How did you get good at volleying?

user92626

G.O.A.T.
How exactly did you practice? Was it just a matter of practicing or a "light bulb lighting up" moment for you?

What are some of the things you keep in mind when you are up at the net?

Is Feel Tennis Tomaz's "catch and push" concept/technique helpful for beginner? How about quick scrambling to the ball -- any mean necessary -- and punch it with a compact, out in front swing?

To improve timing, do you have something like "HIT-VOLLEY"? Like "hit-bounce-hit" for ground strokes. What's your timing device for volleying?
 

kiteboard

Banned
Don't just take easy volley feeder type practice. Serve and volley in practice against someone trying to beat you. That way, work on real action. Work on drop volleys and short volleys as well.
Volleys are hit with the feet: stomp of the shot.

Drop volleys are better hit with an edged string with a softer cross.

Drive volleys should be hit with any ball over the height higher than the net.

Drop volleys are better hit when you have a low shot at your ankles, closer to the net. Hit them to the area that he has just left.

HIgh volleys have to be hit way in front, and low balls, let them come into the middle of your torso.

Lower shots, use your body to hit them, not your wrist.

Snap back or swing volleys, all the top doubles players hit, but only with high, close to the net, ie, poaching, sitters. Snap back quickly and make contact way out in front on higher shots.
 
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LeeD

Bionic Poster
There is nothing to read, watch a vid, or talk about. You just play net position tennis and LEARN how to volley. You lose a lot, like trying anything new, and will soon become better at it.
 

coupergear

Professional
Use a wall. The problem with practicing with a partner who isn't a super consistent baseliner, you won't get good solid shots to volley. The 2.5 to 3.5 player start not hitting through the ball when you're at the net almost afraid to hit it too hard. The wall you can get tons of reps in very quickly. Watch some of the YouTube videos of people practicing against the wall it really puts you in a great position to learn to punch at the ball you don't have time to swing at it. It keeps you from swinging and overheating at it which is most people's biggest problem trying to work at it.

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user92626

G.O.A.T.
Don't just take easy volley feeder type practice. Serve and volley in practice against someone trying to beat you. That way, work on real action. Work on drop volleys and short volleys as well.
I'm even lousy with easy balls in a match. They just pass the ball 3, 4 feet from me and I cannot do anything. Everything feels chaotic at the net for me. (On contrary very few shots get past me when I am at the baseline!)
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
Very nice drill video coupergear. Thanks. I'll be hitting the wall religiously soon. So sick of losing doubles.

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Should I get a .5 oz lighter racket than what I'm used to, to feel more maneuverable at the net? Is a lighter racket generally better for volleying?
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
That wall drill is stupid.
That's not a volley stroke, and it teach's you to bounce the ball high to your opponent. Better than nothing, but learning to slice your groundies with a continental grip on the wall is MUCH better practice.
 

BurnNotice

Rookie
Less is more when learning to volley. For a quick simple tip.

1) Move forward when volleying. Split step and move forward.
2) Get your sweetspot (in any way possible) to where you think the ball is going to go and keep a level racquet head.
3) Really really really keep your eye on the ball until it hits your strings. You'll definitely hit better volleys this way.
 

HouTex

Rookie
My favorite drill was with a partner. You both are at net about six feet from the net. Hit volleys to each other (with no back swing--keep the racquet in front of you) and see how long and hard you each can go without stopping. Don't hit winners; but come close; just keep it going. Do that for about 15 minutes each time. It builds quick hands and the good punch volley motion vs. a full swing that poor volleyers tend to do.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
donny,

I agree with your observation. That's also what I see. That's why I'm pretty proactive in finding answers and making changes.
 

WildVolley

Legend
That wall drill is stupid.
That's not a volley stroke, and it teach's you to bounce the ball high to your opponent. Better than nothing, but learning to slice your groundies with a continental grip on the wall is MUCH better practice.

I disagree with you here, Lee. That wall drill is a fine way to get someone used to hitting volleys. Of course, changes are going to be made with a live ball, but I've found those who can effectively volley off a wall more quickly hit good volleys on the court.

