#11 Volley Targets
Know where you should hit the volley – before you hit it.
Have a plan in place. Know the natural angles.
Doubles happens so quickly that you want to have a clear plan of action before you get caught up in a fast volleying battle. There is a lot of simply reacting at the net with very little time to plan – that’s exactly why you plan before the point starts.
This Golden Rule is to be seen through the eyes of the Server’s Partner.
Plan of Action
1. Stand Dead Middle
The very middle of the service box is the best place to stand. It is probably a little more middle than you are used to standing and you may feel like you are giving up a lot of the alley. That’s the point – you are! You want to feel that if the returner can hit the outside half of the alley then that’s too good. Well done. You are sacrificing that extremely low percentage part of the court for more reach towards the center of the court and the important Center Window.
2. Look At The Net Strap
This is the perfect way to begin each point as the Server’s Partner. You have talked to the Server and know where the serve is going to go. You settle in to the middle of the box, adjust your grip around to Continental, and then…. look directly at the net strap. You want to think that the net strap is a magnet that is drawing you to it, so you go towards the Center Window at the right angle. The problem you are trying to avoid here is attacking the middle at a bad angle by going backwards. Heading towards the net strap is definitely the better option.
3. Primary = High Middle
The most obvious target for the Server’s Partner is right down the middle between the two opponents. This will be successfully done more on a higher ball – certainly above the height of the net – that the volleyer can stick for a winner. Yes it is still certainly possible to hit to other targets, but the percentages are with the volleyer when they pick the primary target down the middle of the court on a higher ball – away from any sideline danger.
4. More Middle = Wider
This is pretty straight forward. The more you have to travel across the court to hit the ball, the more likely you will be to hit the ball cross court as well. Hitting in the same direction that you are moving is definitely easier to accomplish. Again, these are all primary patterns and it does not mean you can’t come back against the grain, or can’t hit a soft touch ball, it just means that this is where you will hit most of these shots because it is the highest percentage target.
5. Closer & Lower = Touch
This is the best time to use your soft hands, absorb power from the shot, and drop it short at an angle right in front of you. In general, the lower the ball, the more backspin you will put on it, and the shorter you will be looking to hit it. Not all the time, but this is when touch volleys are open for business. Also if the ball is in on you as well, this also becomes a great option.
6. Defense = Back to the Returner
You are standing in an offensive position at the net but sometimes you find yourself on defense, having to hit a tough volley. When that happens, think of it like hitting a reset button and go right back to the returner to a large target area. That way you are far less likely to make an error on the tough shot trying to hit a smaller, more specific target, and you are still in the point. Nothing wrong with that.
7. Attacking = Also At The Feet
This is often the first place a volleyer will try and hit the ball – but it shouldn’t be. When you go right at the Returner’s Partner, most of the time they are already studying the Server’s Partner and ready for most shots that come their way. If the ball arrives around waist height, it is very easy for them to rebound that ball back, quite often over the head of the Server’s Partner, and now the tables quickly turn. Remember, there is a racket at this location, which greatly raises the chances that the ball can come back.
- Primary Locations – Quite often, you can go to all targets, but remember there is a primary location for each.
- What’s Working – Pay attention during the match as to what is working and what is not. Keep track and communicate with your partner.
- Attack with the feet – It’s easy to take a big swing at a volley and miss. Always think you are attacking with the feet first.
1. Playing Drill
Objective – To get the Server’s Partner to plan their volleys before the point starts.
- Play a set.
- Stand close to the Server’s Partner and make sure they go through a ritual of standing in the right place, looking at the net strap, and then eye-balling all the volley targets and play them in their mind before the point begins.
Variations – Discuss volley decisions during the set, sometimes calling out “freeze” in the middle of the point to highlight something that was done particularly well.
2. Feeding Drill
Objective – To make good decisions on which target to go to on which ball.
- Have one player stand at the Server’s Partner’s Decision.
- Set up targets middle, wide, short and at the Returners Partner’s feet.
- Drop and feed the ball to various locations to test the decision making and execution of the volleyer.
Variations – Sometimes feed with heavy slice, simulating that type of tough, low return. Also, pick one target at a time and complete 10 good volleys to that area, then cycle through all the targets.