Serving In Volleyball: Complete Guide

Serving In Volleyball: Complete Guide

There are different types of serves volleyball players use when serving the ball to their opposing team. Some serves are easier to master than others. In this article we will discuss the different types of serves, how to perform them, and let you know their difficulty level.

We will also cover different serving strategies and explain how and why they are used. Serving strategies can be a difference maker in who wins and who loses. Learning these can take your serving skill to the next level.

What Are The Types Of Serves In Volleyball?

What Are The Types Of Serves In Volleyball?

The different types of serves in volleyball are underhand, overhand, float, topspin, and jump. Each serve has its own steps and level of difficulty. The easiest serve in volleyball is the underhand, the most common is the overhand, and the most difficult is the jump serve.

The serve is a very important aspect of any volleyball game. Because one team or the other is always serving, it is a perfect opportunity to score points. Using the serves and strategies below will lead you to achieve more ace serves!

Underhand Serve

Level Of Difficulty: Easy

The underhand serve is most commonly used with beginner players or recreational volleyball players. Once you learn this serve it is easy to perform and goes over the net most of the time. This serve is not a hard serve and will more than likely go high into the air when going over the net.

How To Perform The Underhand Serve

  • Hold the ball in your non-dominant hand
  • Stand with your dominant foot back and non-dominant foot forward about shoulder width apart
  • Make a fist with your dominant hand
  • While stepping with your non-dominant foot swing your arm back
  • Rock onto your back foot and swing through the ball sending it over the net

Tip #1: Hit the ball right out of your hand, never drop the ball down and then hit it.

Tip #2: Position your body to face the middle of the net before hitting the ball. This will ensure that the ball will stay inbounds.

Overhand Serve

Level Of Difficulty: Medium

The overhand serve is the most common serve used by volleyball players. When first learning this serve, it can take awhile to become consistent with it, especially for younger players. Once you get this serve down, you become more comfortable as a server and you “get into a groove” with your serves.

This serve can make it more difficult for passers on the other team to easily pass it to the setter. Therefore, making it harder for them to make offensive moves.

How To Perform The Overhand Serve

  • Hold the ball in your non-dominant
  • Bring your dominant arm back like a bow and arrow
  • Hold the ball out with your arm fully extended
  • Toss the ball up 2-3 feet in front of you
  • Step with your non-dominant foot and swing your arm through the ball at the same time

Tip #1: Make sure your toss is directly in front of you, not behind you or way out front. 90% of serves are missed because of a bad toss.

Tip #2: Keep your wrist rigid, your hand flat, and spread your fingers wide when hitting the ball.

Float Serve

Level Of Difficulty: Medium to Advanced

The float serve is used to throw off your opponent. A good float serve will have little to no spin when going over the net. This serve makes the ball be more influenced by the air and can move left or right or quickly drop when it loses momentum. This serve is used at higher levels of volleyball such as club, high school and on up.

How To Perform The Float Serve

  • Hold the ball in your non-dominant hand with your arm fully extended in front of you
  • Bring your dominant arm back like a bow and arrow
  • Toss the ball into the air 2-3 feet in front of you
  • Step with your non-dominant foot
  • Hit the ball, but don’t swing all the way through, like you’re giving someone a “high five”

Tip #1: Start with the air hole of the ball in the palm of your hand. The heaviest part of the ball will be pointing down making it more likely to float through the air.

Tip #2: Contact the ball right in the middle and don’t snap your wrist.

Topspin Serve

Level Of Difficulty: Medium to Advanced

The topspin serve is another serve that can make it difficult for your opponent to serve receive. A good topspion serve will come down quickly after it crosses the net. Your opponent may even think it’s going out of bounds, but then it will suddenly comes down. With this serve, you can give a lot of power and speed to the ball.

How To Perform The Topspin Serve

  • Hold the ball in your non-dominant hand
  • Bring your dominant arm back with elbow up
  • Toss the ball a little behind you instead of straight out in front
  • Contact the ball above your head with your fingers wrapped around the ball to create spin
  • Finish the serve with your fingers pointed down

Tip #1: When contacting the ball, it should make a slap sound.

Tip #2: Create more power by opening your hips and shoulders and taking a bigger step when hitting the ball.

Jump Serve

Level Of Difficulty: Advanced

The jump serve is an advanced serve that is used by players who are consistent with the regular overhand standing serves. This serve is intimidating to the other team and can bring more speed and power to the ball. Because you are jumping to serve the ball, it gives the you a better angle to bring the ball down into the opponents court.

How To Perform The Jump Serve

  • Stand several paces behind the service line
  • Toss the ball high enough into the air to make an approach
  • Make a left, right, left approach like you are hitting the ball (or opposite for left handed)
  • Swing at the ball to go over the net
  • Land inside the court after jumping

Tip #1: Start your approach behind the serving line, but you may land inside the court.

Tip #2: Be patient with yourself on this serve. It may take you longer to master because it requires more moving parts and timing.

Serving Strategies In Volleyball

Serving Strategies In Volleyball

There are some strategies that players can use to be a more effective server. Before using any strategy be sure that you are consistent with getting your serve over the net. Then you can work on accuracy and power. Here is a list of strategies players use when serving.

In The Well

Servers can serve the ball right in the middle of the court. This spot is called the well. It makes it hard for players to communicate effectively, therefore, making it hard to pass up. It becomes harder for the other team to make a decision on who will pass the ball.

Down The Line

Serving down the line means you serve the ball directly in front of you over to the other side close to the out of bounds line. This can throw off the other team because they may be expecting it to go another way. Serving down the line doesn’t happen very often and it can be harder for a player to see it coming.


