Three-time Olympian, 2008, gold; 2016, bronze
"I rarely tip, and I rarely tool the block intentionally. My type of game – and what I think the middle game should be for most players – is you beat the block with speed. You hit the ball out of the setter’s hands before the set can get bad, before the block can even get up.
If the opposing player doesn’t commit on you, it’s almost guaranteed to be a kill. Attack with speed without even taking the block into consideration unless you can see there’s a full commit on you. I like to go hard wrist-away. If the other middle is up and in your way, you can consider a tip or a chip shot – maybe a cutback or roll shot. But if you can beat them with speed, there will never be a reason to chisel."
Ohio State University men’s head coach
"As an outside attacker, it’s vital that you have the ability to tool the block as well as being able to avoid it to kill the ball. When you tool, you purposefully hit the ball so it deflects off the block and is unplayable. The two shots that we train our outside attackers to use are hitting the ball off the outside hand of the end blocker or hitting the ball hard off the top of both blockers.
To accomplish these shots, attackers have to get their feet and body to the ball and jump straight up. This gives them the best chance to see the block and determine which shot is best.
We encourage our players to stay aggressive and attack the ball with enough force that it won’t be blocked back to our side when they hit the outside hand of the end blocker or the top of both blockers’ hands. Hitting off the hands requires players to know that they aren’t swinging down toward the floor but, rather, flat and straight ahead. If they were to miss the block, the ball would go out of bounds.
With enough training, hitters will be confident in their ability to see the block and hit either shot. Don’t discourage your hitters during training by penalizing them for errors. Encourage them to keep working on these shots. Over time, they’ll develop them as part of their spiking arsenal."
University of San Diego women’s head coach
"There are several different ways to tool a block. One area that we focus on is scoring on a tight set. Good things can happen when you’re out of system with a tight set. We spend a lot of time training tooling and, more specifically, wiping the ball off the block.
As a hitter, it’s most important to get your feet to the ball, wherever it’s set. When you’ve closed your feet to the ball, you’ll have the opportunity to take a tight set and wipe it off the block, thus tooling the block into the antenna for a point. To practice this skill, we cut the court in half and play doubles in front of the 10-foot line. The small court forces players to tool the block to score."
2000 U.S. Olympian, beach volleyball
"On the beach against a single blocker, start the match out by hitting high and hard to the deep middle/angle. This will cause many blockers to begin to reach up high instead of penetrating. When you sense this beginning to happen, you can attack with the same approach but quickly turn and hit low line. This will allow you to tool the blocker's outside elbow, which can be very frustrating to a blocker."
Originally published in VolleyballUSA Summer 2016