Monday, 22 Jul 2024

To Become A Skillful Spiker

Recently, I came across a video of a spiking machine in an online coaching group. It got me thinking about the science behind motor learning and how it relates to most machines. While there’s a desire to build a better mousetrap in various fields, in sports, many devices take away from the development of the most important “machine” on the playing field: the actual human playing.

Being a skillful spiker requires adjusting your approach timing and position based on the infinite number of set variations. Each set can be different in height, distance from the net, and other factors. This requires the attacker to read the setter and the flight of the ball to hit with precision. Unfortunately, spiking machines hinder this skill development. When a machine is set for one spiker to hit at full extension, it disrupts the timing for other players who follow. The ability to read the subtleties of the game flow is crucial, and it varies with every swing, regardless of how good the setter is.

Additionally, spiking machines lack the presence of an antenna or block, which affects the player’s ability to make necessary adjustments based on set placement relative to the block and antenna. Non-randomized machine settings may make players look good during practice, but it negatively impacts their performance when facing real game situations.

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Instead, it’s important to focus on game-like practice that mimics real match conditions. Take a look at the video “Game-like Wall Practice,” where 11-year-olds are working on hitting over the net. This type of practice allows players to develop the necessary skills while incorporating the presence of the net and blockers.

In traditional teaching methods, there are a few things that need to change:

  1. Instead of focusing on what players can’t do, coaches should approach training with a positive mindset, emphasizing the joy of hitting the ball.
  2. Beginners should be introduced to the same sets used by professional teams, such as the U.S. Olympic Teams. By doing so, they can connect better to the sport and understand the techniques used at the highest level.
  3. Starting with lower sets, like the “bic” set, allows beginners to develop their hitting skills gradually.

Now let’s dive deeper into better spike development, focusing on three key points:

  1. The first skill to teach kids is spiking. Pair them up and let one player throw the ball to the receiver/hitter, who then passes it back to the tosser/setter. The setter should consistently set the “bic” (a meter above the net at most), allowing the hitter to run, jump, and swing at it.
  2. The tradition of hitting right on the net doesn’t benefit young players. Instead, they should learn to hit over the net, not into it. By starting with back-row attacks, players can develop the skill of hitting sets that vary at the starting level. This approach aligns with the techniques used by professional athletes and enhances their connection to the sport.
  3. Higher sets allow the ball to fall through the sweet spot during full extension contact. Setting a “bic” encourages players to make a fast approach, improving their overall performance.
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Machines often promote a linear training approach, where players stand in line and wait their turn. However, this doesn’t reflect the randomness and chaos of real sports. It’s important to embrace the realities of the game by incorporating teammates, more nets, and recording/instant replay devices as training tools. Working with real sets from teammates, playing doubles over the net, and utilizing video analysis can significantly contribute to a player’s growth.

While the intent of spiking machines is well-meaning, there are better alternatives to improve hitting reps and technique. Creating practice stations and using machines sparingly can be beneficial, especially when individual players need extra jump training. However, these machines should never replace the essential elements of the game, such as a net, a ball, and the presence of teammates.

To become a skillful spiker, it’s crucial to reflect on the development of full-extension spike contact. Coaches often resort to generic advice, such as “reach” or “get on top of the ball.” However, true development requires understanding the technique and helping players apply it to various set variations. Instead of relying on machines, players should focus on improving their timing and speed to achieve full extension contact.

In summary, the path to becoming a skillful spiker involves game-like practice, incorporating proper technique, and embracing the realities of the sport. Machines can be useful but should never replace the fundamentals of training. By focusing on player development and understanding the nuances of the game, we can help volleyball players reach their full potential.

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Q: How can I become a skillful spiker?
A: To become a skillful spiker, you need to focus on technique, timing, and reading the game. Practice game-like scenarios, work on hitting variations, and learn to read your setters and the flight of the ball.

Q: Why do spiking machines hinder skill development?
A: Spiking machines disrupt the timing and adjustment skills required for hitting in real game situations. They don’t simulate the presence of blockers, the positioning of the net and antenna, and the random variations in set quality.

Q: What are some alternatives to spiking machines?
A: Instead of relying solely on machines, incorporate real game elements into your training. Practice with teammates, utilize more nets to create small-group scenarios, and make use of recording/instant replay devices for analysis and feedback.


Becoming a skillful spiker in volleyball requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond relying on spiking machines. While these machines aim to improve hitting reps and technique, they often hinder skill development by not simulating real game situations. The key to becoming a skillful spiker lies in game-like practice, where players learn to read the game, adjust to set variations, and hit with precision. By focusing on technique, incorporating real game elements, and embracing the realities of the sport, players can reach their full potential as spikers.