List of Volleyball Skills

List of Volleyball Skills

With every sport, comes a set of skills that are essential to be able to perform well in said sport. Soccer has dribbling, shooting, and passing. Football has throwing, catching, and tackling. Sports also tend to have advanced skills, that while not necessary to play well, only stand to improve one’s overall ability within the sport. Volleyball is no different, with a multitude of base skills that one simply needs in order to play the game, as well as more advanced, niche skills that separate the best from the average.

Serving Skills

Serving is a crucial skill to learn for all players. While not every player will serve over the course of a game, learning how to serve can be crucial in emergency situations. Each point cannot start without a properly executed serve, and failing to do so will result in a point for the other team. The different types of volleyball serves include:

  • Underhand Serves
  • Overhand Serves
  • Float Serves
  • Topspin Serves
  • Jump Serves
  • Skyballs

Underhand Serve

A volleyball game, set, or even point cannot be started until the ball is served in. This makes the serve an integral part of the sport. An underhand serve is typically the technique used in recreational volleyball, by beginners. This is done by holding out the ball with one’s non-dominant hand, then striking the underside of the ball with a closed fist. This type of serve tends to be used less and less as the level of competition increases, as it is very easy to receive.

Overhand Serve

This is the serving technique used most commonly in high school/college. When done normally, it is slightly more difficult to receive than the underhand serve, as it is easier to aim and has more of a horizontal trajectory than the underhand serve. This serve is performed by tossing the ball up with one’s non-dominant hand, then hitting the ball above one’s head with the other hand.

Float Serve

This is a type of overhand serve, but with a twist, or rather lack thereof. This is an overhand serve, but hit so that the ball does not have any spin as it travels through the air. While this may seem easier to receive, as spin often causes receives to go awry, the lack of spin causes the ball to catch the air, and can move unpredictably. The ball can move from side to side, or drop suddenly, or even sometimes go long when it seems like it should drop.

Topspin Serve

This is another type of overhand serve, with added topspin in order to make the serve more difficult to receive. This serve is far more predictable than a float serve, however is much faster, more powerful, and drops quickly, making it difficult to receive, even if the trajectory of the ball is predicted.

Jump Serve

This is the serve that is used primarily to get an ace or fluster the defense in professional volleyball. This serve is done by tossing the ball higher than an overhand serve, then running into a jump, and striking the ball overhand at the peak of the jump. Jump serves can be either topspin serves or float serves. The jump serve using topspin is incredibly difficult, and has a high potential for error. However, when done correctly, the serve is almost as effective as a spike. Jump floats are also incredibly difficult, but as the power of the serve is irrelevant, it tends to go over the net more often than when done with topspin. Jump floats are primarily used as more powerful float serves, with more range.


The final type of serve, and the most rarely used. This is a form of underhand serve, however struck with as much power as possible. This is in order to get the ball as high in the air as possible, in order to disorient the receivers. Due to the height of this serve, it tends to only be used in beach volleyball, or in large stadiums.

Passing Skills

Passing is a type of skill used during every rally in volleyball. Passing typically makes up the first two touches of a rally, being the serve-receive and set. Without successful passing, a team will be unable to perform attacks and score points. The different types of passing skills include:

  • Underhand Receives
  • Overhand Receives
  • Sets

Underhand Receive

This is the common technique used in volleyball in order to receive the ball, done by clasping one’s hands in front of them and aligning their thumbs pointing straight forward. This creates a flat surface, making it easier to control the ball’s trajectory when received. While this is a basic move, the difficulty of the actual reception depends on the ball hit over. An underhand serve from a beginner is infinitely easier to receive than a spike from a professional.

Overhand Receive

While the underhand receive is the ideal approach to making a pass after the opposing team puts it over the net, it is not always possible. Sometimes a spike or serve will be higher than the receiver anticipated, and with a ball coming right at their chest or head at full speed, they do not always have time to readjust for an underhand receive. In these situations, an overhand receive is ideal. This is done by using all ten fingers with finesse to push the ball into the air. While this is similar to a set, there is a slight difference. While a set is meant to be hit at its peak height, just above the net, an overhand pass or receive should be pushed as high as possible towards the setter, in order to imitate an underhand receive. This then makes it easier for the setter to go right into a set. 


This is one of the more niche skills in volleyball, as only the setter has to set the ball during the game. A set is a lofted pass that peaks above the net, ideally around the height that the spikers hand can reach at a full powered jump. However, other players, including middle blockers and even liberos will learn to set in case of a bad receive that does not go to the setter. This skill is difficult, as not only must a set be delicate, accurate, and well-timed for the spiker to hit, but they also must be sure to avoid putting spin on the ball, as if there is spin, the referee will sometimes call this as a double (double touch, meaning the set using both hands counts as two touches from the setter, which is a foul). Setting is one of the more difficult base skills in volleyball, and can be even more difficult depending on the speed of play, position of the setter, and the quality of the pass to the setter.

