Serve Receive

All coaching materials contained here have been produced by Coach Luc Tremblay. Like everything posted on our web site, these are provided as a public service and may be re-produced by anyone without prior written permission.

As with serving, efficient reception of the serve requires a routine that passers must adhere to. This generally breaks down into assessing the visual cues from the server and assuming an aggressive ready position prior to the ball being served.

Visual cues from the server include watching their lead foot to see if it is pointed in a given direction, watching her torso to see if she is facing a specific part of the court and watching her head/eyes to see if she is targeting an area of the court. Once the ball is tossed athletes should quickly assess the toss to anticipate a float or spin serve. While they do this they should lean forward in an aggressive ready position on the balls of their feet with hands in front. In fact, they should see their hands at all times. Communication on serve receive is paramount to the success of the passing team and should be trained regularly.

W Formation: The “W” involves five passers aligned to receive the serve. It is a common starting formation for younger athletes and involves having three athletes along the attack line with two in the back, between the front three. There are many ways to do this and should be determined based on the defensive assignments of your athletes. For example, if you are coaching a young team with a 4-2 offense and everyone maintaining the W as a defensive formation I would recommend simply having position one move up to the attack line so that you have front-row attackers in position 3 and 4. Again, there are several different ways of doing this and some thought should be given to what is best for the level of your athletes.

Four-Person Serve-Receive: When you move your team out of a “W” and into four-person assignments you are generally pulling your front-row middle attacker out of passing so that she is available to attack. As with the W there are many alignments that can be considered. Among them are the “box”, “cup”, “horseshoe” and the “line”. When considering how to align your passers I suggest you consider the strengths and weaknesses of your passers over the tendencies of the opponent. That being said I strongly suggest that when you use a four-person formation you make sure that your team know two or three different formations. When they begin to falter a simple change in their alignment often helps in re-gaining their confidence.

Three-Person Serve-Receive: When considering your team’s serve-reception formation the goal of every youth club volleyball coach should be to get their athletes to three passers. There are many advantages in reducing the number of passers on the court and these include fewer seams between your passers and having you better passers available to pass more of the balls. Generally speaking, three-person alignments are in a line half way between the attack line and the end-line.

Cue Words:

  • See the server: watch her foot, torso and head position;
  • Ready position with right foot forward, on balls of your feet with shoulders over knees, and knees over feet;
  • Pass with right foot forward;
  • See your hands;
  • Shoulders over knees, and knees over feet.


Training: The Passer

For details on drills and exercises to train the passer please visit our “Passing” page.

Training: Communication

Serve-Receive Drills: When you move away from individual passing drills and into group passing, whether three or four passers, your primary focus must be the communication between your athletes.

Plus 50: This is an excellent drill in which to end a practice or passing session. Three passers are in their position with others ready to step in behind them and a few servers on the opposite side of the court. There is also an athlete standing in the setter’s target area (in between court zone 2 and 3). One athlete serves a ball that the passers attempt to pass to the target. If they succeed they get a point and the passer becomes the target and another athlete steps in to replace the passer. The server goes to the passing line and the target takes the ball to the serving line. Other progressions to this drill include: adding a setter who sets to a target athlete who catches the ball; a setter sets to an athlete that attacks the ball.

Servers vs. Passers: This is an extension of the plus 50 drill with athletes assigned to one side or the other. Simply stated, the servers must attain a pre-determined amount of points before the passers do.

Side-Out Wave Drills: The drill requires 10 or more athletes. It is generally a coach-centered drill with a coach/assistant coach controlling the drill by serving to the receiving athletes. If you are using a three-person receiving system than the three receivers stay until the set amount of points has been attained.

The objective of this drill is to have your passers in passing position and your remaining athletes in their starting positions, ready to run their assigned pattern prior to the serve. If the team executes the side-out effectively they receive a point. Once the first three athletes have run their pattern the extra players step in and execute the pattern. The primary role of the athletes here is simple. Passers stay and pass other players wave through one after the other learning your side-out patterns. Once the group has attained a pre-determined amount of points, the team rotates.