Not exactly x-ray vision, but you can save yourself a lot of stress when spiking if you simply reference your blocker before you get set. We instinctively focus all of our attention on the ball when we spike. Thus, when we get set the only information we have is from our setter and flight of the ball. We are missing out on some valuable “Intel” like where your blocker is stationed and if the middle blocker left on time. In here lies the key to the game, which is to take your eyes off the ball to get information that will equip you to make a higher percentage decision.
These tips are used for every position but I speak of it from a Outside hitter’s view:
1. Evaluating the pass
Get a good read on the quality of pass. Accurate passes = in-system offense = accurate sets. You ultimately want to know if your setter is controlled moving to the ball or not. You should have a good understanding of what to expect from your setter, while revisiting your strategies on how to deal with your blocker.
2. Check-off your blocker
If it’s an accurate pass, take your eyes off the ball and reference your blocker. Simply information of where a blocker is starting offers valuable information towards making the right decision before the ball is set. Avoid trying to find the blocker after the ball has been set.
It’s much easier to learn in practice. If you don’t have the luxury of practice, learn gradually in games. Only take your eyes off when you can afford to, on an accurate pass from your teammate. It will make the learning process less stressful and much easier.
3. Check off middle blocker
Keep the middle blocker in your peripheral as the ball is released from your setter. Knowing if he/she is late, early, or on-time will help you make a more informed decision. This is information that his teammate, who is setting the block, will unlikely have.
There are two ways to kill you percentage of success – hitting low and overpowering the ball. Hitting low = hitting straight down and/or hitting below your max contact point, which any lucky blocker can get. Too much power often leads to a low contact point, while increasing chances of a miss hit.
You are now ready to hit with more valuable information. You’re aware of whether the middle blocker is late/early and where the outside blocker started before receiving information on the set. This will work much better than trying to find the blocks while you’re in the air fully engaged on the ball.
Big jumpers can have a lot of fun here with technical blockers who take their eyes from the ball to the attacker too soon. I call it “lane changer”, when you take a broad jump a long distance diagonally, while aiming to hit at max height. Blocker commits to covering line, before accurately assessing an inside ball. You have tons of cross court available as a result. REMEMBER hit high and keep your power around 80%. Generally speaking, it’s best to hit at a maximum power of 90%. This ensures accurate ball contact and more hitting options.
Remember – VARIETY-is-KING!