An Analysis of the Volleyball Jump Serve
Dr Marion Alexander, Adrian Honish MSc - Sport Biomechanics Lab, University of Manitoba, Canada
| IntroductionOne of the most dramatic skills in modern volleyball is the spike serve, or the jump serve, which provides an exciting and dynamic skill that is captivating for players and spectators alike. The player starts about five meters behind the end line of the court, uses a fast and explosive run up, a dynamic spike takeoff and an exciting spike action at the peak of their jump that sends the ball across the net at speeds of over 27 m.s-1 with heavy topspin and at a sharp downward angle. The spike serve has become a dangerous offensive weapon for the top volleyball teams of today, as a great spike server can produce a number of aces over the course of a match. The spike serve is somewhat similar to the spike at the net, except the velocities after impact are somewhat lower for the serve when compared to the spike (Tant, Greene et al. 1993). A study of the spike vs. the serve for collegiate volleyball players revealed similar speeds for the male athletes but slower speeds for the female serve when compared to the spike (male jump serve 19.7 m.s-1, male spike 22.4 m.s-1, female jump serve 13.2 m.s-1, female spike 17.8 m.s-1). A study of the front row spikes of elite international volleyball spikers reported mean impact ball speeds of 27 m.s-1 (Coleman 1993).It is generally agreed that the top jump servers of modern volleyball are the players who play for Cuba, the top men’s team in the world over the past decade. These players are generally very tall, often up to 2.10 m and have very high vertical jumps that allow them to produce a downward angle on the ball: a fact exacerbated by the heavy topspin usually applied. Their strength and athleticism also allow them to produce very high hand velocities at impact that produce high ball velocities that are very difficult for the opposition to return. There are few detailed descriptions of the techniques of the spike serve in elite volleyball players, so little is known regarding the optimal joint angles and body positions to maximize ball speed. An examination of the serves of the top players in the world may provide some useful information regarding optimal technique, so that other skilled players will be able to emulate this skill and improve their own ball speed and accuracy. This analysis was conducted on the players of the 2005 NORSECA Championships, which included the National teams of Cuba, United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Mexico. Over 300 jump serves were filmed during the course of the championships, held in Winnipeg in September 2005. The top servers were analyzed and compared to the less skilled servers participating in the championships, resulting in the following analysis.The spike serve has many similarities to the spike itself. The player strikes the ball with maximum force at the peak of his jump, and tries to place it so that the opposing player cannot receive it cleanly. It has been suggested that a successful spike is determined by three factors, which are likely similar to those of the jump serve: the position of the ball at impact, the speed of the ball after impact, and the direction of movement of the ball after impact (Chung, Choi et al. 1990). In the jump serve the ball position at impact is determined by the toss of the server - an effective serve requires a perfectly placed toss and a perfectly timed run up. The higher the point of impact, the sharper the downward angle of the serve, and the more margin for error there is for the server to utilize a higher ball velocity. This makes it faster to arrive on the other side of the net and thus there is less time for the receiver to interpret the path of the ball and move into position to play it, increasing the chance of an error or an inaccurate pass.Figure 1: Sequence photos of the spike serve by top International player.Ready...
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