The Volleyball Serve:
What's The Overhand Serve Definition

Learn the 3 kinds of service in volleyball and improve your floater serve with these point scoring tips 

Volleyball floater serve techniques: UCLA player serving the ballUCLA floater serve

Here are a few volleyball serve tips and techniques that should improve the effectiveness of your float serve.

want to share this info for players who don't yet understand the importance of developing a point-scoring volleyball serve technique. 

Serving is the one individual skill in this game that you have complete control of.  

From the moment you pick up the ball behind the service line to once it leaves your hands after the ref blows the whistle, you literally have the ability to score points for your team if you use the correct serving technique. 

This long rally in the NCAA Volleyball Regionals between Florida and UCLA starts off with a strong serve that almost turned into an ace!

The Overhand Serve Definition

The volleyball serve is the way the ball is sent over the net to start the rally after the ref has blown the whistle. 

The player who starts in or rotates into serving Zone 1 is the only one who can serve the ball when their team is on offense. 

There are three kinds of service in volleyball that players most commonly use in practices and in competition. 

  • the underhand serve in volleyball
  • the overhand serve in volleyball
  • the jump serve

What is the underhand serve in volleyball?

Usually the first type of serve you learn when first being introduced to the game, the underhand serve is named so because the server uses their serving hand to close their fist and swing their arm, keeping their arm straight and elbow low to contact the bottom third of the ball to send it over the net. 

Right handers hold the ball in the palm of the left hand with the left foot in front of the right one, like the girls in the photo above. 

With the right hand they swing it back, straight back behind their body and then swing forward to contact the bottom third of the ball using the momentum of the swing to create the power to get the ball over the net. 

The ball is contacted with a closed fist, with contact being made near the thumb and closed forefinger. 

Left handers do the opposite. 

The Volleyball Serve:
The Side Arm Serve in Volleyball

A version of the underhand serve is the side arm serve where you set up to serve the same way but with one primary difference:

Instead of your serving arm swinging back and forth parallel along your body it starts out to your side with the closed palm of your hand facing the net. The swing is sideways, in a perpendicular motion to the body so the middle of the ball is contacted with the front of the closed palm.

Imagine holding and swinging a baseball bat at a ball with one arm. That's very similar to how to perform the sidearm swing in volleyball. 

The side arm serve is pretty popular among coaches in practices. I use it alot because it allows me to serve alot of balls quickly and accurately. 

Underhand Serve Volleyball Drills

To practice the underhand serve there are drills like the following to increase precision serving. 

Serve 10 balls to each of the six serving zones.

a. Serve 60 balls in 3 - 5 minutes. 

b. Serve 60 balls clockwise

c. Serve 60 balls counter clockwise. 

Volleyball Serve:
What is the overhand serve in volleyball? 

The overhand serve in volleyball is a way of sending the ball over the net to start a rally by contacting the ball above your head.  

This method is most often used by intermediate and advanced skilled players in high school, club, collegiate, beach and international and championship competition. 

The overhand serve in volleyball comes in several forms like

  • the floater serve 
  • the topspin serve 
  • the jump float and 
  • the jump spin

is preferred because its a serve when performed correctly is fast spaced with or without spin, designed to be difficult for passers in serve receive to pass the ball to their setter. 

The floater volleyball serve - the middle of the hand contacts the middle of the ball with a rigid wrist, flat hand and widespread stiff fingers. 

Imagine giving a friend a "high five" keeping your elbow above the level of your ear throughout the whole movement. 

This is the serving technique used by a player so when the ball is contacted it crosses the net quickly with alot of float movement in the air then drops suddenly to the floor making it increasingly difficult for a passer to track and pass the ball. 

The topspin volleyball serve is another type of overhand serve in volleyball.

The primary difference in performing the topspin serve is

a. the wrist isn't stiff when contacting the ball but is bent so the serving hand contacts the top third of the ball. Contacting the top third of the ball creates spin and along with a quick armswing insures the ball crosses the net with a lot of pace and velocity like a spiked hit.

This makes it necessary for the passer to drop their hips quickly below the level of the ball to attempt to pass the ball like you would a dig.  

The Volleyball Serve Jump Serve in Volleyball

The jump serve comes in two popular varieties:

  • the jump float serve and 
  • the jump spin serve

How To Jump Serve A Volleyball

Jump serves are performed with a volleyball serve toss that's 4 - 6 feet in the air followed by a three step spike approach that you use to launch yourself in the air before serving the ball in one of the two ways described above. 

