Backyard Volleyball Passing and Setting Tips and Drills for Beginners

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Volleyball USA Players


Summer volleyball season is here and Sport Court wants to help improve your volleyball game in your own backyard! Over the next two weeks, Sport Court will be reviewing volleyball fundamentals and detailing drills you can run at home. This week, we’re focusing on the basics of passing and setting.  



Every good volleyball play starts with a good pass. This makes passing the most essential volleyball skill.  If you can’t pass a serve or dig a hit to your setter, your team won’t be able to attack the other team.

Passing 101

To bump pass correctly join your hands together and allow the volleyball to hit off the fleshy part of your forearms at the same time. Make sure the ball is not striking your wrist or hands. Passing the ball off your writs or hands typically results in an uncontrollable pass or an overpass (a pass returned over the net). Avoid this mistake by bending your hands and wrists down prior to contacting the ball. 

There are two hand positions you can use when passing.

  1. Wrapped Fist: Make a fist with your dominant hand and wrap it in the palm of your other hand. Your thumbs should be side-by-side and pointing towards the floor.

  1. Cupped Plams: Bring your hands together as if you were going to take a sip of water. Lay your thumbs across the top of you hands, like you would in the wrapped fist potions.

Choose whichever hand position feels most comfortable to you. Don’t worry about what hand position other players use. Every volleyball player is going to have a different preference.

Once you have selected a hand position look at your platform, or your arms. Your platform should resemble a board from should to wrist. Make sure there is no bend at your elbow. When passing you want to make contact with the ball on the platform’s “sweet spot”. The “sweet spot” is located above the hand and below the elbow.

Things to keep in mind while passing:

1. Keep the ball in the sweet spot
2. Press the wrists and hands down to create a flat platform
3. Lock your elbows
4. Bend your knees before the ball gets to you so that you can absorb the impact of the ball and re-direct the pass
5.  Shrug your shoulders toward your target at the moment of impact

Watch this YouTube video by Team USA Volleyball for a step-by-step guide on how to build a solid passing foundation.

Team USA Volleyball Passing Tutorial


Backyard Passing Drills

The following drills require two players. 

Toss and Catch Drill

Player one will toss the ball at player two who will pass the ball back. Player one will catch the passed ball and throw it back to player two. Repeat the same steps for 5 minutes then switch positions so player one is now passing and player two is tossing.

The point of this drill is to develop consistency in basic passing skills. When passing, make sure you are using the fundamentals discussed above. 

Shuffle Step Drill

This drill emphasizes the fundamentals of 'shuffling' your feet. Although, shuffling is not a motion that can always be used during competition, it is a good way to learn body control.

Player one will toss the ball at player two who will pass the ball back. Player one will toss the ball high in the air, at least ten feet away from player two who must shuffle, without crossing their feet, to the ball and pass it back to player one.

Vary the side the ball is being thrown to so the passer can’t predict where the ball is going. After five tosses, switch so that player one now passes and player two tosses.



The basic idea of setting is turning a good pass into a well-placed ball for your hitter so your team can attack the opponent.

Setting 101

Proper setting technique:

  • Make a triangle with your thumbs and forefingers touching each other at the tips
  • Raise your hands about 5 inches above your forehead with you thumbs on pointed toward your eyes
  • Make sure you have a 2-3 inch gap between both of you thumbs and both of your forefingers
  • Slightly cup your fingers in the shape of a ball


Proper Setting Technique

Things to keep in mind while setting:

  • Get to the ball quickly
  • Keep the ball above your head
  • Face your hips and shoulders toward your target
  • Bend your elbows and your knees
  • Contact the ball on top of your forehead and let it snap out of your fingertips
  • Push through with your hands and arms
  • Push up with your legs to get more distance on your set
  • Make sure both hands touch the ball at the same time
  • Don’t let the ball touch your palms

For more details on the proper setting technique and drills check out this video by The Art of Coaching Volleyball. 

Volleyball Setting Tutorial

Backyard Setting Drills

The following drills require two players. 

Step and Set Drill

Two players face each other and set the ball back and forth. After each player sets the ball, move forward three steps. After each player has stepped forward and set the ball, take three steps backward and move your feet to get under the ball and into the correct setting formation.

Side-to-Side Drill

This drill is similar to the shuffle steps passing drill. Two players face each other and stand about 10 feet apart. The players set the ball back and forth and focus on using the proper setting technique described above. Player one stands still and tosses the ball to the right and left of player two, forcing him/her to move laterally to get to the ball. Player two will move to the ball and set the ball directly back to player one. Switch positions after 2-3 minutes.


These tips and drills will help get you ready for competition on the court! Come back next week for a look at serving and hitting fundamentals from Sport Court. 

Tune in to the following volleyball tournaments to see Sport Court in action:

May 7th – 9th: NCAA Division I Men's Volleyball Championships in Stanford, CA 

May 21st – May 23rd: NORCECA Champions Cup  

June 5th – 6th: USA Volleyball Cup in Hawaii 

June 9th: USA Volleyball Cup at the University of California Irvine

June 12th: USA Volleyball Cup in San Bernardino, CA 



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