How To Serve A Volleyball Better Improve Your Float Serve Technique

Improving your floater serve technique increases your chances of getting varsity playing time.

how to serve a volleyball: The left handed jump serve photo by Gallery ThreeJump Floater Serve photo by Gallery Three


When you learn how to serve a volleyball you have three types of service to choose from. 


Three Types of Service in Volleyball


The underhand serve in volleyball is most often the first serve you learn because its easy to control the ball.

The sidearm service in volleyball is a form of underhand serve but your serving arm is extended out to your side and you contact the ball on the face of your closed fist. 

The side arm serve allows you to serve underhand but with alot more pace, speed and direction to the ball. 

You most likely see alot of coaches use the  sidearm serve during passing and serving volleyball drills. 

The overhand serve in volleyball is used in high school, college and in all advanced national and international and beach competition.

You see it used in the following forms:

  • the floater serve
  • the topspin serve
  • the jump float serve 
  • the jump topspin serve

In order to begin a rally, the player in Zone 1 is required to serve the ball from behind the service line over the net into the opposing team's court, after the referee has blown the whistle. 

If you plan on getting alot of playing time or even making your varsity team, you have to know how to serve a volleyball overhand so your team can compete.

The players who know how to serve tough get the most playing time. 


Improving Your Floater Serve


When you learn how to serve a volleyball, even though it's your hand that makes contact with the ball,

  • the correct positioning of your feet, 
  • the movement of your core and lower body working together, 
  • a consistent volleyball serve toss and 
  • where your hand contacts the ball when serving are four things that will help determine how successful your overhand serve is.

That should help explain ahead of time why much of my advice on how to serve a volleyball is concentrated on the correct positioning of your feet and lower body.


Decide Where You're Going To Serve First


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 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.  


Watch Washington State Cougar Alexis Dirigis overhand jump float serve technique. 

For 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.


How To Make Your Floater Volleyball Serve Technique Even Better


In order to begin the serve we first start with how your feet should be positioned. If you are a right hander you should place your right foot parallel to your left foot so both feet are parallel to each other. Yes, this makes them parallel to the net AND the service line also. 

This means your left hip and left tossing arm should be pointed straight ahead and aimed at the target you want to serve.  

Your body should be opened up and perpendicular to the net, facing the wall on your right with feet and hips parallel to the service line and the net.  

If you decide to serve cross court to the opposing team's zone one (1) area, then your hip should be pointing cross court and so should your tossing arm. 

You should have all your body weight equally distributed on both feet.

This should be a very comfortable position. Even though your feet are pointed towards the wall on your right, 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 with your left foot, in place, required when you pivot your body weight from your right foot to your left foot, after you toss the ball two feet in the air. 


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 to the side of your body, parallel to your hip and holding the ball that you will toss in the palm of your hand. 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 lefties. It needs to be held comfortably straight out to your side and pointing directly at the target you intend to serve to.  

Some people start with this hand down by their side. When you do this, it adds more movement to your floater volleyball serve technique which is unnecessary.

Make sure the starting position for your left arm is straight out to your side, not down by your waist.


I teach players to eliminate all extra unnecessary body movement and to be very aware of what their body is doing at all times.

Coach April


The starting position for the overhand serve toss will be with the ball in the palm of this hand.

I can tell you that 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:
Improve Your Volleyball Serve 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 also on developing consistent tossing skills.  

With your left arm pointed at your target, toss the ball no more than two to three feet in the air.


Volleyball Overhand Serve Drills


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 6 to 12 inches in front of your front foot.

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 foot.

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

You want to become a consistent serving machine so you need to develop a toss that always goes up in the same place and comes down in the same place...I tell my players...two feet up in the air and 10-12 inches in front of your left foot.

Let me repeat...once again your toss should be two feet up in the air and 10 inches in front of your left foot.

You should develop and 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 too far to either side will force you off balance.

Once you are off balance, then you will be forced to chase your tossed ball. "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 begin.

When your toss is in front of your front foot then your toss will be in front of your serving shoulder which should then keep everything 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 held fully extended above your head, and fully extended above your non-serving arm with your fingertips with the palm of your serving hand slightly turned and fingers held wide. 


Toss-Step-Turn-High Five The Ball


After you toss the ball, step forward on to your left foot as you make a quarter turn to go from facing the wall on your right to facing the net.

During your turn its very important to keep your elbow high, above the level of ear, as your arm comes forward at the same time your hips do...to high five the ball. 

This is where 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. 

After you've made your toss and when you are contacting the ball you want to WATCH the middle of your hand, contact the middle of 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 part of your palm that's at the base of your fingers. 


Why Is Serving So Important


Learning how to serve overhand is the one thing you can count on that will help you get on the playing court. If you have a deadly serve, then your varsity coach WILL notice. Trust me. 

Anybody who can score points with a great serve from the service line, I promise you boo boo, their coach will make sure they get in the game. 

That's why its super important to learn how to serve overhand and to make your serve so good and so tough that your coach will be forced to say..."I have to play her or him" because I know we will score points with her serve. 


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 


Related Links:

Varsity Volleyball Girl Guide

Learn How To Serve A Ball Overhand 

The Hit

Block Tips

The Setter

The Basics

Most Read Articles

Middle Blockers

The Pass

Precision Passing

Five Pass Tips


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

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