A while back we covered passing the free ball when you get one from your opponents. Today we’re going to go over what to do when you’re on the giving end of a free ball instead of the receiving end.
Free Ball Basics
To recap slightly for those of you who may not have read my earlier article, when a team is unable to attack the ball and is forced to pass it over, we call that a “free ball.”
When you’re receiving it, a free ball is a gift to be cherished and exploited. You’ve probably heard a team yelling “FREE!” at the top of their voice — this is the cue for everyone to get ready for a nice easy pass that will hopefully lead to an awesome kill.
But, what to do when your team is the one who’s having trouble and must give a free ball to your opponent? There are a few little tricks that you can use to make the free ball a little less of a gift.
When to Attack
It’s sometimes hard to decide when a free ball is your only option and when you might be able to get away with a “down ball,” a.k.a. an attack executed with both feet on the ground. In a nutshell, go for the attack whenever you can. Even if jumping is out of the question, a hard-driven ball is always preferable to the free ball.
The faster the attack, the less time your opponent has to setup their offense, and the more likely it is that they’ll have a communication problem or otherwise mess up the pass. So even if you’re deadly accurate in placing a free ball, it should never be a go-to play. We’re talking extreme worst case scenario here.
Practice hitting any and all types of sets from any and all spots on the court so that you can have the confidence to hit even in a bad situation. Use the tips we’re going over here if needed, but in a perfect world you’d attack every ball.
Disrupt the Offense
The first thing to think about when giving up a free ball is that you still want to make it as hard as possible for your opponent to execute their strongest attack. You can achieve this in a few ways:
- Send your free ball to their primary hitter. If the hitter is a poor passer, this is an even better strategy. Hopefully s/he will mess up the pass just enough to force a less than stellar set; if you’re lucky s/he’ll take him/herself out of the play entirely.
- Aim for the setter. If the other team is running a 5-1, the setter should transition from the defensive spot near position 1 to the setting target at the net. If you can put the free ball right into that path, you’ll have a good chance of causing confusion by placing the ball in the setter’s way. Then s/he either has to pass it or try and communicate with a nearby player that they should pass it. Either way your chances of putting a kink in the proceedings increase.
- Aim for the corners. Along these same lines, a shot into the deep corners can create errors and help throw off your opponent’s offense. Go as deep as you can without going out, and be sure to practice this shot from time to time so you can accurately gauge how much force you need to put behind your pass to reach the corners.
- Lower is better. You’re already giving up a gift – don’t make it any easier than it has to be. Pass as low and fast as you can, and make sure you pass with purpose. Don’t just throw the ball up into any old part of the court.