The Keys of Setting

Setters are often called the “quarterback” of a volleyball team, since most of a team’s offense goes through and relies upon the setter’s ability. That said, can you imagine a football team that does not have the quarterback getting special attention and extra practice so he can better develop and hone his inherently important skills? That’s exactly what too many volleyball coaches do; not give the setter specific time to work on their craft and develop their skill.

Setters have a tremendous amount of responsibility: they must get to every second ball, put up a hittable ball, know the best match ups vs. the block, decide who to set when, read the defense, communicate for the coach to the team, etc. Above all these, always remind your setter the most important task is to put up a hittable ball!

At Silver State Volleyball Club,  specific setting practices are conducted for all setters. You are encouraged to attend extra practices whenever possible so you can, in turn, help improve the quality of setting for your team. When developing practice plans, keep in mind how you will get the setter involved whenever possible. Remember, ball touches are a key part of the development of any player, even more so with a setter.


Key Words & Sequence of Skills

Quick feet to the ball…square to the target…Chin up, hands high…flick wrists to the hitting position

Quick Feet

One of the keys to look for immediately and to train is that the setter must release to the net as soon as the ball is hit and she determines it is not coming her way. Many setters get trapped into watching the dig/pass first and then reacting to the ball. This is why many setters have a hard time with tight balls; they do not leave until after the ball is dug and then cannot catch up to the ball. Emphasize an explosive and immediate first step.

A setter must learn how many steps it will take them to get to the net from various spots. This, again, comes with experience through practice. I work with setters on this important element at our setter practices, but you must keep a watchful eye on this as well.

The last two steps to get into the setting position should be a “round-off,” that is, the left foot should plant and then the right foot should come around parallel and close to the net. The right foot should be slightly in front of the left.

The body should be facing where the ball is coming from, not where it is going to be set. I use the illustration of a third baseman facing first base before the ball is hit rather than the batter. By “opening up” to where the ball is coming from, it will help make the setter quicker to any ball that is passed/dug.

When moving to retrieve an errant pass/dig, the setter needs to learn how to first play the ball with her feet, not with her eyes. In other words, often someone will look at the ball and then move. The setter needs to react with her feet and get after the ball immediately with her feet. I will address how to set various off-net balls later.

Square to the Target

It is key that you remind the setter she is delivering the ball to the hitting position, not to the hitter! This is one of the most profound problems/bad habits a setter will get into. The hitting position for an outside set is approximately two feet off the net and at the sideline. This gives the hitter plenty of room to swing and the whole court to deliver the ball into. Setters will often not get their shoulders square to the hitting position, thereby delivering the ball too deep off the net, or the setter may turn her shoulders towards the net (especially when the pass is off the net), thereby delivering not only an unhittable ball but an “ankle breaker.”

After the setter has established her position at the net, when the ball is passed forward to the setting position, emphasize that she must turn her feet and shoulders to the hitting position.

The same basic idea holds true for quick sets and backsets. 

Chin Up, Hands High

Emphasize keeping the chin up. By doing so, the setter will be forced into taking the ball at a high point. When a setter’s chin drops, their hands drop as well, thereby delivering a low set to the hitting position.  

Flick Wrists to the Hitting Position

The speed of the ball is determined by the speed of the wrists through the contact. Someone who arm sets will deliver a slow set to hitter. 


This post was adapted from an original document written by Steve George.