What You Think About In Order To Improve Your Volleyball Serve 

For those of you having trouble with the overhand serve in volleyball, I’ve listed a few things for you to check on which should help you improve your point scoring ability from the service line.

Many players don't even realize the power they have when they get behind the end line to serve.

That's a huge mistake.

USC Players Keep Elbow Up ALWAYS During Volleyball Serve!

Watch as USC servers ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS keep their elbow up above the level of their ear...all through their float serve they can get their hand to the ball....(the middle of their hand-to the middle  of the ball)...FASTER.  

I ask my players all the time, why not take advantage of this wonderful point-scoring opportunity?

How To Fix Your Wimpy Volleyball Serves

It's the first one every individual player has and many don't take advantage of it so I ask you, why don’t players, toughen up their float serves in volleyball?

Well, if the idea of scoring a point with your float serve in volleyball doesn't enter your mind then of course you would never think to try and do it.

So let's change that.

Watch this EXCELLENT video of professional players and Italian (featuring Francesca Piccinini one of the best outside hitters in the world) and Dutch national team players as they set up with

a) serving arm elbow high above the level of their ear - NOT on the ball, not bringing the ball up with two hands elbow, but high in the air in a VERY balanced movement....

b) palm facing outwards and not turned up to the ceiling

c) Body opens to the wall on the right and closes with a quarter turn to the ball- WHILE elbow is ALWAYS kept high during the turn

d) HIGH FIVE the ball - for the standing float serve- the middle of the hand  contacts the middle of the ball

e) Server WATCHES her hand contact the ball...

From now on when it's your turn to rotate back to zone one on the court to serve, as you are walking back to the base line you should be mentally forming a serving strategy.

Don't underestimate the power of this float serve volleyball tip.

You should make up your mind that you are going to go back and serve an aggressive ball to a certain spot or to a certain player on the court.

Florida serves to start this rally against Stanford during the NCAA Championship playoffs 


Why Serve Tough in Volleyball?

Why do you want to do this?

Because you want to take advantage of this singular opportunity to make it difficult for the opposing team to be able to easily run a play against your team.

If you don't think about scoring a point when you serve, then of course you won't do it, but if you don't do it, then you are passing up a golden opportunity to help your team score an easy point.

More Volleyball Serving Tips

Another way of thinking about scoring a point from the service line is to imagine that you are attacking the ball with your serve.

Think about it!

When you hit the ball, you are in an aggressive state of mind, right?

Well, just like you are in an aggressive state of mind when you spike a ball you want to recreate that same state of mind when you go back to serve.

Mentally Plan Ahead.
Determine Early Where or Who You Intend
To Serve in Volleyball

First, you want to mentally decide to attack with your serve.

Here are some thoughts that professional volleyball players have in their mind...and I mean what they actually think about before serving in volleyball.

”I don’t want to serve the opposing team a ball that’s easy for them to serve receive and run an attack off of."

"I want to serve a ball that puts them in a difficult situation where I force one of the passers to have to move out of their comfortable passing position to pass my tough or well-placed serve."

"I want a specific passer to mess up or shank the ball or if I can't force them to do that then at the very least I want my serve to force the opposing team to give our volleyball team an easy ball that we can defend or pass and run an attack against them.”

Usually one or all or a version of these thoughts passes through a pro player's mind at some time during their match when they are behind the service line prepping for their volleyball serve.

Volleyball serve techniques:Iowa Hawkeyes Libero Serving a Volleyball  Photo by Jon FravelIowa Hawkeyes Libero Serving a Volleyball Photo by Jon Fravel

So when I say that you should be attacking with your float serve I am describing a mental process that you must adapt to first--even before you prepare to physically do any serving.

Do the mental stuff first as you are walking back to the service line to prepare for your serve.

You want to start practicing this mental process of adopting a more aggressive attitude when you’re doing your serving drills so that your game time serving will automatically get tougher.

Volleyball Serve Techniques: Where Do you Go From Here?

Your three options are: 

  1. You can learn more about Passing.
  2. Follow the suggested reading on our Sitemap page Learning How To Play (Sitemap)
  3. Or visit the pages in the How to Play Volleyball section in the drop down menu at the top of the page to get started. 
  4. Before leaving this page Say "Hi" to Miss Tattoo the Tiger wearing the #9 jersey below.  Miss Tattoo is the starting defensive and serving specialist for the All Beast VolleyBragSwag All Star team.

Related Links: 

How to Play

Learn To Play








Serve Receive


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

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