Thursday, 23 May 2024

How to Thrive as an Undersized Athlete

Originally published in the winter 2016-17 edition of VolleyballUSA

If you’re an undersized athlete looking to excel in your sport, don’t fret. There are strategies you can employ to make up for what you lack in physical attributes. Whether you’re a setter, an outside hitter, a middle blocker, or a beach player, here are some tips to help you succeed.


As an undersized setter, focus on making your teammates better. Be proficient in all skills, from defense to communication, and ensure your hitters receive sets tailored to their needs. Understanding the preferences of each hitter will make a significant difference in their performance. By being an all-around package and setting a positive example through hard work and leadership, you’ll create an environment where success is easier for everyone.

Outside Hitters

Undersized outside hitters can still excel by capitalizing on peripheral shot opportunities. Develop techniques like high-hands shots and off-speed shots to outsmart taller opponents. Pay attention to the defense and adjust your shots accordingly. Rather than aiming for the low seam, go for hitting high hands or tooling out of bounds for points. Look for opportunities to rip the blocker’s hands and utilize cross-court shots strategically for maximum impact.

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Middle Blockers

For undersized middle blockers, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of the block in front of you. Move the ball around, even attempting roll shots to keep opponents guessing. Maintain a good distance from the net to maintain visibility of both the ball and the block. When it comes to blocking, be aware of the positioning and movements of the outside blockers to work effectively with your teammates. Remember that being shorter doesn’t necessarily mean a disadvantage. Use your agility and relentless spirit to make positive contributions to your team’s success.

Bonus Tips

  • Outside Hitters: Shape your attacks by contacting the ball with a slightly bent elbow, creating curved parabolas instead of straight lines. Additionally, timing your jump to hit the ball on the way up allows for easier tooling of the block. Delay your approach slightly to reach peak elevation when making contact.
  • Beach Players: Size is not a limitation for beach players. Emphasize ball control through consistent practice of passing and setting. Develop a keen court vision to anticipate the movements of defenders and blockers. Also, focus on developing a strong serve to strategically place opponents and increase your chances of scoring.


Q: How can undersized athletes excel in their respective sports?
A: Undersized athletes can thrive by focusing on their strengths and employing strategies specific to their positions. It’s essential to make teammates better, understand individual preferences, and develop skills that outsmart opponents.

Q: Are there specific techniques for undersized outside hitters?
A: Undersized outside hitters can use peripheral shots, such as high-hands shots and off-speed shots, to exploit the weaknesses of taller blockers. Strategic shot selection and adjusting based on the defense’s positioning are key.

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Q: What advice do you have for undersized middle blockers?
A: Undersized middle blockers should focus on understanding the block, moving the ball around, and maintaining good spacing from the net. Being aware of the positioning of outside blockers enables effective collaboration with teammates. Embrace the advantages of your agility and relentless attitude.


In this article, we’ve explored strategies for undersized athletes in volleyball to excel in their respective positions. From setters to outside hitters, middle blockers to beach players, there are techniques to compensate for physical disadvantages and thrive on the court. By emphasizing leadership, adaptability, and a holistic approach to the game, undersized athletes can achieve great success in their chosen sport. Take control of your game and rise above expectations.

Read more about how to maximize your potential as an undersized athlete and reach new heights!