#10 The V
This strategy greatly increases your area of influence at the net.
It’s designed for the server’s partner to go right at the net strap.
The “v” is a directional tactic for the Server’s Partner to specifically cut off the return of serve, but can also be applicable at other times in the point for all players who come forward to the net looking to finish the point. It’s the perfect specific movement for players around the middle of the service box to ambush the Center Window. The main purpose of the “v” is to greatly increase the area you can cover on both sides of your body, but specifically moving to the middle to cover the center window.
Here’s the deal.
Most players only move forward, not at an angle. I have watched this hundreds, if not thousands of times, in my Dartfish software and it is just doesn’t work. Here’s why:
It Sounds Okay – Net player move straight forward at the net to attack.
Illusion – It sounds good in theory but there is one major missing element – the ball!
Problem – Moving forward is not where the ball is. The ball is in the Center Window. Go to the net strap to get it.
Solution – The “v.”
Why? – Yes you are still moving forward, but most importantly you are also moving at an angle to cut off a lot more balls – especially in the high traffic area of the Center Window. Split-stepping is ideal as you get to keep your body facing forward while tracking forward at an angle.
It’s a bluff!
Net players tend to jump around a lot pretending to be active and distracting, but when you slow down the video you clearly see they are nowhere to be found as the ball is travelling right by them. The movement is not functional. It’s just a bluff.
Now, I am not saying that you are never going to find the ball at the net when you move straight forward. You will sometimes, but it’s mainly because the returner is not proficient enough at getting the ball away from the net player. Any doubles player at a reasonable level is going to try and keep their return away from the server’s partner unless they are just horrible at volleying – which also happens!
The other main benefit of the “v” is that is helps the player move forward at an angle – not backwards at an angle to get the ball. It is a very common problem of doubles players to think they are doing a good job poaching when they go just sideways to get the ball. The problem is the angle that they attack the ball from is hurting them because they are moving slightly backwards. It happens all the time.
You now know the wonderful benefits of the Center Window. When the Server’s Partner moves straight forward from their Home Base, they think they are attacking but they are not moving towards the Center Window. Not too many balls come straight to a net player – you have got to go and get them.
Only Going Forward
This is a common mistake by the net player. Simply, the ball is hardly ever there, and since the net player is standing on top of the net, it’s not a likely place the returner is going to hit the ball. It looks good, because the player is going forward, but it’s extremely inefficient.
The three arrows represent bad movement towards a volley. Going straight forward is not rewarded enough with finding the ball, and the other two sideways movements cut back at an angle too much, making it very ineffective to hit dominant volleys.
Successfully Running The “v”
By taking small splits steps and moving forward at an angle you get to keep many more options open and cover a lot more territory at the front of the court. Even though the picture below looks even, most of the traffic will be directed moving straight towards the net strap to own the Center Window.
How to run a great “v”
These are the keys to picking up a ton more balls at the net.
- Uncomfortable – Let’s get one thing straight – you are not going anywhere at all if the person on the other side of the net is stepping into their forehand and are ready to crush it. But if your partner has hit a good shot that makes the opponent somewhat uncomfortable (balance, spacing, reaching, leaning, grip, time), then you know that this is the perfect time to work the “v”.
- Split Steps – Your first move is a split step. Indeed the first several moves are all split steps, which helps you quickly stop and go the other way if need be. You don’t turn your hips and run with a “v”. You split, then split again, in a forward, angled direction, getting ready to pounce on a probable ball right through the Center Window. The net strap is your magnet.
- Go – Get the feet pumping before the opponent hits the ball. The information you will need to know about the opponent’s body position will be known before they contact the ball. Get ahead of the game and leave early when you “see” where the ball has to go.
The “v” will not work if:
- Aggressive Returner – You are not going to be intercepting anything if the returner is in a very aggressive position. Your area of influence will be very small – in fact you better get ready for the possibility of a ball fired right at you. Stay put, keep the feet pumping, and be ready to play some defense.
- Straight Forward – Once again, going straight at the net is not a “v”. Will there be a time when going straight forward is the correct thing to do? Absolutely! But not often. Know that most balls will flow through the middle of the court and know that is where you need to end up to get involved. The net strap is your ultimate destination.
- You Don’t Move – As the server’s partner, it’s not your job to hit the serve – it’s your job to try and intercept the return that comes back from the serve. Not moving happens a lot in the server’s partners position. Players stand still all the time and wait for the ball to come to them. Good luck with that. You have got to go and make things happen in doubles!
- Going Backwards – You could almost call this the reverse “v” – which I actually have on numerous occasions. It’s the worst way to intercept a return as your angle to the ball is a lot further, and does not allow for an aggressive shot by the net player with their body weight leaning off the ball.
1. Playing Drill
Objective – To teach correct forward movement at an angle towards the net strap.
- Play a set.
- Hang a marker or a small towel right on the net strap. Brighter the better. This will serve as a visual reminder of which direction to go to intercept the ball in the Center Window.
- Use sidewalk chalk to draw the ideal spot for the Server’s Partner to stand in each service box – right in the middle of the box.
- After each point discuss player movement. Even better, video the practice to show it.
Variations – I love to award double points in practice sets for goals attained. Two points goes to the serving team when the Server’s Partner starts correctly, moves correctly, and is responsible for winning the point.
2. Feeding Drill
Objective – Lots of fed balls to improve movement at the net in the correct direction.
- Start the Server’s Partner in the middle of the service box.
- Draw a line on the court that the player must stay in front to go and intercept the fed balls in the middle of the court.
- Feed a variety of low, high, hard and slow balls through the Center Window that the player must move correctly to with the “v”.
Variations – As the player develops, make the line more aggressive in a forward position, not letting the player get away with any backhward movement. Drawing two lines that they must stay within works very well.