Is an Underhand Serve Legal in Volleyball?

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Serving in volleyball is an essential element of the game and can possibly be a game-changer. If you’re new to volleyball, you might be wondering, “Is an underhand serve legal in volleyball?” and whether it’s useful or not.

Is an Underhand Serve Legal in Volleyball?

Yes, according to the rules, an underhand serve is perfectly legal. However, despite being legal, this serve is rarely used because of its ineffectiveness.

Professional players will have no problem receiving it, which is why it is not commonly used.

Woman serving in volleyball

This technique serves a float-like volleyball that opponents may easily handle, allowing them to attack.

It is, however, simpler to execute, making it perfect for beginners.

As a result, understanding this technique can provide a solid basis for successful players.

Why Don’t Most Professional Volleyball Athletes Use It?

Simply put, the underhand serve is too weak for high competitive volleyball games. This move sends a slow and float-like ball that the opponent can quickly receive and build a counterattack. 

As a result, you are passively passing the ball to your opponent. Even though this is not against the rules, a professional team can greatly benefit from it. A novice team, on the other hand, will be unable to benefit from it.

This is why it is commonly used by rookie volleyball players who are unfamiliar with volleyball techniques and tactics. Additionally, it enables beginners to develop their volleyball skills without difficulty. After all, at that level, the jump serve may be too difficult for them.

Why Is It Good for Novice Players?

Just because it isn’t used in professional volleyball doesn’t mean it’s useless. This serve gives novice players better control over the ball, allowing them to target specific areas of the court more precisely.

Additionally, this move has a very low failure probability, making it the most secure way of hitting the ball into play. That’s why beginners can easily perform it. This method can help students improve their volleyball skills as well as their confidence.

Preparing to receive after the ball is served in volleyball

What Are the Steps to Correctly Perform an Underhand Serve in Volleyball?

In order to correctly do this movement, you need to learn the correct technique and the little details that are often overlooked. Learning them will allow you to further develop your serving skills and create a solid base for your future as a player.

To perform it, you must search the opposing team’s court for a good area for the ball to land. Then, square up and get into a comfortable position to hit the ball correctly.

Next, using your non-dominant hand, take the ball, and straighten your arm. Your final position should have your knees slightly bent and your torso a little bit forward. Lastly, use your dominant hand to hit the ball into the opposing side of the court.

Rules Related to Serving in Volleyball

To fully understand how serving works in volleyball, you need to know the many rules that influence this move. By learning them, you will be able to play correctly and develop your skills as a player.

Here are some rules related to serving:

  • The ball should be served only after the referee blows the whistle. If you fail to do so, the serve won’t be valid.
  • You can only serve the ball using an underhand or overhand serve. You cannot punch it or kick it.
  • When the serve is performed, the ball can legally hit the top of the net.
  • Players cannot block, nor attack the serve. This is an illegal move and it can be penalized with a point for the opposing team.
  • The server only has one attempt in order to successfully serve. If you fail the serve, you lose the point.
Preparing to serve in volleyball

Related Questions

Can I Kick Serve in Volleyball?

No, you cannot use your legs to serve the ball in volleyball. Even though you can use any part of your body to hit the ball during the match, you are only permitted to use your hand while serving. If you fail to do so, your team can be penalized.

What Are the Different Types of Serving in Volleyball?

In volleyball, there are different types of serving: the jump serve, the topspin, and the underhand serve. Each one of them has different kinds of characteristics that can benefit certain situations inside of the court.

Additionally, there are different variations of each kind of serve. For example, you can perform a “Jump Float Serve”, which is a variation of the jump serve. On the other hand, you can do a “Hybrid Serve”, which is a combination of two types of serve.


While doing an underhand serve is legal, it might not be the best idea to do it in professional volleyball, after all, elite players can easily take advantage of it. However, this movement is great for rookie players who are just starting out in the game.

Alfonso Andrade is an avid sportsman, growing up playing soccer and volleyball. He is a coach and sports analyst, studying the game to analyze performance and help create improvement.