How to Call the Ball in Volleyball

Communication Is Key!

Woman bumping volleyball
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One of the simplest concepts in volleyball, as in most team sports, is communication. During a rally, there should be constant chatter between teammates. Watch the highest levels of indoor volleyball and pay attention to how much they talk to each other. It is a constant. Watch how quickly things break down when communication is absent.

It happens at every level, from juniors to the pros. A ball that could be easily played hits the floor or is played badly.

The reason is simple: a lack of communication. It is never acceptable for two players to run into one another in pursuit of a ball when there is always the best person to handle each play.

Whether you’re a passer in serve receive or your team is chasing down a ball out of the system, it is imperative that each player on the court announce clearly what they plan to do. Easy, right? So why does team communication break down so often? One reason: laziness.

There is more to on-court communication than just who happens to be closest. Here are some tips about deciding who should take the ball and about communicating well with your teammates: 

Whose Ball Is It?

The first thing you’ll need to determine is who is best equipped to handle the ball that’s on the way. The key factors in determining this are positioning and skill level.

  • Positioning – Just because you are close to the ball does not necessarily mean that you should be the one to play it. If there is more than one player near the ball, it helps to make an assessment of who is in a better position to make a good play. If you’ve got your back to the court and will have to make a blind, off-balance play on the ball, you may not be the best person to make the play. Make sure to take note of the other players' position in relation to the ball. If your teammate is facing the court, has good position behind the ball and can make a better play, you should back off.
  • Skill Level – You may have three passers in the serve receive formation, but there may be one passer that is the most consistent. If you know that this player has a better chance to pass a perfect ball and they have called it, you should let them take it when possible.

The same goes with an out of system set.

If your best hitter can take a good swing from the back row while you’d have to take a step backward to get a swing on the ball, the ball is better played by your teammate.

Also, don't be quick to take the second ball from a setter who is on the way and can make a good play. It is always better for your setter to deliver the ball to the hitters whenever possible, even by bump set. Take a quick assessment on every play and make a good choice as often as you can.

It is wise to know who the strongest passers, setters and hitters in each rotation are before the play starts and to know how much court they are comfortable taking so that you can make a better decision. Know your strengths and your weaknesses and play each ball accordingly.

How to Effectively Call the Ball

Miscommunication occurs when no one calls the ball, and also when a player makes a weak call for the ball. If you know you can make a good play, call the ball with a quick short yell and do it loudly so that any player nearby knows you’ve got it and can then get in position for the next contact.

Using short words or phrases that are easily heard and understood by teammates are the best. In volleyball, you can call the ball in any number of ways.

The most popular are “I go,” “I got it,” “Mine,” or “Me.”

Make the decision as early as possible so that you can make the good, loud call and avoid any confusion. As an added measure if there is time, sometimes a player will also make a large movement with his hands to make sure the message is sent. Only do this if there is ample time to get into the proper position to make the play.

Make a Strong Move

Once you’ve determined that you are the one that is playing the ball and you have made a good, loud call to let everyone know, do not change your mind. Even if you see another body moving toward the ball, they will likely move away once your call has registered in their minds. This ball is yours, so make a strong move toward it, get into great position and be aggressive so that you can make the best possible play.

Once you have determined that you are the best person to take the ball, you have called it loudly and clearly and you have made a strong move so you can make a good play, you have mastered on-court communication. It is important to communicate with your teammates on every play.