Friday, 14 Jun 2024

How to Master the Art of Reading the Hitter in Volleyball

By Carla Anderton

Defensive players in volleyball who have mastered the art of reading the opponent’s attack have a distinct advantage on the court. By positioning themselves strategically and anticipating the hitter’s moves, they can track, pursue, and play the ball effectively. In this article, we will guide you through the process of becoming a great defender by honing your ability to read the hitter.

Understanding the Importance of Reading the Hitter

Players with the ability to read the hitter possess a valuable skill that can greatly impact the game. While some players are naturally gifted in this aspect, others can develop and refine this skill through training and practice. The key is to have the mindset of going after every ball with relentless pursuit. By positioning yourself correctly based on the opponent’s set and the team block, you can gain an edge over those who struggle to anticipate the situation.

Sizing Up Your Opponent

Before each serve or receive, it is crucial to assess your opponent’s lineup and determine the number of front row hitters. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Is there a dominant hitter on the front row?
  • What is the most likely set they will receive?
  • Does your team have a strong block against that hitter?
  • Are there any tendencies in their shot selection from that position?
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Observing the quality of the pass can also provide valuable clues. If the ball is passed behind the 10-foot line, the set to the front row will likely result in an angled attack.

Analyzing the Setter and Attacker

Once the set is in progress, focus your attention on the setter. Observe their body language and jumping patterns to determine if they are planning to attack or set the ball. Pay attention to signs like:

  • The setter’s body facing the net
  • Jumping only when planning to attack
  • Approaching the ball with one arm raised for a hit or tip

Next, turn your attention to the hitter. Their approach will indicate their intended type of attack. An aggressive approach often leads to a hard attack, while a slower approach suggests an off-speed shot. By analyzing their angle of approach and the direction of their shoulders, you can anticipate where the ball will be hit.

Factors to Consider

The location of the set and the position of the block also play significant roles in determining the hitter’s shot selection. A perfect set near the antenna allows for a wider range of options. Tighter sets often result in hard, shallow attacks, while sets outside the antenna tend to produce sharp cross-court shots. Additionally, the hitter’s shot may be influenced by the location and formation of the block.

Mastering Defensive Technique

To become a great defender, it is essential to focus on your technique. Start by maintaining a balanced and ready position with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms and hands in front of you to be prepared for movement and create a platform for digging. Soften the impact of a hard hit by relaxing your arms back upon contact. Aim to always use two hands and stay on your feet whenever possible.

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Key Tactics and Strategies

Good defense requires study, discipline, and patience. Stay in the angle and challenge hard hits while using variety to confuse the attacker. Charge the ball and pay attention to the opponent’s calls to better anticipate their shots.

Training Tips for Becoming a Great Defender

To improve your reading abilities, engage in drills that closely simulate game situations. Work on reading the hitter’s body language, armswing, and hand contact by practicing with a coach or hitter. Gradually increase the difficulty by introducing live hitters who attack from different positions. Incorporate communication and decision-making drills to simulate game scenarios more effectively.


Q: How can I improve my defensive positioning?
A: Focus on studying your opponent, anticipate their shots, and position yourself accordingly.

Q: What should my mindset be as a defender?
A: Expect every ball to be hit hard your way and be prepared to react. Always strive to frustrate the attacker by getting every ball up.

Q: How can I develop better court sense?
A: Play the game and learn from experience. Anticipation and reading the opponent’s movements will come with practice.

Q: What are some tactics for effective defense?
A: Stay in the angle, use variety in hiding your defense, charge the ball, and listen to the opponent’s calls for hints about their intended shots.


Mastering the art of reading the hitter in volleyball entails having good court sense, anticipating the opponent’s moves, and positioning yourself strategically. By focusing on the hitter’s body language, approach, and shot tendencies, you can improve your defensive skills and become a valuable asset to your team. Embrace the mindset of relentless pursuit and always be prepared to go after the ball. As you refine your technique and understanding of the game, you will become a great defender in no time.

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