As all coaches know, our success in calling service areas will ultimately determine the outcome of your season. Every opposing team has a spot on the court where they have a player wearing a blindfold, texting her boyfriend, or they’ve simply forgotten to put a passer there. It’s our job as coaching masterminds to find these weak spots and make up for the fact that we entered our lineup incorrectly.
Like a catcher calling a perfect game, we may not get credit for our strategic acumen, but unlike baseball our server doesn’t have the option of shaking us off. It’s on my coaching bucket list to have a 13 year-old, like an angry Randy Johnson, shake off my short serve call and say, “forget it coach, I’m going with the high heat.” But because no teenager even knows that we have a national pastime (at least not one that doesn’t require a data plan), I’m not likely to ever get that response from the serving mound.
Since the entire season rests on our coaching shoulders (and behind our super-secret clipboards), here’s a concise guide to the art of calling serves:
Area 1: We know that, statistically, this is a great place to serve because of the difficulty of running an offense from this passing area. With the mathematical confidence of this scientifically-tested sports knowledge, your server will take a vicious swing and pull a huge snap-hook into the first row like a weekend golfer swinging from his heels on the first tee.
Area 2: The best place to call when you’re looking to end your own team’s serving run. Area 2 is the “triple-dog dare you” call in a game of “horse.” Simply unservable.
Area 3: This serve will turn into an absurdly easy lollipop serve to area 6, allowing the opposing team to violently impose their will upon us, and ensure that we don’t call ever call for a short serve again (until the next match).
Area 4: Nobody ever calls for a serve to this area. If a player aced someone by hitting a serve into area 4, it’s because she was trying to hit it to area 1, and missed it off the side of her hand to the completely opposite corner of the court. The team will still choreograph an awesome “ACE” cheer, and the server will look over at the coach with a look that says “I didn’t mean to do that.” Yes, we know. She will be instructed to serve area 6 next (see below).
Area 5: For some reason, servers love to stand directly in the back right corner of the court, and serve the ball down the sideline as if they’re attempting to hit the ball down a tightrope. It reminds me of teaching my children to drive, where they somehow felt more comfortable in keeping the car as close to the right-hand curb as possible (or ditches, mailboxes, pedestrians, etc.), especially at 45 miles per hour. Servers: you’ve got at least 100 square feet of target space – quit staring at the sideline.
Area 6: This is the numerical equivalent of “Please, just put it in play.” Really, you can hit it anywhere. Seriously, anywhere. We’re not being strategic, I don’t care if it’s Nicole Davis or Nicole Kidman passing in area 6, we would all just like to finally see a rally.
Area 7: Anywhere into the tape, where it then dribbles over for an automatic point. Receiving team’s parents will say, “I hate that rule,” while serving team’s parents will say “What a great serve!” According to volleyball tradition, next serve must immediately be served into the middle of the net.
Area 8: Directly into the back of your team’s middle blocker, who is standing at the net, thinking about whatever middle blockers think about, totally unaware that she is going to be eliminated in a game of dodge ball that she didn’t know she was playing. Mandatory: server must laugh after hitting this area.
Area 9: Close to the opposing team’s bench, where the coach can step in and grab it before her overeager, hyper-caffeinated Libero can run over and shank it into the next court. Gives coaches something to do while they’re waiting to call serves for their own team.
Area 10: At any spectator holding a full cup of coffee, iPad, or glasses. Extra points for finding someone holding all three items. The most-served area in volleyball.
Area 51: I’m not authorized to tell you about this serving area.