In the game of volleyball, the opposite hitter is one of the most versatile players on the court. They excel in both offense and defense. This position requires a high level of volleyball knowledge, and they must possess many technical skills. They will not only hit the ball in the front and back row, but they may also dig the ball on defense and set the ball when needed.
In this article, we will discuss the responsibilities and roles of the opposite hitter and other information that is important to this position.
What Is The Opposite Hitter?
The opposite hitter is one of the most versatile players on the court. They are responsible for hitting, digging, and passing the ball in the back row. Because of their location on the court, they also fill in for the setter when needed. Being skilled in both offense and defense is necessary because they will play both often.
The opposite hitter plays on the right side of the court in the front row. They are known as the setter’s shadow. If the setter passes the ball on the first the hit, the opposite hitter will often be needed to the set the ball. Sometimes, the opposite hitter is the second setter, not just a backup, when they rotate to the back row giving the team two setters on the court.
As this player rotates in the front row, they will switch to the opposite position once the ball has been served. They need to be quick on their feet and always know where they are going. Opposite hitters are extremely useful on the court because they are attackers and defenders making them one of the most flexible players on the team.
History Of The Opposite Hitter
The hitting positions in volleyball probably came about the same time as the set and spike were introduced in the Philippines in 1916. After the set and spike were introduced, the three hits rule started. This rule allows only three hits before the ball needs to go back over the net. On the third hit, the opposite hitter should swing and hit the ball over the net. Often the opposite hitter will read the court to see where the best placement of the ball would be on the other side of the court.
The opposite hitter position became popular when the 5-1 and 6-2 rotation were created because it allowed for more offensive players in addition to the setter. The 5-1 rotation uses one setter while the 6-2 rotation uses two setters. In the past, the opposite hitter position was called the right-side or weak side hitter. It was called the weak side hitter because it was generally easier for a right handed hitter to hit from the left side of the net. It was also known as the off-side.
Rules Of The Opposite Hitter
The opposite hitter is responsible hitting, blocking, passing, and setting. There are some rules to keep in mind when playing this position as to not give up a point to the opposing team. Below is a list of those rules.
- Opposite hitter cannot touch the net. Body contact with the net is not permitted between the antennae and will result in a lost point.
- Opposite hitter cannot stop under the net. The opposite hitter cannot step over the mid-court line into the opponent’s side of the court unless part of the foot remains on the line.
- Opposite hitter can touch the ball beyond the net while blocking. The opposite hitter can block the ball beyond the net if it doesn’t interfere with the opponent’s play before or during an attack hit.
- Opposite hitter cannot hold the ball while hitting or blocking. The opposite hitter must be careful to not hold the ball too long when hitting and blocking otherwise the other team will get the ball back.
- Opposite hitter must switch to their position with another player after the serve. If the opposite hitter is switching with another front row player to get back into their position, they must wait until the serve leaves the hand of the server.
- Opposite hitter cannot block a serve. When the opponent serves the ball, the opposite hitter cannot block it from coming over the net.
- Opposite hitter can block the hit and then pass the ball. If the opposite hitter blocks the ball and it ends up on their side of the net, they can pass the ball to another player.
- Opposite hitter must follow rules of the setter when setting. If the opposite hitter is setting the ball, they must follow the same rules of the setter position.
These are the main rules the opposite hitter must follow on the court. These rules and more can be found at USA Volleyball.
Responsibilities And Skills Of The Opposite Hitter
There are many responsibilities and skills of the opposite hitter in volleyball. In this section we will discuss those responsibilities and skills as well as give of description of each.
There are five important responsibilities that an opposite hitter performs to help their team be successful.
- Serve Receive/defense
- Covering other hitters
One of the main responsibilities of the opposite hitter is hitting. A hit from the opposite hitter can throw off the opposing team because they aren’t expecting it to come from that side of the court. This gives the opposite hitter an advantage because they often only must go against one blocker. The player in this position is usually accurate with their hitting because they know where to place the ball on the other side of the court because of all their technical training. Being a good opposite hitter can help your team achieve great success.
The opposite hitter is most often the front row player that is responsible for serve receive and defense. During serve receive, they will back off the net behind the 10-foot line and help the back row with passing. Depending on the style of rotation their team is playing, they can also become an extra defense player when the team is struggling to receive a serve. In front row defense, they are the player backing up the middle and outside hitters when the other team is hitting the ball over.
When the opposing team is hitting from their strong side of the court, the opposite hitter and middle blocker are responsible for blocking the hit from coming over the net. When the opposite hitter sees the opposing team’s setter giving the set to their outside hitter, they should communicate to the middle blocker that it is coming their way. The middle blocker will then come over to help make the block.