A cross court serve is one that is served to the opposite side of the court from the server. When performing this serve, it is best to aim between two players. This will sometimes cause miscommunication and the ball may not get passed up effectively.

Deep Shot

This serve is aimed at going behind the serve receivers. If the players are leaving the space behind them open, then attack it. Good serves to use for this are the float serve or a serve with high speed.

High Up

When using this strategy, serve the ball high in the sky so that it takes the ball awhile to come down. This can throw off team’s serve receiving because they are not used to such a high serve. It can come down at an odd angle causing a bad pass.

Slow Down

If you have served several hard serves and the other team is serve recieving it nicely, try slowing your serve down. This can throw the players off because they are used to hard serves coming over the net. The float serve is a great one to use here.

Volleyball Serving Drills

Volleyball Serving Drills

The best way to get better at serving a volleyball is to practice. The more you practice the easier it will be to get up to the serving line and hit the ball over the net. Listed below are some drills that will help any player improve their serving. 

Around The World

Difficulty Level: Intermediate


Players serve the ball to each zone on the court in order. A player starts by serving to zone 1 and then shags their ball. Then the next player serves. They must hit the ball in each of the 6 zones before going on to the next one.


  • If a server is struggling, have them aim their body at the zone.
  • Have players on both sides of the net so that servers are not waiting in line.


  • After going around the world once, go around starting with zone 6 and ending on zone 1.
  • Give a time limit to get around the world, such as 2 minutes.

Pop Toss

Difficulty level: Beginner


This drill is great for beginner players that are learning the toss in serving. Put weight on your dominant foot. Hold your non-dominant arm out in front of you with a little bend in the elbow with the ball in your hand. Make sure the ball is resting on your fingers and not the palm of your hand. 

Toss the ball up in the air so that it just pops up (kind of like popcorn). You can let the ball fall to the ground and if you are doing the toss correctly it should land between your feet in front of the shoulder you are going to hit the ball with.  


  • Don’t bend your body or drop your arm while tossing.
  • Don’t hold the ball up by your head.
  • Hold your arm straight out in front of you.


  • Practice the pop toss a certain amount of times in a row with the ball falling to the ground checking to see if it lands between your feet.
  • Toss the ball up a certain number of times and catch it in your tossing hand.

Serve n Sprint Relay

Difficulty Level: Intermediate


Split the players up evenly and line them up in two lines on one side of the court. Give a ball to the first player in each line. Blow the whistle letting each player know to serve the ball. If the ball is successfully served over the net inbounds, the player sprints onto the court and retrieves the ball. They then bring it back to the next player and sit down at the end of the line. If they miss the serve, they must try again until it goes over the net. 

This continues through the line until everyone is sitting down. The first team with all their players sitting, wins the game. This drill teaches the players to hustle onto the court after serving the ball.


  • Keep the lines far enough apart from each other so they don’t collide.
  • If a server is struggling to get the ball over, have them go through the line again, giving them a little break.


  • If the servers are beginners or having trouble from the serving line, move the serving line up into the court.
  • To make it more challenging, servers must jump serve, serve to a certain spot on the court or any other kind of challenge you can think of.

Candy Hula Hoop Game

Difficulty Level: Intermediate/Advanced


Place three hula hoops in different areas on the court. Place wrapped candy inside each hoop. The players line up on the opposite side to serve at the hoops. If a player’s ball lands inside a hoop or on the edge of the hoop, they can pick out a piece of candy. They can then get back in line and try again.

It would be good to have a bag with their name on it to put their candy in when they earn a piece. This is a great drill to teach spot serving. A good time to do this drill is around Halloween.


  • If someone isn’t making it into the hoop, have the other players encourage them and move the hoop to an area where their serves are going.
  • Before playing this game, make sure parents have no issues with candy being given to their child.


  • Move the hoops around every 2-3 minutes.
  • For more of a challenge, servers must jump serve.

Spider Web Drill

Difficulty Level: Advanced


All players line up behind the service line. If the first server’s ball lands in, they will go and lay down where their ball landed. Every server that follows aims for the player on the floor. If the player on the floor is touched by the ball before it lands, then the server joins them on the floor by touching hands or feet. They are forming a spider web. 

This continues until all players have hit the web. If a player does not hit the web, they shag their ball and keep trying. This drill encourages spot serving and gives weaker servers more repetitions.  


  • Only run this drill on occasion as it doesn’t give many repetitions to stronger servers.
  • Play it more than one time through giving weaker servers more chances to be successful which will in turn raise their confidence.


  • Split the court down the middle or play on two courts and have two teams playing this game as a competition. Whichever team finishes first wins the game.
  • If teams are getting through the drill quickly, play 2 out of 3 rounds or 3 out of 5 rounds.

Who Serves On The Volleyball Court

Who Serves On The Volleyball Court

The player who is serving the volleyball is always in the right back position on the court. A lot of times the setter starts in this position and is the first server. The reason the setter starts in this position is because that is the zone they play in on serve receive.

The back row players will often substitute in for the front row players and serve for them. They will then play across the back row until it’s time for the front row players to substitute back in. Back row players include the libero and defensive specialists. They are usually better at serving than the front row hitters.

Sometimes a front row player, such as an outside hitter, will serve then substitute out for a back row player. The risk of this is that the front row player will need to play defense. A middle blocker will rarely serve the ball.


Serving is very important in volleyball as it starts the game and is a great way to score points. Knowing the different types of serves and how to perform them can give you an advantage against your opponent and lead to more ace serves. Be sure to take time to practice each serve and you will get better and better each time.

If you are just beginning your volleyball journey or need some friendly reminders about the game, check out our article Volleyball Tips For Beginners.

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