Passing 101

Passing 101

Passing is the most critical component of the game of volleyball. Setting and hitting come after the first contact and they are both inconsequential if you don’t pass the ball well. Whether you are passing a ball in serve receive, or passing a free ball, it is vital that this skill is developed in order for you to meet your full potential as a player.

For me personally, it is a skill that I still have, even 11 years after playing elite club volleyball, and I know it is because of all the times I practiced these specific techniques.

Here are some helpful tips that I teach my Junior Varsity girls, and we have had vast improvement over a short period of time:

Feet first.

You want to learn to pass the ball with your feet. Meaning, on every pass, you have to move your feet to get to the position where you are behind the ball. This is especially difficult when you are playing balls that are deep in the court. You have to move backwards quickly to get behind the ball. On free balls (when you have the most time), it is best that you do your work early and wait for the ball whenever possible. The earlier you can get to a ball, the better. Always remember that your feet must react first.

There is one drill that can help you understand this concept. I call it the “feet drill”.

In this drill, the passers must move their feet in order to get to a position where the ball bounces between their legs, without hitting them. There is intentionally no platform passing in this drill, as it is only meant to teach the player to move and react to the ball with their feet first. Once the drill is over, passers will have a clear understanding of how to better react to the ball.


Try to play the ball on your left.

Move your feet in order to get the ball on your left side (unless you are passing on the right side of the court, in which case you would get the ball on your right side). Because the target is located on the right side of the court, for the most part the ball will need to be played on the left side of your body. This is a good tool for you to utilize to help make every pass as consistent as possible.


Platform angled towards target. 

This is the key to passing; especially when you are dealing with difficulty in serve receive. When you are on the left side of the court, you want to always remember to drop your right shoulder, in order to get the ball to the right side. The opposite is true when you are on the right side of the court, and your platform angle doesn’t have to be as exaggerated, just a slight drop of your left shoulder. You have to adjust depending on the speed and trajectory of the ball, but because you pass the ball with your arms, remember that the ball will follow the direction of your shoulders.

For a reference, here is where your “sweet spot” is located. It is very important to have a solid and consistent platform.

USA Volleyball

USA Volleyball

Finish the pass.

Use your legs to pass the ball and get it to the target. Do not swing your arms! Keep them still as possible—let your feet and legs do all of the work. No matter where the ball goes, it is important that you continue through every move in order to achieve the optimal pass. Finish wherever your body takes you. Note that in some cases you won’t be able to finish perfectly, but you are always working to get there.

The key with being a great passer is to have discipline and consistency. Also, trust your instincts. Like with any skill, you will become more confident the more you practice.

For more on this, check out this video with USA Volleyball Coach Terry Liskevych--he gives great information on how you should approach passing.

What drills do you use to help with passing? Let me know in the comments below!


Four time All-American, WNBA Champion, Edutainer and Coach