The opposite hitter can also be the backup setter. Because they are in the right front of the court, the pass will often come to them for a set. They need to know the mechanics of setting well to keep the ball in good offensive play. Often, the opposite hitter will be the second setter when they rotate to the back row.
Covering Other Players
Because opposite hitters are so well rounded in their skills, covering other players is probably the most important responsibility they have. They are the player that can be counted on when things get tough out on the court. They are the digger, hitter, setter, and passer when needed. A good opposite hitter can take a good team to a great team.
The opposite hitter must certain skills to be successful at their responsibilities. Below is a list of those skills.
- Excellent blocker: must block from opposing team’s strong side, able to get hands above the net
- Strong setter: able to be as good (or almost) as the main setter, know the plays
- Good passer/digger: able to pass or dig the ball up to the setter
- Quick feet: must have quick feet to recover the ball when needed
- Flexibility: have high game knowledge, where to hit, how to pass/set, know when to step in for a teammate
Drills For Opposite Hitters
Opposite hitters can become better at their position by practicing some drills. Drills will help them improve and become more consistent. Below are three drills that an opposite hitter can do to improve their game.
The player stands in blocking position on the right side of the net. A coach stands on a wooden box in front of the blocker. When the coach slaps the side of the ball, the middle blocker comes over to help the right-side blocker. The coach then hits the ball while the two players go up for a block. The goal is to block the ball from coming over. This drill helps the players with timing and blocking technique.
Variation: Have hitters on the other side of the net hitting the ball at the blockers. This helps the hitters and the blockers practice their techniques.
Self-Tossing Hitting Drill
The player starts in the right-side hitting position and tosses the ball toward the net. Toss the ball high enough to do the proper footwork for the approach. Be sure to have the ball a little off the net as to not throw it over the net. The player then takes their approach and hits the ball over. As they become better at this drill, they can practice different types of hits such as cross court, down the line, and tips.
Pass Hit Drill
The opposite hitter starts in serve receive position and someone tosses the ball to them. The player passes the ball to the setter. The setter sets the ball back to the hitter (setter can practice back sets). The opposite hitter transitions to hitting position and hits the ball over the net. This drill works on transitioning from serve receive to hitting position.Variation: Someone serves from the other side of the net at the hitter. The hitter then serve receives the ball and gets in position to hit.
Equipment For The Opposite Hitter
Being an opposite hitter requires a player to fill many roles and make effective plays to score points. Choosing the right equipment to help them be successful is very important.
In this section, we will share our top choices for opposite hitter equipment.
- Flexible upper construction that can help feet bend more naturally and assist players in moving more freely
- Synthetic leather overlays that improve support in the forefoot and help athletes make confident cuts
- GEL® technology cushioning unit in the heel is functional for providing better shock absorption
An opposite hitter takes on many roles on the court, so having comfortable shoes that are durable is important. Be sure to choose shoes that have good cushioning for jumping and excellent court traction for easy movement. Below is our choice for top opposite hitter shoes.
The Asics Gel-Rocket 10 is an excellent pair of shoes for the opposite hitter. The enhanced cushioning and shock absorption help the opposite hitter with jumping. A bonus feature to these shoes is the rear and forefoot gel cushioning system that adds support to the shock absorption.
These shoes are designed with a flexible upper construction that can help feet bend more naturally which helps players move more freely. They are made with a Trusstic System Technology that reinforces the middle of the shoe which reduces the weight of the shoe while keeping the same durability. There is traction built onto the shoes on all sides giving the player much needed flexibility in their movements.
The Asics Gel-Rocket 10 shoes are affordable as well. They are often priced the same or below other brands of volleyball shoes while providing features specific to the game of volleyball.
- Shock Absorption
- Gel cushioning for comfort
- Flexible upper construction for more natural bending
- Features specific to volleyball
Knee pads are essential for the opposite hitter. They are one of the players in the front row that play defense most often, therefore making it necessary to have a good pair of knee pads. Look for knee pads that are comfortable, durable, and provide protection. Below is our top choice for best opposite hitter knee pads.
The Mizuno LR6 Knee Pads provide opposite hitters with the right amount of protection, comfort, and durability. These knee pads protect the knees from injuries by putting padding in high impact areas to absorb the shock from digging and sliding for a volleyball.
Mizuno is one of the leading companies that specializes in volleyball equipment so it’s no wonder they have made high quality knee pads for years. Players that have worn these knee pads have said they are so comfortable that it feels like you’re not wearing them at all.
- Very comfortable
- Protects from injuries
- Padding in high impact areas
- Right amount of coverage
- Freedom of movement
One of our other top choices for knee pads is the Nike Vapor Volleyball Knee Pads. These knee pads are made of a breathable material that makes the wearing them comfortable. There is also a dual layer gel cushion for protection against injuries. These knee pads are extremely nice but come with a higher price tag.
