The first thing any hitter should master is the attack approach. The approach can best be described as a systematic method for traveling from a player’s starting point to the ball. Generally comprised of a series of steps, the goal is to get in the best possible position to attack the ball.
The total number of steps you take during the approach will vary depending on personal preference (most hitters take either a three or four step approach). The length and speed of one’s steps can also vary depending on the position of the ball. With so many variables, the attack approach can be difficult to teach because it requires you to replicate game speed and game situations. The good news is that one part of the approach never varies: The final two steps. That’s why the best place to start when learning the approach is at the end.
Although they are referred to as steps, it might be easier to think of the final two steps of the attack approach as hops because they are tiny, quick steps that are not meant to cover distance. Rather, the purpose of the steps is to convert a player’s forward momentum to upward momentum.
For right-handed hitters, the sequence of the final steps is right foot, then left foot. And for left-handed hitters, the opposite is true: Left foot, then right foot.
Once you have mastered the last two steps, it’s time to add the other steps to the equation. Here is a quick breakdown of the rest of the steps for the three-step approach and the four-step approach:
The first step of the three-step approach is often called the “distance” or “real estate” step because this is the step in which you should cover the most ground. Players should be sure to take a large first step in the direction of the ball. The sequence of steps differs depending on whether the hitter is right-handed or left-handed.
Right-handed three-step approach: left (first step), right (second step), left (third step).
Left-handed three-step approach: right (first step), left (second step), and right (third step).
In the four-step approach, the first step is primarily a timing step (as opposed to a distance step). The purpose of the first step is weight transfer. By taking a small step forward, the hitter transfers her weight from a neutral position in order to burst forward. This small change allows the hitter to gain momentum quickly as she continues to accelerate through the full approach.
Right-handed four-step approach: right (first step), left (second step), right (third step), left (fourth step).
Left-handed four-step approach: left (first step), right (second step), left (third step), right (fourth step).
The most difficult part about spiking is the timing. When attacking, try to contact the ball at top of your jump, otherwise you’re not reaping the full benefits of all your hard work. Timing will vary for every player, but a good rule of thumb is to begin your approach once the ball has reached its highest point after leaving the setter’s hands.
If you don’t pass the ball, pull off the net to hit. If you’re running a regular offense, take your time getting into position, allow for a good approach, then strike the ball above your head and in front of your face, and not on top of your head. Use both arms when you make your approach to get in the air, aim with your non hitting arm and follow through with your hitting arm. Snap all the way through your side and PUT THE BALL DOWN!!! Master this before you move to a faster offense.