We’ve already focused on advanced and intermediate volleyball drills in other articles, but what about beginner drills? What if you’re a complete beginner who’s barely touched a volleyball in their life?
If that’s the case – this article was written for you. The passing drills in this article will help anyone, regardless of age (we’ll be focusing on specifically children’s drills in future articles), become a better player.
The two most basic volleyball passes are the forearm pass and the overhand pass, and that’s what we’ll be focusing on today.
Here are the most effective volleyball passing drills for beginners!
Overhand Passes – Drills in Pairs and Trios
Assuming you know very little about volleyball, the overhand pass is the best place to start. It is the most basic move in volleyball, and it’s crucial to master it before you move on to more complex moves.
Speaking from experience, most amateur teams drop points not because of spikes, but because they can’t handle the most basic balls!
Until you become good enough to set balls for your outside hitters and become good enough at spiking them yourself, you’ll be winning most points by simply keeping the ball in play.
This is done through overhand passes, which you can learn how to do in pairs and in trios.
The overhand pass is much easier to master than the forearm pass, so I expect you’ll be learning it pretty quickly through these drills. It’s also not complex, so more intense drills really aren’t necessary until you get to a higher level.
Beginner Overhand Passes Drill in Pairs
The overhand pass is the ‘softest’ way to pass a ball in volleyball, so you can easily practice it in pairs. All you need is a partner, a volleyball, and enough free space (feel free to do it outside if it isn’t windy).
To start, stand about 15 feet from one another and have your partner throw the ball at you. The ball should be falling towards you at an angle.
It’s your job to send that ball back to your partner by placing your hands in front of your forehead. Your thumbs and index fingers should almost be forming a triangle – that’s how you know you got the position right.
Your arms should be bent at the elbows, while your legs are bent at the knees. This way, both your legs and your arms can ‘explode’ on the ball. You’ll straighten your legs just as you straighten your arms – the ball will be receiving force from both your arms and your legs this way, providing maximum power.
By doing this, you should return the ball to your partner. This really isn’t difficult to get a hang of and it’s probably the easiest volleyball skill to learn.
You and your partner can switch roles every few minutes and keep doing that until you’re both confident in your overhand pass.
Then, switch it up by getting mobile! Have your partner throw long and short balls – you’ll have to run (either backwards or towards your partner) to position yourself for the overhand pass.
This is a great drill for both positioning and overhand passing. It’s very rare to receive a ball while standing perfectly still in a real match, so this part of the drill is much more realistic.
With time, both you and your partner should become good enough at overhand passing to effortlessly pass to one another.
Beginner Overhand Passes Drill in a Trio
You can work on an even more advanced drill in a trio. If there are three of you and you all know the basics of overhand passes, then you can work on this drill together.
Form a large triangle and start passing the ball to one another. Once you’ve warmed up, start making riskier and higher passes. Stop passing directly to one of your partners, and start passing just close to them or between them-
Every single pass will require the person receiving it to move in order to adjust their position.
This is how movement actually works in real volleyball games – you have to make a few tiny steps to perfectly position yourself, while your arms are just finishing the job by passing or spiking the balls.
Since there are three of you, if you pass in the empty space between your two partners, one of them will have to take charge, run to the spot and pass the ball. These are two aspects of volleyball that often go over people’s heads (pun intended) – decision-making and communication.
During games, balls will often get spiked or simply sent over the net into those empty spaces between two or three players. Communication is key in these cases, as the player who thinks they are the best positioned player to pass the ball must take responsibility.
I was always drilled to shout “Mine!” in those situations and go after the ball, even if there’s another player going at it.
I’ve seen hundreds of points being lost just because the ball is landing between two players and both of them are thinking “The other person will get it.”
This drill is a great way to learn how to gauge where the ball is landing, make quick decisions, communicate, position yourself, and finally – make an overhand pass!
Forearm Pass Drills
Alongside overhand passes, forearm passes are the most common passes in volleyball. A lot of people, especially children, find them scary at first because the forearm pass is used as a method for blocking spikes.
However, when you’re just starting to learn these passes, you’ll do it softly!
There are many variations of forearm passes, which is why they’re much more difficult to master than overhand passes. I would suggest focusing on these passes more, as you’ll be using them much more when you play.
