Blocking And Spiking The Serve

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There was a time in volleyball history when it was allowed for opposing players to attempt to block the serve.  It was a simple tactic that forced the serving team to serve either higher, or to particular areas of the court.  In some cases it was used just to get a particular player away from any possibility of receiving the serve.  Combined, the effect was easier serving that led to easier receiving and easier siding out.  It was obvious they would have to change this rule to work on the balance between offence and defence, and so they did at the FIVB Olympic Congress in 1984 (along with the very strict rules for the first contact).

I played with these rules for the first couple of years of my career.  It was an interesting wrinkle in the game.  The counter the serve block we would station defenders close to the net in a pre-primary defensive position.  The second counter was to station a blocker in front of the serve blocker, in order to ‘block the block’.  Some players would attempt to spike the serve, but I have to admit I never saw that in person.  The reminder to the blocking player was always to use two hands so that if it went on your side you could still play the ball three times.  Missing a serve block and losing a point was a major cause of embarrassment.

It is difficult to imagine how it worked unless you have seen it, so here is a short clip from the 1984 Olympic Final.  You can see the serve block in action and the third clip shows the ‘block the block’ tactic.  It is funny to see how far behind the blocker they actually contact the ball.  Nowadays those would probably not be considered as blocks at all.

Sometimes the serving was so slow that it was possible to spike the serve, as one would an overpass.  I had never seen it live until I came across this clip.  The match is USSR v USSR from 1984.  The server who serve is ignominiously dispatched is Steve Timmons.  The dispatcher is Vyacheslav Zaitsev.

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