The Spike

We develop here the tactical and technical aspects of the spike. This can seem complex for many pupils. However we think that playing very early on the timings, distances and angles allows the spiked attack to appear very early in various adaptable forms and not as a stereotype detached from the context and often inefficient.

Impulse timings

Before talking about spike attack tactics, we should define the different impulse timings. We suggest the following classification:

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Impulse on time 0

The player jumps before the setter touches the ball and thus proposes a target for the pass

See the video

Impulse on time 1

The player jumps at the same time as the pass rising trajectory (also called short)

See the video

Impulse on time 2

The player jumps during the descending trajectory time (also called medium or pipe)

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Impulse on time 3

The player jumps after having calculated the height of the pass (also called high)

For beginners in exercises for the run-up, the impulse, the hit, contrary to preconceptions, time 0 is the most accessible. Later we explore progressively times 1 and 2. Spikes on time 3 require excellent coordination between the jump and the pass' descending trajectory speed.

As we have already mentioned the players' spontaneous representation of the aim of the game is "touching the ball" forgetting that the target is the opponent's ground. It's the same with spikers. Some intermediate players often prefer strength of the hit to reaching the target.

Very quickly, we must associate the acquisition of run-up, impulse, and hitting skills to the notions of angle and of target. They must be part of the player's representation of the task to achieve.

Tactical aspect of impulse times

The player possibly concerned with a spike attack should, according to the game level: Make himself available to attack or in other words move within a space enabling him to run up to take an impulse on order to either:

  • Fix the opposing block on time 0
  • Jump in between two blocking opponents on time 1
  • Engage in the reception trajectory to hit on time 2
  • Wait for the set to hit on time 3

Angles of attack

Players "migrate" irresistibly towards the net which represents a strong visual marker in the game space. Variety in attack adaptations depends on a greater independence from this marker. For this we must understand how angles of attack are modified by the relative positions of the ball and the net.

On a vertical plane:

  • If the hit happens higher than the net the angle of attack opens towards the bottom when the hit gets closer to the net.
  • If the hit happens lower than the net the angle of attack closes up as we move closer to the net.

On a horizontal plane:

  • With a block, for a given opening capacity of the angle by the spiker (35° to 60° depending on the level), the closer the attack to the block, the more the block "shuts" the angle of attack.

Adapting to the ball/net distance

With pupils, it's rare to see high attacks from post 4 from a right handed attacker specialist of this post. From both a tactical and technical point of view we construct a variety of attacks which will adapt to the errors and aptitudes of the players.

The spike "rolls" the ball and produces a rotation which, through a Magnus effect that can also be seen in football or tennis (lifted trajectory), tends to make the ball plunge into the target while avoiding the net. The hand/ball impact adapts to conditions. The further we are the more the initial trajectory will be close to horizontal or even be above horizontal.

In all cases the spiker reaches for the ball as high as possible in complete extension of the arm and with a flexed wrist to "attack" the ball in an active manner.

See the resource on
the hit acceleration

This forward and up hand movement produces a forward rotation of the ball. The point of impact gets closer to the ball's "equator" as we get closer to the net. It goes above if the hit is high and close to the net.

Hitting upwards from below while rolling the ball with the "heel" of the hand.

Hit close to the equator rolling the ball. The hand is extended during the preparation then comes to attack the ball in an active manner on impact.

Hit on the equator rolling the ball. The hand covers the ball.

The higher the hit above the net the higher the impact on the ball relative to its equator therefore the trajectory is more plunging.

In all cases the hand covers the top of the ball and rolls it to give it a lifted spin which ensures a plunging trajectory.

Even if the hits from above, more plunging, are rare in games before an advanced age and technical level, we work on the hand/ball impact and the acceleration under all conditions including a low net.

See the work on the spike on a low net.

Tactical aspects for angles of attack

In theory the possible angle with hit directly above the net would be 90° without a block but in reality the angle is 60% in blue.

If the block is correctly organised with several players the whole of the angle is closed.

Hence the necessity for the opposing team to create uncertainty by engaging several players in different times and spaces.

Moreover, the spiker has every technical possibility, depending on his individual tactics, to vary the ball's trajectory by using his forearm rotation and hand flexion.

The attacking player's training must include rather early these different angles of attack:

  • Long diagonal
  • Short diagonal
  • Corridor

Defense organisation

The defending player's training must therefore start from observation.

By observing and questioning, we notice that the players, up to advanced level, have a loose and/or very formal representation of the zones to defend. They have orientation, decision and choices problems because they face too great uncertainty both about the opponents hit timing and about the zone effectively threatened by the spike.

We must therefore build an information gathering strategy which will allow reducing this uncertainty. The defender must learn to observe:

  • The run-up
  • The place of impulse
  • The placement, in space, of the attacking player relative to the ball's trajectory and to the net
  • The placement of the hitter's arm and particularly his hand at the moment of contact.

We must put in place situations where the instructions not only point to the observation of the ball's trajectory but mainly, at source, on what is going to influence this trajectory, which means the elements of contact with the ball, mainly the arm and the hand

From the children's category these different points should be known and worked on. As they are observation exercises, physical qualities are not required.

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