What is a lift in volleyball?

Hey there, spikers and setters! Coach Rizwan Ali here, with over two decades of experience coaching volleyball teams from beginners to national qualifiers. Today, we’re diving into a topic that can sometimes trip up even seasoned players: That is What is a lift in volleyball?

Imagine this: You’re in a heated rally, ready to set up your teammate for a powerful spike. But the referee blows their whistle, calling a lift. Frustrating, right?

What is a lift in volleyball?

Understanding lifts and how to avoid them is essential for every volleyball player, from beginners just learning the ropes to advanced athletes looking to refine their skills. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about lifts in volleyball.

What is a lift in volleyball?

Think of a lift like holding the ball for a sleepover instead of giving it a quick high five. In volleyball, a lift happens when a player makes prolonged contact with the ball during a hit, set, or pass. Instead of a clean and controlled touch, you end up kind of cradling or catching the ball for a split second too long. This might seem like a minor detail, but it disrupts the game’s flow and gives your opponent an unfair advantage.

Why are Lifts Illegal?

There are two main reasons why lifts are a no-no:

  • Fairness for Everyone: Volleyball is all about quick reactions and teamwork. When you hold onto the ball, the opposing team can’t react as fast to defend. It’s like changing the game’s rules mid-rally, which isn’t very sporting.
  • Skill Expression: Volleyball celebrates controlled and precise touches. Lifts indicate a lack of mastery over the ball and can lead to unpredictable play. Imagine setting the ball for a teammate to spike, but because of a lift, the ball goes flying off in a weird direction. Not cool, right?

Lift Spotting 101: Different Types of Lifts

Now that you know the basic idea, let’s explore the different ways lifts can show up during a game:

  • The Hesitant Passer: Picture yourself receiving a serve. You go for a forearm pass, but instead of a quick bump, you hold the ball for a beat too long against your forearms. This hesitation creates a lift, giving the opponent more time to react.

  • The Overly Cautious Setter: Setting is the art of directing the ball perfectly for a teammate to spike. However, if you, as the setter, bring the ball down too close to your chest or hands before setting it up, you might commit a lift. Remember, a good set involves a quick “cushioning” touch, not a hug with the ball!

  • The Fingertip Spiker: Spikes are all about power and precision. But what if, during your approach jump, you try to guide the ball with your fingertips instead of striking it firmly with your open hand? This controlled contact could be called a lift if it appears you’re holding the ball for too long.

The Referee’s Whistle: How Lifts Get Called

Referees are the watchful eyes on the court, and they’re trained to spot lifts. Here’s what they’re looking for:

  • The Ball Comes to a Stop: Did the ball completely stop moving in the player’s hands during the hit, set, or pass?
  • Prolonged Contact: Is there an obvious delay between the ball touching the player’s hands and it being released? Remember, a quick touch is key!
  • Catching Motion: Does the player’s hand movement resemble catching a ball rather than a controlled hit?

Avoiding Lifts: Mastering the Art of Clean Contact

Now that you’re a lift-spotting whiz, let’s focus on how to become a lift-avoiding champion:

  • Hand and Wrist Control is Key: Mastering hand and wrist movements is like learning a magic trick. Drills that focus on quick touches and minimal contact with the ball are your best friends. Think of yourself as a skilled juggler, not a catcher.
  • Body Positioning Matters: Believe it or not, your body position can affect how you contact the ball. Maintaining proper posture during passes, sets, and spikes allows for better control and reduces the risk of accidentally cradling the ball.
  • Muscle Memory Makes Magic: Repetition is the mother (or maybe coach?) of skill development. Drills and practice games help develop muscle memory for clean contact with the ball. The more you practice hitting, setting, and passing with proper technique, the less likely you are to accidentally commit a lift.

Bonus Tip! Positive Reinforcement is the Secret Sauce

As a coach, I know frustration can cloud the learning process. Here’s a secret: positive reinforcement goes a long way. When players execute clean touches, celebrate those wins! If you see a lift, point it out constructively, offering solutions and drills to improve the player’s technique. Remember, we’re all here to learn and grow as volleyball players!


Understanding lifts, their impact on the game, and the techniques to avoid them empowers you to become a more confident and rule-abiding volleyball player. Remember, volleyball thrives on quick reactions, controlled touches, and respect for the rules. By focusing on proper hand and wrist control, maintaining good body positioning, and diligently practicing drills, you can eliminate lifts from your game. This, in turn, contributes to a smoother, more exciting match experience for everyone involved.

Now, get out there on the court and showcase your lift-free skills! Remember, practice makes perfect, and if you ever have questions, don’t hesitate to ask your coach or a teammate. This concludes our comprehensive guide on lifts. Keep spiking high and setting smart!

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