From a clinic attendee:

I was just wondering if you could give me some more thoughts on Serve Receive and how to make players stronger mentally. I feel like I devote a lot of my practice to Serve Receive, but we have gotten worse. We started well but have dropped off. I am trying to figure out if I need to change the people in Serve Receive or say things a different way.

We stress all the things you talk about. Pass in the midline or left, face the ball angle the platform, having passing lane responsibilities.

Do you suggest any other emphasis or more that we can do?

Hope you guys are doing well. Thanks for helping to make us better coaches.

Our Response:

I am making the assumption (perhaps a big one here) that your kids’ mechanics are solid. They have good wrists and hands, a straight and simple platform, and they face the ball and angle well. If all those things are in place, then you are a long way along. If not, more feedback and more reps.

I find that once the mechanics are solid, you’ll spend the rest of your coaching career working on the last two keys – getting them to work like crazy to move so that they take a lot of balls midline, and making sure they focus INTENTLY on the server early in the process. Then they have to see the ball really well during its flight.

At some point during one of these clinics, I heard that Karch said that he started focusing on the server when they were given the ball – he looked up long enough to get the set call, then was back on the server. He was watching their eyes to see where they were looking, their body language, then their serving motion. All this helped give him clues about the upcoming serve.

Finally, you ask about mental toughness. About the only thing you can do with this is get a TON of passing reps so that they start to feel comfortable. And create environments in practice that are competitive when it comes to passing. Those in-a-row drills are fun, and we always simply charted our passers during some of those drills. If they know they are being scored, it becomes a much bigger deal. But all that having been said, I still got butterflies out there to start a match, no matter how many times I had done it in practice. It is really hard to simulate a match environment.

I hope this helps.

Chris