How Many Types of Serves In Volleyball Are There? 5 Serving Terms

How many serves in volleyball are there? Learn the definitions for the serving terms for the let serve, sky ball serve, the overhand and the underhand serve. 

How many serves in volleyball are there? Learn the definitions for the serving terms for the let serve, sky ball serve, the overhand and the underhand serve. (Jaroslaw)How many serves in volleyball are there? Learn the definitions for the serving terms for the let serve, sky ball serve, the overhand and the underhand serve. (Jaroslaw)


There are quite a few different types of serves in volleyball including 

  • the let serve
  • overhand serve
  • sky ball serve
  • underhand serve
  • service error


The serve in volleyball is an offensive weapon and the first chance for a player to score a point.

When used intelligently it can help you and your team score easy points from the baseline.

The list of terms below describe various types of volleyball serves players use to start a rally.

I suggest learning these to increase your volleyball IQ.


Serves in Volleyball: Let Serve


The let serve was created because of a rule change made by the powers that be (FIVB)  to

  • increase the speed of the game and
  • to make it more appealing to television audiences and spectators by

reducing the pauses that occur between plays. 

Initially a served ball couldn't touch any part of the net as it passed over it to start the rally.

But with the new serving rule, if the ball touches the net, the referee is allowed to "let" the play continue so the players on serve receive must be ready to continue to play the ball.


Serves in Volleyball:
Overhand Serve

In competitive high school, club, college and international volleyball the overhand serve is the most popular form used to start the rally when serving. (Michael E. Johnston)In competitive high school, club, college and international volleyball the overhand serve is the most popular form used to start the rally when serving. (Michael E. Johnston)

The overhand volleyball serve describes

  • what happens when a player tosses the ball with one hand about two feet up in the air
  • steps towards it, and
  • raises their other arm to perform a bow and arrow arm movement
  • keeping their elbow high above their ear
  • contacting the ball with an open hand to propel it over the net and
  • into the opposing volleyball team's court

which starts the rally.

In competitive volleyball in high school, club, college and professional indoor and beach  leagues and competition, the overhand serve is the most popular form used to start the rally when serving.

Various forms of the overhand serve include the floater serve, the topspin serve and the jump serve. All these types of serves require the player to make contact with the ball over their head.

If you hear someone call this an "overhand" serve or an "overhead" serve, they are referring to the same type of volleyball serve


Serves in Volleyball: 
Sky Ball Serve

Sky ball serve - Beach players use this style of serve to take advantage of the wind and bright sky by underhand serving the ball 20-30 feet in the air. (Ralph Aversen)Sky ball serve - Beach players use this style of serve to take advantage of the wind and bright sky by underhand serving the ball 20-30 feet in the air. (Ralph Aversen)

Beach volleyball players use this style of a serve in volleyball to take advantage of the wind and the sky.

By serving the ball more than 20-30 feet into the air, they force the opposing passers to take their eyes off of the court in order to visually track the ball.

Because of the brightly lit sky and the wind currents, it makes it difficult for passers to pass the light colored ball since it can get lost against the light colored background of the sky or get moved around alot in the wind currents.

It was much harder when the official beach volleyball ball was only white but in recent years they've changed the color of the balls so that players play with balls that are multi-colored, that are much easier to see against the bright sky. 


Serves in Volleyball: 
How To Underhand Serve


The underhand serve describes one of the first basic skills in volleyball beginners learn.

A player begins the rally by

  • tossing a ball with one hand two feet up in the air, steps towards it, and
  • swings her other arm back behind her before
  • quickly swinging it forward to contact the underside of the ball with a closed fist or closed palm

to serve it over the net.


Serves in Volleyball: 
Service Error


According to the rules of volleyball a service error is committed when a player fails to start a rally by getting the ball over the net with their serve.

This can happen if a player serves the ball over the net and it

a) lands outside of the other team's court

b) if the ball doesn't cross the net or

c) if the server steps on the service line and commits a foot fault.


This has been an important message by your favorite volleyball coach! That's me!!

Thanks for visiting.

Be sure to check out more of my volleyball articles by clicking one of the links below!  (April Chapple)

Do You Follow Me on Instagram?


Follow me on Instagram @coach_apchap to improve your game even faster!

I share alot of individual, partner and easy-to-do volleyball serving drills we do in class with my followers.

Many of these volleyball practice drills you can do at home by yourself or try at your next practice with your teammates.

If you're a B team or JV player trying to make varsity next year...your goal should be to complete 1000 reps a day of at least three of the basic skills on your own...volleyball passing, serving and setting should be at the top of the list. 



Learn more volleyball terms in the pages below. 



  1. Improve Your Volleyball Performance with Vegas VB Coach April Chapple
  2.  ›
  3. What's This Volleyball Word? Basic Terms, Slang and Volleyball Lingo
  4.  ›
  5. How Many Types of Serves In Volleyball Are There? 5 Serving Terms




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