I don't like to emphasize the slice motion too much to beginners because it is common to see them drastically hack downward on the ball.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
I don't want to put a damper on your enthusiasm but I'll give you an example. My daughter who has been playing for about four years, just very recently developed what I would call a very good ability to volley. This after nearly four years of instruction and drilling at least 5 days a week.

Online instructions are invaluable. I think you should watch a few videos and get the basics down. The most difficult part for my daughter was getting into the correct mindset to attack and cut off the angles of the ball. You have to think aggressively in terms of moving forward and cutting off the ball before it gets too close to you. I would tell her pretend it's a bee about to sting you and you want to get it away from you as soon as possible. Don't wait for the bee to come towards you.

This is not technical instruction I'm offering but more of a mental mindset to have when you're Volleying..

Excellent analogy. I'll try it next time I'm out. Analogies tend to work better for me than explicit instructions.

I happen to agree with you about correct (aggressive) mindset being the most difficult aspect, in my case too. There was a long time that I was afraid of missing volley shots and disappointing my partners. I still am in certain matches. And that was just a big waste of time.

I notice one of the best volley players in my group seems to have a perfect grasp on the geometric movements (directions) of the ball. He knows precisely which ball to go for or let go; and somehow it always looks like he is in the right position. When he's in such a good position almost any kind of hitting technique is sufficient!
 

mntlblok

Hall of Fame
Practicing a lot, but also doing a lot of that practicing from "no-man's-land" helped my volley. A lot of it was just hitting with the little wifey, but a lot was also with a ball machine. Learning the differences in how topspin and underspin come off the racket when volleying has also been huge. Understanding that via _Technical Tennis_ helps. Different paces and heights of incoming balls also make a huge difference.

Also, I've studied just about every slow motion volley video on YouTube and have developed a better understanding than most of what actually happens with the racket face during volley strokes. I've posted links to the "freeze frames" from these here a number of times. Also played with the "Shot Maker" tool here on TW back before they changed it so that the distance from the net was no longer one of the options.
 

Gazelle

G.O.A.T.
I wish it were this easy. The vast majority of recreational players will not improve and do not improve simply by playing more tennis. I think we all know people who have been playing for decades who are no better today than they were 20 years ago. That is the rule instead of the exception. The only way to improve is to learn correctly which is a result of good coaching. Simply repeating the same mistakes over and over will never get you to volley correctly.

But most recreational players never practice at net, and rarely come to the net during match play. In that case, just playing volleys more often will be beneficial. After all, tennis is a game of timing as much as technique, you only get timing by hitting hundreds of balls.
 

AHJS

Professional
PLAY MORE DOUBLES!
My volleys were fairly awful, even with lots of drilling, until I took the leap and played a lot of doubles. Playing doubles forces you to volley in a competitive, real environment. This is all assuming you are aggressive at net, no matter the current state of your volleys- If you are a doubles zombie you will see little improvement in your volleys.
 

Off The Wall

Semi-Pro
I don't like the "punch" image. New volleyers never get it. They ultimately end up pushing their racquets forward in the attempt to find a contact point.

It is important to let the ball come to you. You move to put your racquet in its way. You want to keep your arm and racquet at the proper angle for low volleys.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
I wish it were this easy. The vast majority of recreational players will not improve and do not improve simply by playing more tennis. I think we all know people who have been playing for decades who are no better today than they were 20 years ago. That is the rule instead of the exception. The only way to improve is to learn correctly which is a result of good coaching. Simply repeating the same mistakes over and over will never get you to volley correctly.

That's where you might be wrong.
Playing for 20 year's, the player get's a lot better, but his age only adds up so he's slower, heavier, blinder, loses his reflexes, and doesn't recover nearly as quickly. All those make him a WORSE player, but his improved skills allow him to remain about the same.
 

coupergear

Professional
That wall drill is stupid.
That's not a volley stroke, and it teach's you to bounce the ball high to your opponent. Better than nothing, but learning to slice your groundies with a continental grip on the wall is MUCH better practice.

