How to Serve a Volleyball For Beginners: Underhand And Overhand

how to serve a volleyball

Serving in volleyball isn’t just the starting point of a rally; it’s arguably the most important skill in the game. Why? Because it’s the only moment when a player has complete control over the ball and the game’s initiation. For beginners, mastering the serve is essential not only for its strategic value but also for building a solid foundation in volleyball. A strong serve can dictate the pace of the game, putting the opposing team on the defensive right from the get-go. So, if you’re new to the sport or embarking on your volleyball journey, this guide is designed for you.

Two Ways To Serve

Underhand Serve

An underhand serve in volleyball is a basic serving technique where the player holds the ball at waist height in one hand and strikes it with the other hand from below, typically using a closed fist or an open palm. This serve is initiated from a standing position and is commonly taught to beginners due to its simplicity and ease of execution.

Overhand Serve (or Overhead Serve)

An overhand serve in volleyball is a technique where the player tosses the ball into the air and then strikes it with an open hand from above, using a forward motion. This serve is executed from a standing or jumping position and offers more power and placement options than the underhand serve. It’s commonly used in intermediate to advanced levels of play.

What Are The Different Types Of Overhand Serves?

Here are some of the most common serves in volleyball:

  1. Float Serve (Most Common Serve):
    • The ball is struck with a flat hand and minimal wrist snap, causing it to float unpredictably in the air, similar to a knuckleball in baseball.
    • The float serve can be tough to pass because it doesn’t have a consistent spin or predictable trajectory.
  2. Topspin Serve:
    • The server tosses the ball slightly in front of them and snaps their wrist upon contact, imparting topspin on the ball.
    • This serve dives downward rapidly after clearing the net and can be a powerful offensive weapon if executed correctly.
  3. Jump Serve:
    • Combines elements of the topspin serve with a jumping motion. The server approaches from behind the endline, jumps, and strikes the ball in mid-air.
    • It’s one of the most aggressive serves in volleyball and can generate a lot of power and speed.
  4. Jump Float Serve:
    • Similar to the jump serve but without the wrist snap, resulting in a ball that floats unpredictably while also traveling at a high speed due to the jump’s momentum.

How To Serve a Volleyball: Step by Step

The two most common serves for beginners in volleyball are the underhand serve and the overhead float serve. Let’s take a closer look at these popular serves:

1) Stance and Starting Position

  • Underhand Serve:
    1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and bring your non-dominant foot forward.
    2. Hold the ball in your non-dominant hand at waist height.
    3. Your dominant hand should be in a fist or open hand, positioned next to the ball.
  • Overhand Serve:
    1. Begin a few steps behind the baseline.
    2. Stand with your dominant foot back and the non-dominant foot forward.
    3. Your non-dominant foot should face the net, while the dominant foot should face the sideline. Creating a V or L with your feet.
    4. Hold the ball at eye level or slightly above with your non-dominant hand.

2) The Toss

  • Underhand Serve: No toss is required, as you will be striking the ball directly from your non-dominant hand.
  • Overhand Serve:
    1. Toss the ball upward using your non-dominant hand with your palm upward.
    2. The height of the toss will depend on your comfort and the type of serve, but it should be consistent and give you enough time to strike. Lower tosses make it easier to hit the ball.
    3. The toss should go straight up and down. And if the ball were to land, it should land in the inner part of your non-dominant foot. Because this is where it lines up with your hitting shoulder.

3) Striking the Ball

  • Underhand Serve:
    1. Swing your dominant arm backward, then swiftly forward.
    2. Strike the bottom of the ball using the underside of your fist (more power) or your open hand (more control).
    3. Follow through with your arm, pointing in the direction you want the ball to go.
  • Overhand Serve:
    1. As the ball begins to descend from the toss, step forward with your dominant foot.
    2. Swing your hitting arm backward (like drawing an arrow in a bow), and then swing it forward swiftly.
    3. Make contact with the ball using a big firm hand with the base of your middle finger to contact the middle of the ball (diameter).
    4. For a float serve, hit the center of the ball without much wrist action, so it travels unpredictably.

4) Follow Through

After striking the ball, your arm should naturally follow through in the direction you intend for the ball to travel. This will help ensure accuracy and give your serve more power.

Tips for a Successful Serve

  1. Consistency is Key: Practice your serve regularly to develop a consistent toss and contact point. Consistent Toss = Consistent Serve!
  2. Importance of the Toss: A good toss is crucial for a successful serve, as a bad toss often leads to a poor serve. Focusing on a proper toss increases the likelihood of a strong serve.
  3. Stay Relaxed: Tension can hinder movement. Keep your shoulders and wrist relaxed for a smoother service motion.
  4. Focus on Your Target: Whether it’s a spot on the court or a player you’re aiming for, having a target can increase your accuracy.
  5. Feet Position: Make sure your feet setup is in a V or L shape. Your non-dominant foot pointing to the net, while you dominant foot pointing to the sideline.


Mastering the serve is a continuous process. With regular practice, feedback, and adjustments, you can develop a strong serve that becomes a formidable weapon in your volleyball arsenal. Whether you’re playing recreationally or competitively, honing this skill will undoubtedly elevate your game.

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