What Position Should You Play?

Analyze Your Skills, Size and Ability to Determine Your Place on the Court

Beach volleyball game
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When you first start to play volleyball, it is most important that you learn each of the skills as best you can and practice them often. Ball control is key in any position you play so learn to control the serve from the other team with an underhand pass. Practice free ball passing and become comfortable with the rest of the skills such as serving, setting, blocking, hitting and digging.

In reality though, not everyone will be good at every skill.

When you first start to play, you may master one skill quickly and the others may not be as easy for you. You may never become great at some skills, but you won’t be alone. Volleyball skills vary widely and players will have different levels of mastery when it comes to individual skills. This is true not just for beginners but for collegiate, Olympic and professional players alike. Don’t be discouraged. Continue to work on the skills you have trouble with and they will improve.

In the meantime, you should choose the position to play based on the type of player you are, your size and agility and the skills at which you are best suited. Like anything, there are no hard and fast rules here, but if you’re wondering which position might be the best fit for you, here are some general guidelines for each position.

Outside Hitter

The outside hitter is typically a position that requires a good all-around player.

Outsides are typically relied on for a significant amount of serve reception. Sometimes, you’ll need to pass and get quickly into position to hit the ball. Often, the outside hitter is a large part of the offense as well. This is true when in system of course, but especially when your team is out of system.

If there is a bad pass, the outside hitter may be the only option for the set. Many times, the outside hitter has to hit difficult sets – sets that are off the net or coming over your shoulder. The outside hitter is not only responsible for blocking the other team’s opposite, but she needs to help the middle blocker with some of the quick attacks and setter dumps.

Best Skills:

  • Hitting (front and back row)
  • Passing
  • Blocking

Middle Blocker

The middle blocker is mostly responsible for keeping the opponent’s hitters in check. A good middle is great at reading the setter to determine where she will set the ball and is quick enough to get there and put up a solid block. Middle blockers are also a key piece of the offense, running quick sets and slides sometimes as a decoy to confound the other team’s blockers. Middles are usually the tallest players on the court, but they have very good lateral movement and quick arm swings. Middles are often not expected to pass or play in the back row.

Best Skills:

  • Blocking
  • Hitting
  • Reading the Setter
  • Lateral Movement

Setter

The volleyball setter is often referred to as the quarterback of the sport. A setter has to be a smart tactician. She needs to know her team better than anybody so that she can determine who the set should go to and when.

She needs to be deceptive to opposing blockers so that she can get her hitters one-on-one opportunities. A setter is in tune with which hitters are hot and which are cold and she works to get all of her hitters involved. Setters need to be great at all types of ball control because placement is key. Good setters can deliver the ball where it needs to be when setting underhand or overhand. Setters also need to be good diggers, great communicators and often team leaders.

Best Skills:

  • All-around Ball Control
  • Setting (overhand and underhand)
  • Digging
  • Communication
  • Team Leadership

Opposite

The opposite is usually a very good and versatile hitter and will be called upon to attack in the front and back row on both high and quick sets. The opposite can be called on for serve reception, but often they are removed from the passing formation so they can concentrate on hitting.

The opposite is responsible for blocking the other team’s best outside hitter, so they need to be able to set the block well for the middle and take away a good portion of the court with good blocking position. Opposites are also expected to help the middle out with blocking shoot sets to the opposing middle blocker and complex offensive plays as they develop.

Best Skills:

  • Hitting (front and back row)
  • Blocking

Libero

The libero only plays in the back row and cannot attack the ball so these players are usually smaller than front row players and have impeccable ball control skills. Liberos not only need to dig well, but on broken plays they can be called upon to set the ball as well. Liberos are often asked to take the majority of the court in serve receive because they are the best passers and because they don’t need to worry about getting into position to hit.

Best Skills:

  • Ball Control
  • Passing
  • Digging
  • Setting