Keep in mind that these drills are really the most basic drills. They’re designed to teach complete beginners. Once you become more skilled at volleyball, these drills will seem rudimentary and way too easy for you!
Standing Forearm Pass Drill
You can do this drill in pairs or in a trio (which requires rotation).
Have your partner throw the ball at you – it should fall at you slowly and at an angle.
Relax your knees – they should be slightly bent, the same way you did it with the overhand pass. This is the best way to absorb the impact, explode on the ball, and it also allows you to quickly change your position or squat further down if necessary.
Your arms should be connected at the palms, with your thumbs parallel to one another. Your forearms are close together, but they’re not touching.
Position yourself to hit the ball with your forearms and pass it back to your partner.
Now, here’s the crucial part and the mistake 99% of people make when they start playing volleyball: do not bend your arms at the elbows when you hit the ball!
This is the best way to visualize it – if someone were to draw a line from your palm to your shoulder, that line should be completely straight when you hit the ball.
You might be wondering “But wait, how do I hit the ball?”, and that’s a good question. You’ll generate the power with your legs (which is why you must be bent at the knees) and by swinging your arms from the shoulders (not from the elbows).
The strength you need to hit the ball with depends on the distance between you and the person receiving the pass. Once you’ve hit a few dozen forearm passes, you’ll figure out how strong you need to swing your arms to get the ball back to your partner.
Do this drill in a standing position and with minimal walking – we’ll move on to different positions in our next drill.
Moving Forearm Pass Drill
Once you get the hang of the standing forearm pass, it’s time to move on to the moving drill.
It rarely happens that you get to send a calm, standing forearm pass. Most forearm passes require you to run, turn, swing from different angles, and sometimes even drop to your knees to really dig that ball.
This is what this drill focuses on.
To start, you’ll need one or two partners (if you’re doing it in a trio, rotate regularly).
Have your partner throw the ball for you to pass it with your forearms, but they shouldn’t throw the ball directly at you. Instead, the balls should be sent to your left and right-hand sides, as well as short balls.
Short balls will sometimes be so far away from you that you’ll need to dive, digging your knees into the ground, to get the ball.
If you’re quick enough, you’ll be able to get the sideways balls by positioning yourself behind them. However, some balls will be too quick, and you’ll need to do a sideways forearm pass.
A sideways forearm pass is the same as the regular forearm pass, but you’ll swing your forearms from the side, instead of from between your legs.
This drill is more difficult than the standing forearm drill, so it will take much more time to master it.
Forearm Pass Drill for Groups
If there are three or more of you, you can practice forearm passes in a similar way to overhand passes, but I’d highly recommend doing this over a net.
The easiest way to do it is to break into two teams and just ping the ball from one side of the court to the other. The goal of this drill isn’t to win points or complete three touches every time, but to control the ball and send it to the other side.
You should always try to use the forearm pass for this drill, but you can mix it up with overhand passes for some balls that you simply cannot catch with a forearm pass.
You’re not doomed if you don’t have a net – you can still practice forearm passes in groups. However, this drill is much more effective when you have a net and court lines available, as you’ll have realistic limitations set!
If you don’t have a court available, you can just draw a line in an open field and pretend there’s a net there.
A net is not necessary for overhand drills simply because those passes usually aren’t as long as forearm passes, and they’re much easier to control. However, if you have a net available, I’d definitely recommend using it for all drills!
Equipment Needed for Beginner Volleyball Passing Drills
The good thing about volleyball is that you need very little to start playing it!
All you need is a volleyball and a friend (or even better – friends) to play with you.
Group forearm drills require a net (ideally), but you can just rent a volleyball court by the hour for that – you don’t have to buy your own net.
It’s even easier if you join an amateur club, as clubs usually have all this ready for you, so you don’t have to invest anything but your time.
Rebounders, as the name suggests, will bounce the ball back to you (effectively substituting a partner), while setting nets let you work on your accuracy and also work as ball collectors.
I’d suggest buying a large setting net because they’re going to be difficult to hit once you’re just starting out.
Volleyball is not an easy sport to master, but it’s easy to start out!
The forearm pass and the overhand pass are the two most basic passes in volleyball, and the beginner drills for them mostly revolve around passing the ball back and forth with a partner.
If you practice at least twice a week, these drills will quickly become too easy for you and you’ll move on to more advanced drills.