By Karch Kiraly
I’ve often said that forearm passing is the cornerstone of volleyball, and I believe it more than ever now that I’m a coach. If you want to elevate the play of those around you, indoors or beach, you have to be able to make the ball go where you want by using your forearm platform.
When you think about it, every player on the court is required to pass. In the indoor game, even middle blockers have to set a hittable ball when a dig sprays their way – either overhead or with their platform. They also have to pass free balls, down balls, short serves or those that dribble over the net, and they have to cover their outside hitters when they get blocked.
The U.S. Women’s National Team faces these situations in every practice and every match. With such a fine margin between winning and losing, any one of these plays can determine the outcome. And, of course, beach players face the same thin margins and the same demands to make the ball go where they want.
During a game, players almost always have to receive a ball from one direction and make it go another – that is, they have to make an angle with their platform. There are very few game opportunities where you play a ball right back to where it came from, though that’s exactly what we do in partner activities like traditional pepper. If you can’t find a partner, a better way to practice making angles is to stand in the corner of two walls and repeatedly hit a spot on one wall, then the other. But even that drill has its flaws because the objective of a passer is to make the ball go to a teammate, not the next spot on the wall.
I prefer it when a player practices with two other people – friends, parents, siblings, anybody who’s willing. One person tosses or serves a ball over a net-high rope, and another is a catching target a few feet away from the “net.” (This is a drill you can do in the backyard or any place you can tie a rope.) This drill makes the passer take serves from various places around the court and pass them to a target.
Of course, the best way to practice – spoiler alert here – is to play this game called volleyball: doubles or with three players, indoors, on grass, on sand, wherever you can find a net.
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