A Down Ball in Volleyball

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In volleyball, a down ball occurs when an attacker hits the ball overhand while standing on the ground, usually off of the net. It is similar to a spike, although there are some differences. 

A ball that the attacker jumps and hits off the net, but without good position for a tough attack can also be identified as a down ball. When the offense recognizes that the ball will be hit in this manner, they back off the net and do not block.

The defense also usually calls out “down ball” once such a situation is recognized.

Cover the Attacker

Once the attacker hits a down ball, it is very important that his or her teammates have their back, as successfully completing a down ball hit at the net often takes the hitter out of position. Down balls can be hard to return, and often may result in a point for the attacking team. However, if a down ball is returned and the attacker is out of place, that can be an issue for the attacking team. 

Stick Tight to Attacker 


The formation for a textbook cover for an outside hitter is to have three players closely surrounding the hitter, one inside the hitter at the net (usually the middle blocker,) one inside the hitter around the ten foot line (usually the setter) and one on the sideline behind the hitter (usually the left back.) These three will try to get the ball that is blocked straight down and the ball that is soft blocked in the front part of the court.

Make Sure to Cover the Deep Return Block


The ball can also be blocked deep into the court, so the other two players are placed in the court down the line (usually the middle back) and deep cross court (usually the right back or opposite.) These two players are expected to run down a deep ball in between them as they will have more time to get there.

They may also have to set the second ball or run down a cover that the one of the three tight to the hitter makes if that person was unable to control it.

Keep Your Hands Out


A blocked ball can come back at any speed. If the hitter is blocked straight down, teammates will have very little time to react, making it very difficult to get the ball up. The key to covering is to stay low in your ready position with your knees bent, your arms out and your head up. Keep your arms available so the ball can bounce off of you even if you haven't had time to react to it.

Learn more about how to cover an attacker after a down ball here

Learn some useful down ball drills here