Respectfully disagree. Teaches you solid fundamentals and its impossible to swing/slap at ball and keep it 'in play'. Teaches you less is more. Did you watch the video? The two girls already have better fundamentals than many 3.5s club players. Top pros have worked it coming up-- I've heard Bryan Bros and BG preach wall practice.
That wall drill is stupid.
That's not a volley stroke, and it teach's you to bounce the ball high to your opponent. Better than nothing, but learning to slice your groundies with a continental grip on the wall is MUCH better practice.


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coupergear

Professional
Very nice drill video coupergear. Thanks. I'll be hitting the wall religiously soon. So sick of losing doubles.

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Should I get a .5 oz lighter racket than what I'm used to, to feel more maneuverable at the net? Is a lighter racket generally better for volleying?
Thanks. No don't change racket...that's a myth people have of volleying--thinking they must need a lighter, therefore 'quicker' racket. Remember you are not swinging at the ball! If you needed to swing, racket weight might matter, but its not a 'stroke' per se. You are blocking the ball back. Redirecting it. I won't say 'punch' as someone didnt like the analogy..agreed. I also don't like comparing it to a slice backhand, as has been suggested, you don't slice volleys much...unless a drop volley...they should be flat or slight backspin. True the motion looks analgous to a slice, but it is way more abbreviated. If you undercut a volley as if it were a slice groundie, you'll just pop up a weak sitter. I've seen 3.5s with heavy slice dipsy doodle volleys off both wings. No pace or depth on the shots..consistent yet completely ineffective.

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coupergear

Professional
That's where you might be wrong.
Playing for 20 year's, the player get's a lot better, but his age only adds up so he's slower, heavier, blinder, loses his reflexes, and doesn't recover nearly as quickly. All those make him a WORSE player, but his improved skills allow him to remain about the same.
Spectator1: Is that a blind, fat, tired old man with no reflexes playing tennis?

Spectator2: Yeah, but ain't his strokes just like Federers!

Lol. Not really seeing this one.
 

spaceman_spiff

Hall of Fame
Should I get a .5 oz lighter racket than what I'm used to, to feel more maneuverable at the net? Is a lighter racket generally better for volleying?

All other things being equal, a lighter racket will only encourage you to swing more at your volleys, and swinging at your volleys just leads to more mistakes, especially when the ball is coming in fast. If you feel like your current racket isn't maneuverable enough, that probably means that you're already swinging too much at the ball.
 

Aretium

Hall of Fame

Something along these lines. I practice a drill where one player is at the baseline and the other at the net but only cross court is allowed (doubles court). The net player starts inside the baseline and feeds a sitter/slow ball to the baseliner and then comes into the net. Great for practicing low volleys and for defending the net.
 

pfrischmann

Professional
The best thing I've found is to get a partner and do a mix of collaborative and competitive drills. My partner and I start in the middle of the service box on the center line and try to do 25 volleys. Then we move back to the T and do the same, then like 5-8 in front of the service box. The idea is to always keep the racquet above the wrist and try to make it so your partner doesn't have to move. Then we will play some games, like one person at the service box and one at the base line. Or both at the base line trying to work your way in.
We usually end with one up, one back cross court. The baseline is trying to pass the volleyer.

If your doing it right, your legs should be really sore.

On the racquet weight, everyone is different. I like racquets in the 12 ounce range for volleying as I feel I can relax my hand and let the stick do the work. I think your technique has to be better with a light stick, you have to be able to center every ball with a light stick. All within reason, you can't wield a log either.

I also find the better volleyers tend to use more flexible sticks. The touch is better. With that said, there are plenty of people that can volley very will with a 10 ounce pure drive.
 

time_fly

Hall of Fame
How exactly did you practice? Was it just a matter of practicing or a "light bulb lighting up" moment for you?

