Your team's first contact is always the most difficult. You don't always get a perfect result when passing the tough serve or digging the great hit. What matters is that the ball is up and the play is not over. No matter what happened on the first contact, the second contact is pivotal.
Bettering the ball means that no matter how bad the contact before you was, your job is to improve upon it. For instance, if your teammate shanks a pass, you work to put up a good set. If your teammate sets the ball to no-man's land, you find a way to make a play.
Here are three things to think about when contacting the ball after a bad pass, dig or set.
- Assess Your Position
Once you get your feet to the ball, think about where you are in relation to the net and to your teammates. If the pass is bad, but you're still within the confines of the court, you should still be able to get the ball to a hitter. You are now out of system, so take a look to see who is up and ready to hit. Call their name to let them know you intend to set them and get them a nice, high ball in a good spot for them to take a crack at it. If you had to chase down a shank and are a good distance off of the court, make sure you know if your teammates followed you on the chase. If they did, give a nearby teammate a nice, high bump pass so they can get in good position to play the free ball. Are your teammates waiting for you back on the court? Then you should put some power behind it to get it back to someone who can get the ball over to the other side.
- Make a Realistic Choice
This is no time for heroics. All you need to do is to make the ball playable. If you can put up a good high ball for a teammate to hit, that is ideal. But you may just need to put it in position for a free ball. By keeping the ball in play you are giving your team a chance to defend and to possibly score. If you try to make an overly difficult play from a bad position, you may end up scoring a point for the other team.
A bad contact is likely moving away from you. Don't think, just go. If you spend time wondering if you have a chance to retrieve it, you will lose valuable seconds that could make the difference between making the play or not. Move quickly and do your best to get your feet to the ball so you can make a controlled play back to your teammates. If necessary, dive for the ball, but make sure to get the ball high enough into the air that your teammates have a chance to get to it.