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What Is The Most Important Reason to Hit The Forearm Pass?

Published: 2022-01-07
What Is The Most Important Reason to Hit The Forearm Pass?
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Many volleyball players might ask this important question. Why do we use the forearm pass? 

When volleyball was created, very quickly players learned how to adapt to the fast shots and spikes coming from the opponent side.  The development and evolution of the underhand pass happened as a result of a necessity and/or as a self-protection mechanism. 

The fast-driven ball at the players' faces always created body reactions linked to children’s startle reflex trigged by the eyes.  The startle reflex or Moro reflex happens as a reaction to an abrupt noise or movement, including a movement of other objects thrown at a person's eyes.  Very early, in the development of volleyball, participants were urged to protect themselves against very fast balls served or attacked at them by their opponents. 

The standing position and the use of their hands were always a movement that conflicted with physiological reactions such as leaning their bodies backward and/or closing their eyes when the ball was too fast that a player could not process most likely because of the speed of the ball was faster than the players' speed of reaction. 

However, when the players waited to contact the ball below their waistline or even at the level of their thighs, it would be considerably easier to play the ball because the contact would happen after .4  or .5 seconds therefore beyond the .25 (250 milliseconds or 25 msecs) human speed of reaction threshold.    

Another reason why it is so important to use the underhand forearm pass deals with the notion that many people who first played volleyball were children under the age of 10.  In some cases, participants at that age also demonstrated some difficulties to play hard-driven balls geared towards their faces. 

Human development psychology explains that it is perfectly normal for some children in this stage to be shortsighted.  Therefore, there was (and there has always been) a hardware issue related to why the underhand forearm became so useful in the game of volleyball.  

Therefore, we understand that the evolution of the underhand forearm pass happened as a natural adaptation to the game.  Intuitively, players developed a lower stance that chose to contact the ball at the waistline or the level of their thighs because it was developmentally appropriate and more efficient (suitable) for them. 

Another adaptation that happened naturally, was that at the time of contact players would project their eyes to the target.  Notice that when volleyball was introduced to Asia countries, many top defenders acquired the habit to keep their eyes on the ball even during the time that players are touching the ball.  

The matter of fact is that utilizing the underhand pass in serve receive is both physiologically and neuromechanically different than utilizing it in a defense situation.   For this reason, nowadays that there are two defensive players specialized within the position of LIBEROS, it is common for coaches to find some players who are wired to pass on serve-receive and find other liberos who can dig hard-driven balls better than passing a floater serve.   


This has been the justification for volleyball rosters to have 14 players.  Normally, in highly selected teams,  coaches can identify two good players for each court position (12), plus two liberos who might possess completely distinct abilities (one is a good passer on serve-receive and another is a very good digger).   

Considered an exceptional player, Thales (BRA) has excellent abilities to pass and to dig.

For many years, orthodox coaches would be very picky with the ideal grip in the performance of the underhand forearm pass.  As a matter of fact, until today, the FIVB coach's manual depicts a very specific way in which the hands and fingers need to be superimposed to consolidate a good forearm pass form. 

Nevertheless, expert coaches and researchers have examined this issue and they have concluded that as long as their shoulders and back are hunched, elbows are fully extended and symmetrical and their muscles are at some level of relaxation to be easy to control, the hand position should not be a big factor, but I still recommend using a good and firm hand grip so the arms will not collapse when contacting the ball. 

There have been plenty of discussions among coaches about whether players should pass the ball at their midline or if it is ok to pass the ball "off their midline".  Many critics have addressed this issue as if it is an "ego" issue, but it is not.  This also goes back to the speed of reaction. 

For instance, if players have time to position themselves in front of the ball during fast spikes and serves, great.  If they do not have time, so it is absolutely fine to contact the ball a little to the right or the left, so long the player has a base of support behind the point of contact to assure that the ball goes up and forward, towards the desired target.  

Midline, Linear pass, or  Sideline Curvilinear pass?  It depends!

Suelen, a good demonstration that passing requires improvisation.  Side passing is Ok! 


The question of why it is so important to use the forearm pass (in many countries also called “manchete”) relies on the notion that by contacting the ball at lower positions there is more time to process (to see!) the ball appropriately therefore to have more control upon the implement. 

“Pass it forward!”