I used to be a singles baseliner and I now play doubles and all-court singles. My tips for developing a good net game are (1) get lessons on volleying until you really know what you are supposed to be doing, (2) play doubles, (3) when you drill, volley slower balls and low balls from the mid-court. Anyone can block a hard ball while standing right on top of the net. Adding pace with your volleys to slow shots and dealing with low balls from further back in the court forces you to learn better technique.

In terms of what I think about: split then move my feet through the ball instead of swatting at it, angle the body instead of volleying wide open facing the net, and use a continental grip and straight wrist instead of a ground-stroke grip. The last tip isn't one I hear a lot from pros but I know that I'm particularly bad when I hit a forehand approach then forehand volley -- I often forget to switch and volleying with a semi-western forehand grip pops the ball up.
 

tennis_ocd

Hall of Fame
How exactly did you practice? Was it just a matter of practicing or a "light bulb lighting up" moment for you?

What are some of the things you keep in mind when you are up at the net?

Is Feel Tennis Tomaz's "catch and push" concept/technique helpful for beginner? How about quick scrambling to the ball -- any mean necessary -- and punch it with a compact, out in front swing?

To improve timing, do you have something like "HIT-VOLLEY"? Like "hit-bounce-hit" for ground strokes. What's your timing device for volleying?
I think the best thing is to do some clinics or get feedback (even video). Most rec players have entirely too much racket motion; agree that the "punch volley" picture ruins many. Think "catch the ball" for touch or hold arm still while stepping through ball with feet/shoulder for pace.

Problem is I think many drills -- volleying softly to partner who volleys back; hitting up against wall, etc. aren't really an exact replica of what you want to do in a match. It does help with hand/eye and most importantly *feet* coordination stuff. Take advantage of a guy who can hit hard groundstrokes at you at the net while running around returning your volleys over and over. They are gold.
 

coupergear

Professional
I used to be a singles baseliner and I now play doubles and all-court singles. My tips for developing a good net game are (1) get lessons on volleying until you really know what you are supposed to be doing, (2) play doubles, (3) when you drill, volley slower balls and low balls from the mid-court. Anyone can block a hard ball while standing right on top of the net. Adding pace with your volleys to slow shots and dealing with low balls from further back in the court forces you to learn better technique.

In terms of what I think about: split then move my feet through the ball instead of swatting at it, angle the body instead of volleying wide open facing the net, and use a continental grip and straight wrist instead of a ground-stroke grip. The last tip isn't one I hear a lot from pros but I know that I'm particularly bad when I hit a forehand approach then forehand volley -- I often forget to switch and volleying with a semi-western forehand grip pops the ball up.
Great point about not standing directly over the net. In practice I've seen players mask/kid themselves about their weak volleys by standing right over the net so at least balls go in that they hit but step back near the tee or even midway up the service box and they're a disaster. Frankly thats at least a token effort--a lot of 2.5 to 3.5 guys just dont take practice at the net.

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SeeItHitIt

Professional
Get better at volleying? Practice and then practice some more. I love doing reflex drill and walking it into net. The wife and me did 90 minutes this morning with 2 pros on the other side, the lesson was 100% volleying. YMMV but practicing this helps touch, short hop/pick ups and makes everything seem more solid.
 

10isMaestro

Semi-Pro
1. You have to learn what is a proper volley, forehand and backhand. At the very least, a basic volley struck from a foot or so above the net. Higher volleys require a slightly different angle and allow for a bit of bigger swing on average since they tend not to fly as fast as lower shots and lower volleys require that you be a bit less aggressive with the path of your ball, as well as bending down at your knees. To make successful adjustments, the basic principle is to use your legs in a way that allows you to play your shot as close as possible to a textbook shot.

2. Now that you have an idea of how to do it right, get yourself some balls and drop a few as self-feeds at the net. Use them to play slice backhands and forehands from inside the service box and focus on keeping your back swing short to mimic volleying. Also, do bother to use proper footwork and to start from the ready position on every ball.

