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Overhead Passing

This is an excerpt from Volleyball: Steps to Success by Becky Schmidt.

The setting technique can be used by nonsetters to pass the ball on the first, second, or third contact. When back setting or deceiving the opponent's blockers is not a priority, the ball can be taken lower on the forehead with the body angled forward to provide additional resistance to the ball (figure 3.2).

To execute the overhead pass, first move your body into position so the ball's path is directed at your forehead. Stagger your feet with your right foot slightly in front of your left foot and shift your weight to your left foot. Keep your feet, hips, and shoulders square to the direction of the ball. Bring your hands to your head with your thumbs pointed back at your forehead. To make contact, move your hands directly behind the path of the ball. Maximize the contact surface area between the ball and your fingertips. Extend your elbows as you extend your knees. Move your thumbs forward until your palms face the target. After contact, hold a balanced position with your weight on your right foot. Return to ready position to prepare for your next play.

The advantage of overhead passing is the ability to pass the ball quickly with a low trajectory. A pass off the forearms requires a trajectory arc that the overhead pass doesn't.

Some areas of the United States and competitive levels are more sensitive to double-contact violations in overhead setting technique. The best strategy is to use forearm passing on challenging balls and if you get called for a double contact, learn what the standard is and make the adjustment.

Figure 3.2 Overhead Pass


  1. Move so ball's path is aimed at your forehead.
  2. Stagger feet with weight on left foot, with right foot slightly in front.
  3. Square feet, hips, and shoulders to ball.
  4. Turn thumbs to ground.


  1. Move hands directly behind ball's path.
  2. Maximize contact surface area between ball and fingertips.
  3. Extend elbows and knees.


  1. Hold balanced position with weight on right foot.
  2. Return to ready position for next contact.


You time your movement to the ball so that you get to the pass at the same time as you need to set the ball.


Beat the ball to where it is going so that you can bend your knees, square to your target, and see what is happening on the other side of the net.

Setting Drill 1 Partner Distance Setting

This drill is similar to the partner distance passing drill in step 2. With a partner who is 5 feet (1.5 m) away from you, work on your setting hands by keeping them in position above your head and with elbows extended. Set to your partner for 20 repetitions. Move back 7 feet (2.1 m) until you are about 12 feet (3.6 m) from your partner and add the elbow flexion and extension. Set another 20 balls. Move until you are 20 feet (6.1 m) from your partner and add the leg extension to practice the complete technique.

To Increase Difficulty

  • Reduce the allowable height of the sets to 6 feet (1.8 m).
  • Increase the minimum allowable height of sets to 20 feet (6.1 m).
  • Move from distance to distance without letting the ball drop.

To Decrease Difficulty

  • Catch the ball when it's getting out of control and begin again.
  • Set the ball between 10 and 12 feet (3-3.6 m) high to give your partner time to get to the ball.

Success Check

  • Keep your weight on your left foot.
  • Keep thumbs back on contact.
  • Keep hands flat to target on release.
  • Finish balanced on the right foot.

Score Your Success

  • 15 to 20 sets in a row at 20 feet (6.1 m) = 10 points
  • 10 to 14 sets in a row at 20 feet = 5 points
  • 9 or fewer sets in a row at 20 feet = 1 point
  • Your score ___
More Excerpts From Volleyball: Steps to Success