Volleyball Speed of Travel (Serving and Hitting) 6

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I read a great article about hitting a 90 mph fastball. I suggest you go read it at Living For Science. The article breaks down the math to determine if you have the reflexes it would to connect with a ball coming 90mph from 60.5 feet away. (A major league pitchers fast ball.) One of the links they site will test your reflex time. I won’t lie, I had a great time trying to beat my previous reflex score. You have GOT to try it. >>Reflex Test<< My best was .2 seconds, my average was .23 seconds. So go check that out.
Now, after reading about baseball, my mind naturally wandered to volleyball. I searched the internet for average serving and hitting speeds and I found such a huge discrepancy in numbers. The fastest of each ranging from 60-100 mph. For fun, letโ€™s pretend we are playing against a server who sends the ball over at 80 mph. I read something that said Clay Stanley serves up around that number, and he’s pretty darn good.

So if the ball travels 50′ from the serving line to you, it will take .42 seconds to reach you. (117.3 feet per second) You have less that a half of a second to get your body into position to receive the serve. Now go back to your reflex time from earlier. You only have to move your finger, which is probably already on the mouse. All you have to do is click. I got .23 over and over, so I would need to move my whole body slightly faster than that. I’d say that’s a tall task, but if you can hit the ball in the fun little computer game, you might be quick enough to get a solid touch on the serve. Granted, if the serve is 2 steps away, taking 2 steps in .42 seconds might be difficult. I think this is where longer limbs could really help me out. Maybe someday I’ll have the privilege to receive a Clay Stanley serve. I’ll let you know if I get a touch. ๐Ÿ™‚ (This is sort of assuming you’re using 3 passers, and the serve is within a couple steps.)

Now! Let’s move on to hitting. Let’s use 75 mph. The fastest spike ever recorded is 82 mph.) I have no idea how fast those guys (and girls!) hit on a daily basis, but the best hitters are up there pretty high. For our purposes, we will say the height of contact is at 11 feet, and we will pretend the point of contact with the floor is 20 feet away. This makes the ball’s distance of travel, 22.83 feet. So here we go!! (Are you as excited as I am?)

At 75mph, the ball will take .21 seconds to reach the floor. (110 feet per second)

Now go back to our reflex game and think about my super fast .2 reflex speed. That was my very best. The ball touches the floor faster than I could click my mouse. Reading is a huge factor in volleyball, so if you study the hitter, you can get a good idea of where the ball will go, so you can go stand in that spot, and hopefully the ball bounces off of you. That ladies and gentlemen, is why setting the block is so important. At the very least the ball will be filtered towards a digger.

If I ever have the opportunity to dig a ball hit by Clay Stanley, you will bet that I will be hidden behind a huge block, and will still probably duck the other direction. Oh and I’ll be playing defense with my hands up in front of my nose, to prevent breakage.

Last thing before we leave. Letโ€™s calculate some much more average numbers.

20mph-40mph serve (passing from 20โ€™ back)
20mph = 1.7 seconds (29.3feet per second)
40 mph= .85 seconds (58.6 feet per second)

25-45mph serve (9.5โ€™ high to 20โ€™ deep, ball travels 22.14 feet)
25mph= .60 seconds (36.6 feet per second)
45mph= .33 seconds (66 feet per second)


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6 thoughts on “Volleyball Speed of Travel (Serving and Hitting)

  • Heather

    I’m thinking there may be more time for reaction on a serve. The larger surface of a volleyball will have drag, slowing the ball down over greater distances. Maybe? Not sure though I’m not a physics genius. But it is a pretty interesting topic to discuss. What’s really mind blowing is thinking about all the stuff your brain is doing to get you to react. Great athletes are highly perceptive. As you are reading the play, your brain is way ahead of you as far as what you are doing next. It’s already starting to make its own calculations as the most probable next move. Seasoned athletes, there is no thinking you are just there because your brain has already calculated the most probable outcome. It’s pretty awesome!!

    • admin Post author

      I think you’re probably right about the ball slowing down, and I’m sure there is a noticable difference between a topspin and a floater. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the fastest serves in the world took 1/2 a second to get from point a to point b. The serves we play with allow for a lot more time to get into position. ๐Ÿ™‚ Knowing and reading your server still gives you a huge advantage though! Thanks for the reply!

  • Abby

    I would totally be ducking and hiding from Clay too, I duck and hide from “in-air pancake” he is a loose cannon and I value my face more than I do getting a good pass:)

  • abdullah

    my best in the game was 0.01 sec for 3 times
    second best 0.03 sec 1 time
    but average was around 0.2
    i play volleyball and i know how important reflexes are. that is why the coaches try to make the receive an unconscious movement so that you don’t have to think which way or how to receive the ball. it would take time and the ball moves really fast.
    i hope to become a good enough player to play serious games with strong people
    age 17