Volleyball’s Key to Success: The Forearm Pass

By Thierry Lavigne : Thierry is a teacher and coach at ESC Franco-Cité sports-étude program. Following a year in France to play at the professional level, Thierry Lavigne is back in the Ottawa region to start his teaching and coaching career, eager to share his passion and knowledge with young athletes. Thierry is also coaching the Boys 15U Maverick Volleyball team.

Volleyball’s Key to Success: The Forearm Pass (or Bump Pass)

I firmly believe that the forearm pass is the most important technique in our game. Considering that it is used a lot for the first contact (serve reception, defensive play, easy ball), the forearm pass must be mastered early on in the player’s development. This technique is much harder to master than it looks. Here are some common mistakes that I’ve noticed when observing young volleyball players trying to learn this technique:

Athletes and coaches tend to focus on the platform (the flat part made where both forearms touch) because that is where contact with the ball is made. Most technical errors occur before the athlete joins his forearms together. I believe that the major problem for young athletes is their stance. More often than not, they do not take the time to position themselves properly under the ball. The distance between their feet is not larger than their shoulder width; their knees are not flexed, and, in most cases, the young athlete is not underneath the ball. They are off balance even before they make contact with the ball. Regardless of the quality of their platform, chances are slim that the ball will reach its target.

Another technical element which is underestimated is the hip alignment. Once the athlete’s posture is sturdy, and the level of balance is reached, the body and the platform must be facing the target. It all starts with the hips. If they are facing the right direction, the shoulders will too. If the athlete’s platform is ready, success is close at hand.  

In order to remedy this type of problem, the athlete must spend lots of time on the basic posture and the various moves. Coaches may organise simple routines: athletes have to move rapidly underneath the ball and catch it while in the proper position, or let the ball bounce between their legs.

Even though the platform is a crucial element of the forearm pass, everything starts with a stable position. Here is a series of simple exercises designed to improve the required stance to make good forearm passes:

Drill #1: The players are in groups of three with two balls. One player is at the net, the other at the service line, and the third is between the first two. All three form a line. Players at each end of the line must, in turn, pass the ball to one another without the ball leaving the floor. The player in the middle must constantly move so that the ball goes between his/her legs. When the ball passes between the second player’s legs, she must be stopped, balanced (with both feet on the floor), and must face the player who passed the ball.

Drill #2: Once again in groups of three players, the two players at the extremities will now throw their ball so that the player in the middle will have to move rapidly, stop, and catch each ball with her arms outstretched, in the same position as a forearm pass.  Once the player has caught the ball, he or she can stop and analyze their position: Is the player off-balance? Is the player’s body facing the player who threw the ball? The player then rapidly gives the ball back to the thrower, rotates, and does the same drill with the third partner.

Drill #3 : The athletes are now in groups of 6 to 8 players. Half of the group standing in file in position 1 while the other half does the same in position 5 on the court. The first player in file in position 1 will throw an easy ball to the first player in position 5. The athlete in position 5 must move quickly and adopt a good body position to allow the ball to bounce through his/her legs without being touched by the ball then, the athlete runs across to the back of the other file. The second athlete in the file picks up the ball and throws an easy ball in position 1.  In order to succeed in this exercise, athletes must move quickly and adopt a low and balanced position.

ESC Franco-Cité Sports-Études program information

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