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Written by isma   
Friday, 03 August 2007

Being able to pass is the key to winning. A good pass puts your team in the driver's seat, while a bad pass severely limits your options.

We've all been taught the basics about passing: Get to the ball, make a good platform, stay balanced. And with a nice easy serve, there's no problem doing that. But what about when the serve isn't so easy? Being able to pass the difficult serve is what separates the great players from the good.The key to passing a tough serve is to get to the ball. You may have to forget about using correct form. Whatever gets you to the ball is what's important. Once there, concentrate on keeping your platform in front of you and your hips under you, and remember to keep your eyes on the ball.Because these serves are difficult to return, your form isn't going to be perfect. That's okay if the end result is a good pass.

The Deep Corner Serve

You often see this serve when you're on the bad side and the other team has the luxury of serving into the wind as hard as they want. This serve tends to float up high and drop suddenly. Sometimes, you won't be able to touch the ball when you reach up for it, so you'll think it's going out-but it'll drop inside the court anyway.To handle this serve, turn your body away from the net and extend toward the ball. First, you need to take a step back. If you're a right-side player, step back with your right foot to open your body toward the line (reverse this if you play the left). To keep your balance, make sure you don't lunge. As you reach to pass the ball, dip your left shoulder (or right shoulder, if you play the left) so your platform will angle toward the net. If you forget to dip your shoulder, you'll end up passing straight up. To get the ball up toward the net, swing and extend your trunk and use your legs. You should use your entire body to generate force. Finally, keep your head still to give you balance and help maintain your court sense.In a perfect world, your pass should go up to the net. However, you're in an extended deep position, so your partner shouldn't commit to the net in case you make a bad pass. It's better to pass into the middle of the court, a little higher than normal but not so high that it becomes difficult for your partner to set. Of course, your final placement will depend on how good a setter your partner is. If you're playing with Scott Ayakatubby, go ahead and put the ball up to the net.

The Hubby-Wife

This serve is commonly known as the husband-and-wife because it splits a team right down the middle and leaves them saying, "You got it"/"You take it." The idea is that neither partner goes for the ball. To deal with the hubby-wife serve, you and your partner will both have to go for it. The secret to dealing with this serve is to have one partner slightly in front of the other when you both go for it. This has two advantages. First, if both partners aggressively pursue the ball, the risk of them colliding is minimized since they're in different planes. Second, if the player nearer the net misses the pass, his partner behind him can pick it up. Generally, the partner slightly in front is the cross-court player, and he is expected to pass the ball. This creates a small problem: His partner is still behind him in the fail-safe position. To deal with this, the rear partner has to aggressively push his way up to the net to set. If this means shoving the front partner out of the way, so be it. If you're the rear partner, you have to be just as aggressive pursuing the set as you were pursuing the pass.The front partner can help by keeping an eye on his partner so he knows how the play is developing. If he sees that his partner isn't committed to taking the serve, the front partner can put up a normal pass. If his partner has committed and is now stuck behind him, he should put the pass more straight up and off the net. Getting to know what your partner will do in this situation is very helpful, and that's why practice is important.

The Angle Serve

This is the Adam Johnson special-a jump serve that slices cross court and drops in by the sideline. Because the ball drops so fast, you have to get away from the standard passing position. This is definitely not textbook passing. Generally, as a right-side player dealing with an easy cross-court serve, you step with your left foot to cover the distance, then swing your right foot around to square your body to the net. But you don't have the time to drag your right foot around with this serve. So you have to extend and lead with your left leg in an aggressive, strong movement, as if you're about to dive. Flatten your platform by dropping your left shoulder. Because your hips are twisted away from the net, compensate by shifting your shoulders toward the net. Don't worry about passing the ball backward, just try to get the ball up into the air. Your partner should be following you, so if you don't shank the ball, pretty much anything will be a good pass.

The Short Serve

Mike Dodd is famous for this one. You don't want to dive to pass this serve. If you're diving, it means you haven't been paying attention (although even I have found myself diving on this serve). The key here is to use long forward steps while you bring your hips underneath your body. If your hips are behind your body, this causes your upper body to lean forward and sends the ball into the net. Because this serve is so short, you have no room for error in front of you.Take long steps to get to the ball, then lunge forward on your last step and get down on one knee to get your hips underneath you. Make sure your body is upright, and keep your platform up and extended. It's okay to pass a little bit behind you because the physics of this move mean that since you're moving forward, the ball will travel slightly forward. Pass the ball high enough that you give yourself time to jump up, back up two steps and get into your hitting approach.

The High Floater

Usually you see this serve when you're on the bad side and your opponent is serving into the wind. This is unlike the deep corner serve because it comes directly at you. When the ball is off to one side or the other, you can usually turn and move to it. But when it's over your head you can't. It's very difficult to turn and move in the exact opposite direction, especially once your weight is leaning backward, as often happens with this serve.When you get really stuck with this serve, try using the tomahawk pass. Make sure the ball is truly straight on. If it's off to one side you're better off taking a step and passing it normally. Get your hands up and together early, otherwise you'll probably get called for a double hit. You need to show the ref that you've already created a single platform. Hold your hands together in either a loosely clenched fist-inside-a-fist or with two flat hands together, as if you're praying. Bend your wrists backward and point your elbows forward so your upper arms are nearly parallel to the ground. Contact the ball on the meat of your palms, not on your wrists as you would a normal pass. You won't be able to make a perfect pass on this play, but try to get the ball up and slightly forward.( By Kent Syeffes)

Last Updated ( Monday, 06 August 2007 )
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