Blocking or volleying.
We are going to split this answer into two sections as we think there are two different answers depending on whether you are playing indoor volleyball or beach volleyball.
What is the hardest skill in indoor volleyball?
Blocking is one of the volleyball skills that takes the longest too perfect and has one of the steepest learning curves. Therefore it can be said to be the hardest or most difficult skill in indoor volleyball.
There are a lot of variables when it comes to blocking and how they interact with your blocking technique. These variables include:
- Hand position
- Are you blocking with someone else?
- Are you blocking alone?
- Are you swing blocking?
An effective blocker is able to identify the technique required for a certain situation and then executing that technique effectively. It is also important to be able to read what the opposition setter and hitter are going to do in order to perform the right kind of block for the situation. This is why blocking is both a mental and physical challenge.
The other reason that blocking is difficult to learn is that it is the least taught skill in volleyball, especially in high school and at clubs.
Why don’t high school and club volleyball concentrate on teaching blocking skills?
In high school attackers tend to be shorter as they haven’t fully grown into their height yet. Blockers are also smaller and jumping high enough to block effectively can be a challenge. Due to this it is more effective to concentrate on the other basic volleyball skills rather than focusing on blocking.
Blocking isn’t always critical to have a good game of volleyball or to win a game of volleyball, so it is often a neglected skill.
The main reason blocking is such a difficult skill.
Timing is everything in blocking. You need to understand when the setter will set the ball for the hitter, when and where the attacker will strike the ball and in what direction they may hit it. You need to time your jump and your arm/hand placement to intercept that strike. You need to know when to start moving your feet, when to jump and when to stretch out your hands. If you are too early or too late your block will not be effective and may leave a hole in you defence.
Timing is not an easy skill to learn, it requires knowledge, hand-eye coordination, balance, agility, reading of the game and talent.
Blocking is also one of the most difficult skills to practice on your own. One way to practice on your own is if your school or club has a volleyball attack machine that will let you simulate spikes in order to block.
If you want to be a great blocker devote time and energy to master it.
What is the hardest skill in beach volleyball?
We believe that volleying is the hardest skill to learn in beach volleyball. This is as the rules of beach volleyball are a lot stricter when it comes to ball faults and volleying in beach volleyball than for indoor volleyball.
The FIVB Beach Volleyball Rules For Volleying State:
9.3.3 CATCH: the ball is caught and/or thrown; it does not rebound from the hit. (Exceptions 184.108.40.206, 220.127.116.11).
9.3.4 DOUBLE CONTACT: a player hits the ball twice in succession or the ball contacts various parts of his/her body in succession
Both of these rules can cause a player to be called for a ball fault when volleying in beach volleyball.
- A catch – If a player is determined to hold on to the ball for too long during a volley it is ruled a catch and the point is lost.
- If the player touches the ball twice during the volley it is ruled as a “double”. This is very easy to do as during a volley, the player uses two separated hands making it extremely easy to result in two separate touches.
Beach volleyball referees are much stricter when it comes to double contacts during a volley. Lots of people refer to the ball spinning as the cause of a double, however this is not true. Spin is an indicator of a double touch, but not a certainty.
Because of this many beginner and intermediate volleyball players are taught to dig set in order to avoid ball faults during setting.
This video of AVP Referee John King answers the question extremely clearly.
Fault for double contact: As explained in the video spin is a common symptom of double contacts, but not a guarantee. You can be faulted for double contact while setting as you receive the ball, yet still release a clean no-spin perfect ball. This is still considered a double contact fault. Tt’s not just the release but also the initial first contact with each hand that counts. (a lot of people refer to this as a “catch”). *
The exception to these rules is during a hard driven ball. Then the ball contact can be extended momentarily even if an overhand finger action is used. Referee John King refers to this as well.
This can be found in the official FIVB rules – Point 18.104.22.168
*This video and explanation was found in this reddit thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/volleyball/comments/3kznt5/can_someone_help_me_find_the_rule_about_spin_on/