3. Find a wall or someone willing to feed you balls at the net and practice volleying them back.

4. Even if you can't do 3, at least put yourself in volleying situations often in matches and practice points play. You need this experience to get a feel for reading your opponent and moving your body with the appropriate rhythm. Plus, it is scary up there when you seldom see balls from that close. You need to feel in control and aggressive which requires getting over the additional stress of being so close to your opponent.
 

SeeItHitIt

Professional
That's part of it but the point has been made already that if you're not practicing correctly all you do is get very good at not making your Volleys.
I don't disagree doing it/anything right is better, but at the club level there are all kinds of engrained bad moves (I am guilty as charged and not just with the volley). I'll never make Mc or Fed look bad at the net, but like being up there and do a decent enough job to make the opposition try something to keep it away from me...resulting in a couple of more mistakes. Getting it right is best, but having a functional equivalent at club 4/4.5 makes the game more fun.
 

mightyrick

Legend
How exactly did you practice? Was it just a matter of practicing or a "light bulb lighting up" moment for you?

What are some of the things you keep in mind when you are up at the net?

Is Feel Tennis Tomaz's "catch and push" concept/technique helpful for beginner? How about quick scrambling to the ball -- any mean necessary -- and punch it with a compact, out in front swing?

To improve timing, do you have something like "HIT-VOLLEY"? Like "hit-bounce-hit" for ground strokes. What's your timing device for volleying?

This is like asking... "how did you get good at your forehand?" ... or "how did you get good at your backhand?" People are saying "practice", but that is incomplete. Mere repetition isn't good enough. Practicing bad technique for hours and hours just means you'll be able to use bad technique more consistently. Learn the techniques involved and then practice those techniques. If you don't know them, then a coach can show you. You can probably do YouTube, but live coaching (for a session or two anyways) would probably give better short-term results.

I didn't become a decent volleyer until I started learning the techniques involved. And my backhand volley still needs work. For example, you are supposed to do something VERY specific with your feet when you volley. You have to actively practice that. There are very specific contact points for a low volley vs. mid-height volley vs. high-volley. There is a very specific way the arm should (and should not) be moved. Then, when you play doubles or do drills, you have to actively practice those techniques.

If you don't learn the mechanics involved, repetitions aren't worth a damn.
 
Get off the forum, stop watching your favorite youtube instruction, find someone who can volley better than you, and just keep volleying for hours, for days and weeks and months.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
This is like asking... "how did you get good at your forehand?" ... or "how did you get good at your backhand?" People are saying "practice", but that is incomplete. Mere repetition isn't good enough. Practicing bad technique for hours and hours just means you'll be able to use bad technique more consistently. Learn the techniques involved and then practice those techniques. If you don't know them, then a coach can show you. You can probably do YouTube, but live coaching (for a session or two anyways) would probably give better short-term results.

I didn't become a decent volleyer until I started learning the techniques involved. And my backhand volley still needs work. For example, you are supposed to do something VERY specific with your feet when you volley. You have to actively practice that. There are very specific contact points for a low volley vs. mid-height volley vs. high-volley. There is a very specific way the arm should (and should not) be moved. Then, when you play doubles or do drills, you have to actively practice those techniques.

If you don't learn the mechanics involved, repetitions aren't worth a damn.

I know specifics make the volley better, especially for a newbie, but in actual match play against peers, you HAVE to be able to just block back volleys without moving the feet or hips, sometimes not even the shoulder's....and about 40% of the time against peers playing at their best.
That's why, in the Clint Thompson volley videos, he practices a foot in front of the service line, feet OPEN stanced, both forehand and backhand volleys, to practice against hard hit balls directly AT him. There is no time to move the feet, or get truly sideways on the backhand volley if the opponent his hitting a hard pass.
The ONLY stroke that you can apply SPECIFICS on is your serve.
 

Moveforwardalways

Hall of Fame
90% of volleying is where you are standing while you do it. If you are being fed balls to where you are standing and that happens to be in the middle of the court, it's going to be a long road. In real time match play, 90% of successful volleying is court positioning and knowledge of where the ball is likely to go. If you are standing in the right spot and know where the ball is likely to go, just stick your racquet out and good things will happen.

