Phil Dalhauser’s Keys and Strategies for Blocking at the Net

The blocker has a strategic role in beach that can be broken up into a few different segments. Think of playing defense as having two defenders, a front defender FD and a back defender BD. When the other team can play the ball in system one of the defenders plays at the net (front defender) while the other defender (back defender) stays deep and works to play any ball that goes above or around the FD. So, the job of a front defender FD is still being a defender but a defender who is positioned at the net (to defend against an attack, defend/pick up overpass or overset and defend the option). The FD changes the way the attacker makes the ball cross the net either by blocking the ball or by eliminating angles and locations where the attacker can make the ball cross the net. Both results are good in that if the ball is blocked the point is won. If the FD makes it more difficult for the attacker to make a good attack, then it gets easier for the BD to make a good play. If the FD takes away a strong angle that the attacker wants to hit the attacker may make a hitting error. These are all good outcomes helped by the FD. The FD can force the attacker to make a more obvious attack, it gives the BD an advantage. Also, when the set is too far off the net for the attacker to attack aggressively, the FD will pull away from the net and become another BD.

Here are Phil’s keys and strategies for blocking at the net:

#1 ATHLETIC STANCE: The first thing I do when I am at the net is make sure I am always in an athletic position. I am never standing straight up.

#2 POSITIONING: I like to line up with my head on the ball. What do I mean in regard to “head on the ball?” When the set is at its peak or apex, I want my head lined up on the ball directly across the net from where I think the hitter is going to contact the ball when it comes back in to play.

#3 WATCH THE HITTER: Once I am in a good position, I take my eyes off of the ball and watch the hitter. I am looking for any tells in his approach. For example, if he is coming full speed ahead then chances are he is hitting the ball VERSUS SHOOTING THE BALL.

 #4 THE MOVE: Now it is time to make my move. I take a mini step in the direction that I am blocking angle (cross court) or line. I try to time it and get as low as my 6’9 frame will allow so the hitter doesn’t see the move.

#5 PENETRATION: Next, I jump and with strong hands I reach over the net rather than putting them straight up. Reaching over the net is important because it cuts off angles for the hitter. I am also trying to keep my eyes open as long as possible before the hitter hits the ball. This allows me to see and react to the last second changes a hitter will make often based upon my block.

Another tip is don’t jump too close to the net because it is harder to penetrate over the net if you’re too close plus you have a better chance of touching the net. I like to be about 3/4 arm lengths away from the net. Play with that distance to see where you are comfortable.

Lastly, land in an athletic position in case your partner gets a dig. If you do this, you will always be in a good position to make a move towards the ball.

Phil Dalhausser is a three-time Olympian and Olympic Gold Medalist (with Todd Rogers). He is considered one of the best blockers in the world today. Phil has 96 career wins with 56 AVP 1st places and 38 1st places on the FIVB Tour. He has been named as the best blocker in the world (FIVB) 7 times.

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