Volleyball Terms

July 2015 Prof. Scarlet Leslie (Slytherin)

For me, volleyball is the perfect combination of teamwork, strategy, and trickery. I love that there are both an indoor game and an outdoor game, each with its own unique challenges, but that still use the same basic skill set. Volleyball jargon is also a mix of random words, and here are my top ten:

10. Pass

Also the "bump" in the "bump, set, spike" associated with volleyball--though, volleyball players actually say "pass, set, hit"--, passing is the most important skill to master. It takes a few tries to find that sweet spot on your forearms and maybe a few weeks for the initial redness to fade. But it does fade! You eventually realize that your legs contribute more to a pass than your arms do. But once you've got the pass down, you are well on your way to being a great volleyball player.

9. Pepper

"Want to pepper?" is the question you will hear during warm-ups. Passing back and forth with another person is called pepper. The goal while peppering is to pass, set, hit, pass, set, hit, and so on. Controlled passing, setting, and hitting (this one is the most difficult to keep under control) is the key to good peppering session.

8. Joust

When the ball is above the net and players on both teams have an equal opportunity to attack it, there is a joust! I can't say that I've participated in too many jousts because I am rather vertically challenged, but watching a joust is also very exciting.

7. Floater

I hate floaters. They are the hardest serves to pass. I would prefer receiving a strong jump serve with a ton of topspin over a floater. A floater is a serve with absolutely no spin, like a knuckleball pitch in baseball. A nasty floater will move around a lot, often dropping just one step short of where you anticipate the ball will land.

6. Shank

One of the ways to get an ace serve is if the other team completely shanks the ball. A shank is a missed pass on a serve or any free ball, when the ball is passed or set over the net (not attacked). Shanked balls usually hit off the wrong part of the arms or only hit one arm, flying in strange directions and out of play. When the other team shanks the ball, remember to say "shank you!"

5. Gator

The gator is seen outdoors during sand or beach volleyball. Your hands are positioned like an alligator's mouth. The ball can be played with the hands together, off the pinky fingers and wrists, or off the palms with the hands open like an alligator's open mouth. The gator is good for receiving balls that are in between passing and setting heights. Using the gator is still not an instinct that I have developed, but there's always this summer to learn it.

4. Pipe

Back row players can hit! Different teams use different terminology to call for back row sets, but the one I learned is A, pipe, and D corresponding to the back left, middle, and right players, respectively. Pipe is a set for middle back ("down the pipe") and in between the areas designated as B and C in the back court. The hand signal for pipe is also the best one in volleyball.

3. Dig

When you are able to pass a hard driven ball and get it up so that it is playable, it is called a dig. Like all passes, you want to try to keep the ball on your side and give your team an opportunity to hit. However, every once in a while, the ball is coming over with so much power that your dig goes immediately back over the net. You have to prepare for another attack or you might be lucky enough to get an overpass kill!

2. Pancake

I go all out---sprawl on the ground, slide across the floor, stretch out my right arm--for pancakes. Some people manage to pancake while still standing and putting their hand flat on the ground. I think the most frustrating part of a pancake is that usually no one else is prepared to play the ball after it bounces off the back of your hand. One of the reasons why I think I will always prefer indoor volleyball over outdoor volleyball is because it is nearly impossible to pancake in the sand (yes, I've tried).

1. Libero

You might have noticed that most of my volleyball favorite terms are defensive. That is because my favorite position to play is libero, a type of defensive specialist. Liberos can replace any player in the back row. They are considered a "free" player (libero is Italian for free). Using a libero does not count toward a team's substitutions, which are limited per set. Liberos are especially important during serve receive and are a major piece of a team's defense. They are also easy to spot on the court because the libero must wear a uniform color that contrasts the rest of the team.