Hitting Skills

Hitting is one of the most important aspects to a team’s attack. Not all hits serve the same purpose, and they can come in a wide variety of speeds and angles. It is important to practice hitting in different scenarios as different types of shots may be better under certain circumstances. The different types of volleyball hits include:

  • Dumps
  • Hard-Driven Spikes
  • Off-Speed Spikes
  • Slide Attacks
  • Cross-Court Shots
  • Line Shots
  • Cut Shots
  • Open-Hand Tips


Dumping is a method of scoring where the setter touches the ball over the net instead of setting it, or simply spikes it instead of setting it. While the physical aspect of this skill is not difficult, there is another, more difficult aspect. That is misdirection. If the dump is telegraphed to the opposing team, it will be relatively easy to block, as the surprise aspect that gives the setter the advantage is now gone. It is important to make the opposing team believe that the setter is going to set the ball until it's already over the net.

Hard-Driven Spike

This is a downward driven spike, relying fully on power to blast through the defense. This an effective method of scoring, however, what the spike has in power, it lacks in accuracy, and as a result can sometimes be easily blocked or received by a skilled defense. A well-placed hard-driven spike is extremely difficult to defend.

Off-Speed Spike

This spike is the opposite of the Hard-Driven Spike. This type of spike relies on accuracy to spike the ball towards an open or undefended area of the opponent's court. However, due to the focus on accuracy, it lacks power, and as a result is an easy receive if anticipated. This type of spike is useful against defenses with a strong block or defenses that have holes.

Slide Attack

This is a spike done after a one-legged push off in a lateral direction, in order to lose the blockers before the spike. This is a more difficult spike as it requires advanced jumping power and the ability to spike while moving through the air laterally. This type of attack requires a lot of repetition and practice in order to get the timing down.

Cross-Court Shot

This is a spike that is hit from one side of the net, towards the opposite back corner of the opposing team’s court. This is a diagonal spike done in order to avoid blockers, forcing a skilled dig. This also gives the attacker the most room to land the spike in bounds as they are hitting to the largest part of the court from their angle.

Line Shot

This is a spike hit directly along the opponent’s sideline. Not only is this difficult to defend, as it requires extreme precision to keep it along the line without landing out of bounds, but can also force a block-out (a failed block where the ball goes out of bounds after hitting the blocker) or a poor receive that goes out of bounds due to the balls close proximity to the line.

Cut Shot

This is a spike somewhat similar to the cross court shot, except hit with a far sharper angle. The idea of this spike is to hit the ball as horizontally as possible, so that it never goes very far from the net, where it is extremely hard to receive the ball. This spike is effective against blockers as well, as the blockers directly face the spiker, meaning that they can only block shots hit forward, whereas a cut shot is hit sideways.

Open-Hand Tip

This is an open handed soft touch over the net, similar to a dropshot in tennis or squash, in order to catch the blockers and receivers off guard when they were expecting a spike. This is similar to a dump from setters, and focuses on catching the defense off-guard and placing the ball in an empty area.

Blocking Skills

Blocking skills are crucial in order to effectively stop an opposing team from spiking the ball. If blocks are not properly executed, an opposing team can truly dominate the opponent and win sets with ease. Essential blocking skills include:

  • Blocking
  • Soft Blocking


A block is when one to three players of the defending team line up and jump in front of and in sync with the opposing team's spiker, in order to keep their spike from crossing over the net. This requires communication and strategy between teammates, quick reactions, and slight prediction, and becomes more and more difficult as the skill of the opposing spiker increases.

Soft Blocking

This is a form of blocking where instead of trying to keep the ball on the opposing team’s court, the goal is to soften the spike, in order to create an easy receive for their team. This is done by leaning back with their hands up and angled backward, in order to ensure the ball continues on its forward trajectory, but also gets popped up into the air to negate the spikers power and speed.


What is the hardest skill to master in volleyball?

In a general sense, the most difficult skill to master in volleyball is serving. Serving is an extraordinarily important part of the game of volleyball, so much so that certain players earn their keep on volleyball teams as serving specialists. There are a variety of different serves one can master, with various different challenges to get the hang of each, making the art of the serve an extremely difficult skill to master in the game of volleyball.

What is the most important skill in volleyball?

There is no certain skill that is most important in volleyball. That being said, certain skills are more important for certain positions to learn. For example, setters should learn how to set as opposed to receiving. Front row players should also learn how to block and hit as opposed to passing. Nonetheless, every player should learn nearly every skill in case they need to fill in for another player.

What skills are used to receive a serve in volleyball?

The two main skills used to receive a serve are the underhand receive and the overhand receive. The underhand receive is the more common of the two, and is when a player uses a platform to bump-pass the ball to the setter. This type of pass is better suited for controlling high velocity balls and topspin balls such as serves. Overhand receptions are usually used when a player misreads a serve and cannot position themselves for an underhand serve. This type of reception is less strong because it is much more difficult to control high-velocity serves with one’s fingertips.