Soccer fans can rise to the challenge of becoming volleyball ac

September 10, 2004|by Lisa Tedrick Prejean

At the dinner table the other evening, my 9-year-old told us how he would structure the day if he were a teacher.

Kids would have art every day.

There would be no homework.

Recess would last longer and occur more often.

Lunch would not be over until chocolate had been served.

While he was contemplating the next idea, I thought I'd help.

"You probably want two gym classes each day, right?"

He slowly shook his head and said, "Not really."

Because he's an active little boy, his response was surprising. I thought physical education was his favorite class, so I asked him about that.


"Well, mom, I normally like gym, but now we're learning how to play volleyball," he said, noting the last word in a tone of disgust. "In volleyball, you don't run much. You use your hands more than your feet. I just don't like that sport. I was made for soccer."

I told him it was fine to like one sport over the other, but I also encouraged him to learn as much as he could about volleyball while his teacher is instructing him.

Volleyball is a sport that even average athletes can play into their 40s, 50s or beyond. There are pickup games at the beach, picnics, reunions and family get-togethers. The higher the skill of the players, the more fun will be had by all.

It's frustrating to be in a game when all the balls are being hit out of bounds or few serves are going over the net - especially if you're the player who's making the mistakes.

Who hasn't wished for a better bump (an underhand hit), a surefire serve or a higher set?

It all goes back to the fundamentals we learned, or wished we had learned, in gym class.

As parents, we can help our children with the game by encouraging them to learn it at school and by having some backyard fun with them at home.

Here are some ideas to try from "Volleyball in Action" by John Crossingham and Sarah Dann and "We Win" by Alexander D. Marini:

· If you don't have a volleyball net, use a clothesline rope. To make the rope easier to see, hang some strips of cloth about a foot or two long about every six inches along the rope. In your back yard, the height of the "net" should be about as high as the average player can jump.

· Allow beginners to catch the ball, toss it up and then hit it.

· Involve your family in a circle drill. Stand in a circle. Hit the ball around or across the circle, trying to keep it in the air as long as possible.

· Practice serving against a wall. Stand four giant steps away, serve the ball, then catch it when it bounces back. After you catch three in a row, take a step back and serve again, being careful to avoid windows.

· To work on the bumping motion, practice with a balloon, which moves slower than a volleyball. Toss the balloon in the air. Grip your hands together. Bump the balloon as many times in a row as you can before it bounces on the ground. Then try this drill with a volleyball.

· To volley, or set, the volleyball, think of forming a diamond-shaped window with your thumbs and index fingers. Push the ball into the air with your fingers and a flick of your wrists.

· Play a game of toss-volley: Toss the ball high and to one side of your partner. Your partner should run to the ball, get under it and volley it back. Do the same on your partner's opposite side and then switch places.

· On a hot afternoon or evening, try water balloon volleyball. The balloon is tossed and then caught instead of hit. See how many times you can volley the balloon without breaking it.

That ought to prove entertaining and challenging enough for even the toughest soccer players in our ranks.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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