How To Serve A Volleyball Overhand

Learn Point Scoring Serving Techniques

How To Serve A Volleyball.

Even though it's your hand that makes contact with the ball, the correct

positioning of your feet and the movement of your lower body will

determine how successful your overhand serve is.

I hope that helps to explain why much of my advice on how to serve a

volleyball is concentrated on the correct positioning of your feet

and lower body.

In order to begin the serve we first start with how your feet should be


If you are a right hander you should place your right foot behind your

left foot so your right foot is perpendicular to your Left.

Your left foot should be pointed in the direction of the location of

where you want to serve the ball.

When you learn how to serve a volleyball you should first decide

exactly where you want your overhand serve to go.

When you're first practicing your serve,  your ball may not always go

where you want it to but no matter what, you always want to serve the

ball with a purpose.

Remember that you want to have a place or a person to aim for when

you serve the ball to in the opposing team's court  .

You need to identify a location on the opponent's court where your serve

creates the most difficulty for the opposing team to run their offense.  

For volleyball players learning how to serve a volleyball, serving

with a purpose is an important part of the process. 

  • Are you going to serve the ball cross court? 
  • Will you serve down the line? 

Let's say you decide to serve down the line towards the opposing

team's left side hitter.

If you want to serve down the line then your entire body should be

facing the location where you want to serve the ball.

This means your left foot, your hips, legs and upper body should be

pointed straight ahead. 

Your body should be squared to the net and facing position five (5) of the

opposing team's court since that is where you want to serve.

If you decide to serve cross court to the opposing team's zone one (1)

area, then you'd adjust your body position to the left so that your body

is facing your intended target.

Since you are learning how to serve a volleyball cross court your

left foot, your hips, legs and upper body should be turned and

facing cross court.

You should have all your body weight on your back foot.

If you are right-handed then since your left foot is pointed in the direction

of your target, then the weight of your body needs to be on your right


The opposite is true if you are left handed.

This should be a very comfortable position.

Even though your front foot is pointed towards your intended

target,  the heels of both of your feet should be on the ground.

The only lower body movement needed when you serve the ball will

be a very very slight step forward required when you shift your

body weight from your back foot to your front foot.

What do you do with your upper body and arms when you learn

how to serve a volleyball?

Your non-serving arm should be extended straight out in front of your

body. This is the arm that you will be tossing the ball in the air with.

This would be the left arm for right handers and the right arm for


It needs to be held comfortably straight out in front of your and parallel

to the ground.

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photo by Luomen


Some people start with this hand down by their side. When you do

this, it adds more movement to your volleyball serve technique which is


Make sure the starting position for your left arm is straight out in front

of you, not down by your waist.

The starting position for the volleyball serve will be with the ball in

the palm of this hand.

When you first learn how to serve you will underestimate the

importance of the toss. Don't worry everyone does. 

How To Serve A Volleyball: The Toss

Here's what you need to know, without a good consistent toss you

can't serve the ball.

The toss is one of the most important elements of the serve.

As you learn how to serve a volleyball, you will realize that getting the

ball over the net depends on also learning consistent tossing


With your straight left arm in front of you, toss the ball no more

than two to three feet in the air.

For practice, while learning how to serve a volleyball, let the ball

fall to the ground so you can see where it lands.

If you tossed the ball correctly the ball will land about between 6 to 12

inches in front of your front foot.

Remember the foot that is pointed towards your target?

That's the one.  

Every time you toss the ball, if you were to let your toss fall to

the ground then the ball should fall several inches in front of your front


Your goal should be to toss the ball in the same way every time you

serve. You want to be a serving machine so you would toss the ball

two feet up in the air and 10 inches in front of your left foot.

Once again your toss should be two feet up in the air and 10 inches in

front of your left foot.

You should use this pattern as your guide and then as you

get better serving the ball you can make a few adjustments if you

need to personalize your serve technique. 

If you toss the ball to the left or the right of your front foot several

things happen.

First a ball tossed to far to either side will force you off balance. Once

you are off balance then you will be forced to chase your toss. Chasing

your toss means that you will have to adjust your serving arm to

go chase your bad toss.

When you do this your body is no longer facing the target you intended

to serve and you won't serve in the direction you are aiming for.

So guess what?

Many volleyball players especially after they have learned how to

serve in volleyball still don't realize it, but this is why the toss is

where many serving errors start.

When your toss is in front of the foot that is pointing towards your

intended target, then everything is in line for you to serve the ball right

where you want it to go.

When the toss is too far to the left or right of your front foot then you

are much less likely to serve the ball to your intended target.  

The last part of learning how to serve a volleyball deals with your

serving arm.

How To Serve A Volleyball: The Serving Arm

Your serving arm should be parallel and fully extended above your

non-serving arm with your fingertips and palm of your hand facing

downward lightly covering the top of the ball.

After you toss the ball, step forward shifting your body weight from

your back foot to your front foot to meet the ball.

At this moment you should begin your arm swing.

Start your RIGHT arm swing by pulling your arm straight back with your

palm facing outward keeping your elbow high.

It's crucial that when you pull your serving arm back, your elbow is

kept high enough to pass over the level of your ear.

For practice sake, while pulling your serving elbow back, if you were

to turn your head slightly to look to see if your serving arm is high

enough, you would be able to look underneath your elbow as you

pull your arm back. That's how high your elbow needs to be to get the

ball over the net.

This is where volleyball players make a second crucial mistake

once they learn how to serve a volleyball.

Many tend to drop their elbow to shoulder level or below, when they

pull their elbow back to serve.

Not only does this increase the possibility of shoulder irritation or injury

but it lowers your chances of serving the ball over the net.

Ideally you would use the same movement you would use to pull a bow

and arrow.

Once you've pulled the bow back, which your elbow symbolizes, as far

back as it will go, keeping the elbow as high as possible, you then raise

the forearm above your head with the palm of your hand turned outward.

Then bring your arm forward to make contact with the ball.

Remember when you learn how to serve a volleyball, overhand

contact should be made squarely in the center of the ball with the

flat upper palm portion of your hand.

The Volleyball Girl Guide: Where Do You Go From Here?

Where do you need to go now? Here are three options: 

  1. Learn more about the Setter Volleyball Player. 
  2. Follow the suggested reading on our Sitemap page                    Learning How To Play (Sitemap)
  3. Or visit the pages in the Volleyball Girl Guide section in the drop down menu at the top of the page 

Meet Tatoo the Tiger, Serving Specialist on 
VolleyBragSwag's All Beast Team

  1. Improve Your Volleyball
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  5. How To Serve A Ball Overhand

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