This can only be learned by a short tutorial from a coach or knowledgable player and then a TON of match play repetitions.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
Question: how successful is the play where you run across 7, 8 feet to poach opponent's shot? You start running immediately after recognizing the shot.

Or, in such poaching you would have to subtly sneak in closer and is only playable when the ball is within a good few steps?

I feel that if I am not trying to be aggressive as in covering a distance from my mid service box to my partner's mid service box, my net playing is just too neutral, nonthreatening to opponents?

I guess, to simplify my question, how much court is a good volleyor supposed to cover? What's playable and what's not? What's the mindset for this?
 

preeb

Rookie
Missing a lot, framing a lot. I sometimes get tips to choke up on the racquet a bit but I always forget.

Edit: to answer your question about distance covered...I guess it would depend on the circumstances, and how good your opponent is at passing shots down the line. Personally I would only cross to my partner's side of the court if the shot is an easy put away. But I am usually on my toes and am shifting myself left and right depending on where the ball is on the other side of the court. So for example, if my partner hits a shot out wide to the deuce court, I'll shift left towards the alley. If the return is slow cross court, I'll jump right and try to put it away. Otherwise, I'll shift depending on where the ball goes and reach whatever I can reach.
 
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Fintft

G.O.A.T.
90%? You could be given a map of where every ball will go and if you don't know how to volley it won't make a bit of difference. Watch any rec player on any evening at any club around the world and you'll see plenty of people in a good position to hit a volley who can't hit a volley.
Agree as I'm still working on that part of my game.

But than again I'm a baseliner.
 

Friedman Whip

Professional
I wish it were this easy. The vast majority of recreational players will not improve and do not improve simply by playing more tennis. I think we all know people who have been playing for decades who are no better today than they were 20 years ago. That is the rule instead of the exception. The only way to improve is to learn correctly which is a result of good coaching. Simply repeating the same mistakes over and over will never get you to volley correctly.
You reminded me of one of my favorite sayings, and that is, that there is such a thing as 20 years experience and then there is 1 year of experience 20 times.
 

Friedman Whip

Professional
" ...and punch it with a compact, out in front swing?"
User 92626. No! No! Don't think of a regular volley as a swing. Probably the most common error in volleying, even by very good players is that they 'swing' at the ball. There must be at least a thousand web sites that will tell you and show you how a volley STROKE should be made. Some of the advice you are getting here is just way off the mark.
 

Coolio

Professional
It's much rarer than you think to come across a really really great coach. Most coaches at the average Club level are good enough to introduce tennis two young kids but forget about advancing to a higher level.
I've watched, for the past four and a half years the local high school players under the tutelage of the club coaches and I will tell you that none of them have made very significant advances in 4 years. My daughter says the same thing. You want to scream at the coaches because after 4 years the student can't hit a correct forehand. What are these people being paid for?
What country is this in?
 

Korso

Semi-Pro
Playing doubles and finely realizing attacking the volley and not waiting on it. Wearing glasses has helped tremendously too.
 

coupergear

Professional
It's much rarer than you think to come across a really really great coach. Most coaches at the average Club level are good enough to introduce tennis two young kids but forget about advancing to a higher level.
I've watched, for the past four and a half years the local high school players under the tutelage of the club coaches and I will tell you that none of them have made very significant advances in 4 years. My daughter says the same thing. You want to scream at the coaches because after 4 years the student can't hit a correct forehand. What are these people being paid for?
Some people simply do not have the talent to progress beyond a certain level. Hours of the best coaching and court time don't guarantee improvement. This is evident in both youth and adult alike. Witness the adult who takes privates and plays with regularity, but does not improve. Often parents will blame coaching or find some external excuse for why their kids aren't successful (cheating, gamesmanship) because they are unable to have the unbiased perspective that their kid just isn't that good! These days, with slow motion video and all the tennis instruction available online, the idea of not having great coaching rings hollow...you can basically DIY online and find best practices for learning stroke mechanics. While there is some minor differences in strokes from player to player, at the high levels there are far more similarities.

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