Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Thoughts for Setters

Volleyball is a unique team sport where the setter plays a crucial role in directing the game. In this article, we’ll explore the insights and wisdom shared by Doug Beal, coach of the 1984 U.S. Olympic Men’s Team, on the art of setting. With decades of experience as both a player and coach, Beal is considered one of the most knowledgeable personalities in the volleyball world.

The Importance of Setters

While volleyball may not allow for individual dominance like other sports, such as football or basketball, the setter holds significant influence over the game. Setters are responsible for nearly one-third of all ball contacts by a team, making their role indispensable. They have the power to make or break the hitters, build or destroy confidence in the passers, and establish the tempo and rhythm of the team’s play.

Traits of a Great Setter

To excel as a setter, several traits are essential. Intelligence is crucial, as setters must interpret the coach’s instructions, make quick decisions, and translate sideline information into effective action. Self-confidence is also key, as setters need to believe in their abilities and their capacity to deliver the required set. They must be like a sponge, accepting responsibility for any hitting mistakes and constantly seeking feedback from the hitters to provide them with the best possible sets. Finally, emotional stability is critical. Setters must remain calm and composed, avoiding dramatic highs and lows that could impact the team’s performance.

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The Evolving Role of Setters

A setter’s primary role is to consistently deliver a “good” set. This means providing hittable sets tailored to each attacker’s preferences and strengths. Once a setter has mastered the technical aspects of setting, they can evolve into a “smart” setter. A smart setter not only matches their teammates’ strengths to the opponents’ weaknesses but also effectively carries out the coach’s plans. The final stage of a setter’s development is their ability to defeat the block through deception, creating opportunities for the hitters to exploit openings in the defense.

Technical Aspects of Setting

While it is impossible to cover all the technical aspects of setting, there are several crucial ones to consider. First, setters should ensure they are stopped when contacting the ball, avoiding unnecessary movement. Facing the target, especially with the upper body (shoulders), helps maintain good direction. Contacting the ball at a high point, in front of the face above the eyebrows, allows for consistent release and timing for the hitters. It is important to release the ball from the midline and make the set off the back foot, pushing through the ball to maintain effective force. Proper hand position, shaped like a volleyball, is essential for consistent and accurate sets.

Concepts for Successful Setting

A successful setter understands the concepts for each specific play and set in the offense. Rather than pinpointing sets, setters should provide a range for the hitters, including width, height, and speed variations. It is better to over-set than to under-set, giving the hitters a better chance to attack the ball effectively. Setters should focus on delivering sets that stay off the net a few feet to reduce the size of the block’s court coverage. Additionally, game-like repetition is crucial for setters to develop instinctive reactions and spatial awareness. By setting from various game-possible positions, setters can improve their skills and contribute to the team’s success.

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Q: What is the role of a setter in volleyball?
A: Setters play a critical role in directing the game, making one-third of all ball contacts by a team. They are responsible for making or breaking the hitters, establishing the team’s tempo and rhythm, and running the show on the court.

Q: What traits are important for a setter?
A: Setters should possess intelligence, self-confidence, the ability to be a “sponge” in accepting responsibility for hitting mistakes, and emotional stability. These traits enable setters to interpret the coach’s instructions, deliver excellent sets, and influence the team’s emotional and psychological characteristics.

Q: How can setters improve their skills?
A: Setters should focus on technical aspects such as proper hand position, contacting the ball at a high point, and making sets off the back foot. Game-like repetition, setting from various positions, and reacting instinctively to different game situations are also essential for setters to improve their skills.


In conclusion, setters play a vital role in the game of volleyball. They are the engine that drives the team’s offense, making or breaking the hitters and establishing the tempo of play. To excel as a setter, one must possess intelligence, self-confidence, and emotional stability. Technical aspects such as proper hand position and contact point are crucial, and setters should focus on game-like repetition to develop their skills. By embodying these qualities and continuously honing their craft, setters can elevate their teams to new heights of success.

Now, let’s get out there and set the stage for victory!

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