to direct it toward the setter, but no one is 100% accurate. So, a setter must keep a watchful eye on the ball at all times to know where to position themselves to receive it. 

Once a setter is in position the only thing left to do is actually set the ball. Setting a ball is pretty straightforward, you want to position yourself under the path of the ball, and as the ball descends from the pass, you want to be able to direct it upward again. To properly set a ball, stand underneath the ball with feet shoulder length apart, position your hands in front of your face, facing the angle of the ball. Create a diamond shape with your hands, and ensure that your hands are firm, as the ball enters your hand, push upwards, launching the ball in the direction of the setter.

For you visual learners, here’s a how-to video on how to properly set a ball:

When setting a ball, aiming is the most important step. Once you see the ball headed in your direction you need to scan the court to find your attacker, then set the ball towards them. As you continue to play, practice, and build rapport with your teammates this will become easier. 

For more custom tips on how to improve your setting skills check out our Tips & Tricks for Setting in Volleyball

Spiking: The Third Touch 

The spike, or attack, is the offensive powerhouse of volleyball. It's the third touch, designed to send the ball over the net and into the opponent's court with force and precision.

‍To spike like a pro, approach the net with a three-step run-up, starting with your dominant foot. As you approach, swing your arms back to generate momentum. Jump off both feet, swing your arms forward and upwards, and hit the ball with the heel of your hand. Aim for the ball's top third to direct it downwards into the opponent's court.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to spike a volleyball:

Once you’ve mastered the basics of the approach and the hit you can begin to play around with more intricate strategies like where to aim the ball, how much force to use, and different spike types. Of course, all of this will come with time and practice, but for some insight into this we’ve put together a blog dedicated to spiking best practices in Volleyball titled “How to Spike in Volleyball

How to Improve Your Skills

Volleyball isn’t a one-trick pony, the basics will only take you so far in the game, and if you want to excel at the higher levels of play you’ll need to drastically step up your game from the simple bump set, and spike combination. The topics covered in this blog are a great starting place for beginner players, but once you’re ready to take your game to the next level we encourage you to check out some of our other volleyball blogs on our Blog Page for the best tips and tricks for volleyball players! 

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