I’m not going to discuss exactly how these arrangements work in terms of which players are involved in serve receive and how to configure everyone. Instead the purpose of this post is to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of these common patterns.
4-Person Serve Receive
This uses 4 out of your 6 players to receive the serve, and they’re arranged in a “U” shape closer the back of the court. The two players at the top of the “U” are responsible for passing short serves, while the two players at the back should be passing deep serves.
As you can see from the diagram, the trouble spots here are going to be deep corners (zones 1 and 5) and the “doughnut” right in the middle of the court.
These are serious issues for this kind of serve receive pattern because it’s really easy to mis-communicate (or not communicate at all) when the ball is heading toward one of these spots.
Your best bet is to decide in advance who takes responsibility for any ambiguous serves. Usually the players deeper in the court have a better perspective on how things are going and should step in and call the ball in times of uncertainty. In the case of the “doughnut,” however, it depends on how short the serve is. If it’s falling really short the left front player should step in to pass.
Basically the key to this configuration is to communicate early and often.
3-Person Serve Receive
Here you’ll use just three players to cover the entire court. It may seem counter-intuitive to put fewer players into serve receive, but it does cut down on the chances for players to get confused about who should be passing.
The main problem with this arrangement is if you have the “wing” players stepped up like in the illustration on the left you’re once again leaving the corners of the court vulnerable.
But if you have all the passers in line with each other you’re forcing each of them to pass both short and long serves in their “lane.” You can decide what works best based on the kinds of passers that you have; if your middle back passer is really strong they can probably handle all the deep serves. If not, you may want to go with the one person per lane setup.
The key to pulling this off is to have confident passers who can be responsible for a larger area of the court without sacrificing accuracy.
Photo by Patrik Velich on Unsplash