Famous Opposite Hitters
Having an opposite hitter on a volleyball that possesses many volleyball techniques and skills is an asset to any team. There are some players that have mastered this diverse position. In this section, we will discuss some famous opposite hitters that have excelled to the top.
Annie Drews is an opposite hitter who played for the United States of America in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where they won the gold medal. During her career, she has won many awards for best opposite hitter and most valuable player. She has played professionally for Puerto Rico, Italy, Turkey, and Japan.
Annie was born on Christmas day in 1993 and started playing club volleyball in 2008. She attended Penn High School in Mishawka, Indiana where she was a two-time state champion. In college, she played for Purdue University where she was known as “The monster of the Big Ten” because of her extraordinary hitting ability. She has two siblings, her brother Derek and her sister Erin. Some of Annie’s hobbies are cooking, walking, playing games, and exploring new cities. In 2021, she married Tanner Schumacher.
Matt Anderson is a three-time Olympian for the United States of America. He and his team won the bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. He won fifth place in 2012 and tenth place in 2020. Matt joined the USA national team in 2011 and has been the leading scorer ever since. He started playing the opposite hitter position in 2013 and continues to play in that position to this day.
During college, Matt led Penn State to a 2008 NCAA Men’s Championship, but when he was a junior, he decided to leave Penn State and play professionally with Korea’s Hyundai Skywalkers. That season, he helped the Skywalkers claim first in the regular season, but the team ended up losing the championship game. He has earned many awards including Best Opposite Hitter and Most Valuable Player.
Matt was born in 1987 to his parents Nancy and Michael Anderson. His father died in 2010 from a heart attack. He has four siblings, three sisters and one brother. He married Jackie Gillum in 2020 and the couple has one son, Jamie. Every year he hosts a volleyball tournament in honor of his nephew Tristan, who has autism.
Jordan Thompson is an opposite hitter that played on the USA Women’s Volleyball Team in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Along with her team, she earned a gold medal. Jordan has been a member of the USA national team since 2019 and has set many records during her college years. In her 2018 season with the University of Cincinnati, she set a record with 827 kills and 6.27 kills per set. This broke the NCAA record. She started her professional career in Turkey in 2020.
Jordan was born in 1997 to Tyrone Doleman and Mary Thompson. Sports run strong in her family as her dad played basketball professionally overseas and her uncle played professional football for the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons. She started playing basketball in middle school but decided that it wasn’t for her, so she took up volleyball. This is the sport for her as she was named playBer of the year many times in high school and college.
Maxim Mikhaylov is an opposite hitter from the country of Russia. He was named the Best Opposite Spiker in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games where the Russian team won the silver medal. He also won a bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics. He played in the 2015 Rio Olympics where he did not win a medal. Besides Best Opposite Spiker, he has won many awards throughout his career including Best Scorer, Best Blocker, Best Server, and Most Valuable Player.
Maxim was born in 1988 in the Leningrad Region of Russia. It was here that he started playing volleyball under the guidance of Valery Besprozvannykh. From 2003 – 2010 he played as an outside hitter in the for a team that was from Yaroslavl, Russia. In 2010, he moved to a professional club team called Zenit Kazan and has played there ever since. He is married to his wife Anastasia and they have one son, Nikita.
Opposite Hitter FAQ
What is the role of the opposite hitter?
The opposite hitter, also known as the right-side hitter, is the most versatile player on the team because they can excel at offense and defense. They hit the ball on the right side of the net, dig the ball when hit over from the other side, and set the ball when the setter needs help.
Where is the opposite hitter’s position on the court?
On offense, the opposite hitter’s position is at the right front of the net. On defense, the opposite hitter’s position is on the right side of the court behind the 10-foot line to help with passing.
Does the opposite hitter get a lot of sets?
The opposite hitter does not usually get as many sets as the outside hitter. It is harder for the setter to set to the opposite hitter because it often needs to be a back set. They are also covering for the setter and digging the ball, so it’s harder for them to hit.
Do opposite hitters block?
Opposite hitters are responsible for blocking the opposing teams outside hitter on the right side of the net. They also often help the middle hitter block in the middle of the net, especially if the opposing team has a strong middle hitter.
Is the opposite hitter similar to the outside hitter?
The opposite hitter is like the outside hitter in that they both get sets to hit and they must have great jumping ability. The main difference between the two positions is that the opposite hitter has more defensive responsibilities.
The opposite hitter is the most versatile player on the team. They are responsible for both offensive and defensive plays. When you watch a volleyball match, you will notice the opposite hitter performing many responsibilities that include hitting, setting, and passing. This player must be very observant of every play on the court.
If you are working on becoming an opposite hitter, be sure to practice the position as much as possible. It is also a good idea to watch other opposite hitters play the position and practice some of the drills listed above.