In the game of volleyball, you may notice one player that hits (spikes) the ball more often than any other player on the court. This is the outside hitter, and they are the lead offensive attacker on the team. This player gets a lot of swings at the ball to score a point for their team.
In this article, we will discuss the roles and responsibilities of the outside hitter and other information that is important to this position.
What Is The Outside Hitter?
The outside hitter is the strongest hitter on the team. They are also known as the left-side hitter because they hit and block on the front left side of the court. Being a skilled passer is necessary for the outside hitter as they will play serve receive on defense.
The outside hitter plays on the left side of the court in the front row. This position is also known as the strong side of the front row. It is the easiest position for a setter to set. The outside hitter is the strongest hitter on the team.
As this player rotates in the front row, they will switch back to the outside position once the ball has been served. They need to be quick on their feet and know where they are always going. This player also calls out plays to help the front row know what is happening on the other side of the court. For example, they will help the middle blocker by calling out where the other team’s hitters are going.
History Of The Outside Hitter
The outside hitter position probably came about the same time as the set and spike was introduced in the Philippines in 1916. After the set and spike was 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 outside hitter should swing and hit the ball as hard as they can to score a point.
In 1920, more rules were implemented into the game of volleyball. There could only be three hits per side and players could attack the ball from the back row. The game of volleyball then started growing quickly with national and international teams playing the game.
Rules Of The Outside Hitter
The outside hitter is responsible for hitting and blocking at the net. There are some rules to keep in mind when playing this position as not give up a point to the other team. Below is a list of those rules.
- Outside hitter cannot touch the net. Body contact with the net is not permitted between the antennae and will result in a lost point.
- Outside hitter cannot step under the net. The outside 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.
- Outside hitter can touch the ball beyond the net while blocking. The outside hitter can block the ball beyond the net if it doesn’t interfere with the opponent’s play before or during an attack hit.
- Outside hitter cannot hold the ball while hitting or blocking. The outside hitter must be careful to not hold the ball too long when hitting and blocking otherwise the other team will get the ball back.
- Outside hitter must switch to their position with another player after the serve. If the outside 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.
- Outside hitter cannot block a serve. When the opponent serves the ball, the outside hitter cannot block it from coming over the net.
- Outside hitter can block the hit and then pass the ball. If the outside hitter blocks the ball and it ends up on their side of the net, they can pass the ball to another player.
These are the main rules the outside hitter must follow while on the court. These rules and more can be found at USA Volleyball.
Responsibilities And Skills Of The Outside Hitter
There are certain responsibilities an outside hitter must perform. They must also possess certain skills to be successful in this position. In this section we will discuss the important responsibilities and skills of the outside hitter.
There are five important responsibilities that an outside hitter performs to help their team be successful.
- Serve receive
- Reads the opponent
- Covers other hitters
- Runs plays
On defense, the outside hitter is responsible for receiving the serve coming from the opponent. When in serve receive position, they will back off the net and get in position at the ten-foot line. If there is a short serve to the left of the court, it is their responsibility to pass it to the setter. After they pass, they need to be ready to get into their hitting position as the set may come to them to hit over the net.
Reads The Opponent
The outside hitter is often the player that calls out how the other team’s hitters are setting up for an attack. They let their team know if the attack is coming from the right side, middle, or left side. They also let their team know if they think it will be tipped over. As the outside hitter makes these calls, the team is getting into their proper positions for defense to receive the ball.
Covers Other Hitters
If the outside hitter is not hitting the ball, they are responsible for covering the other hitters at the net. They should get slightly behind the hitter in case the other team blocks the ball or tips it over. If the other team does block or tip the ball, the outside hitter should be ready to pass the ball up to the setter.
When the outside hitter is on offense, it is their responsibility to run the plays that are called by the setter. The setter is also reading the opponents court to see which hitter they should set to score a point. They will usually call out their set to a hitter and the hitter must know how to approach that kind of set and swing hard. If the hitter and setter work well together, the more successful they will be at scoring points.
An important responsibility of the outside hitter is blocking. When the outside hitter notices the ball is set to their side of the court, they need to be at the net ready to block. It is best to read these plays early, so the middle blocker can quickly make it over to help with the block. The outside hitter will often let the middle blocker know to come help block by calling “left side”.
The outside hitter must have certain skills to be successful at their responsibilities. Below is a list of those skills.
- Good passer: must be a strong at serve receive and able to give a pass to the setter for a good set
- Solid hitter: able to hit a variety of sets and swing hard to score
- Good ball handling: saves the ball from hitting the floor, fearless to hit the ball, able to tip effectively
- Good communicator: must have good communication with the setter and the team
Drills For Outside Hitters
Outside 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 outside hitter can do to improve their skills.
Self-Tossing Hitting Drill
The player starts in the left side hitting position and tosses the ball toward the net. Toss the ball high enough to do the approach. Be sure to have the ball a little off the net as not to throw it into 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 player 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 who should be in position to hit. This drill works on going from serve receive position to hitting position. This will happen a lot during games.
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.
Toss Hit Drill
Someone tosses the ball from the setter position. The toss should be in the spot where the hitter can jump up and hit it rather easily. After the setter tosses the ball, the hitter takes their approach and hits the ball. The person tossing can have a basket of balls by them to keep the drill going quickly. This will allow the hitter to have many repetitions without having to shag balls.
Variation: The person tossing can give the hitter different kinds of tosses that resemble types of sets from a setter.
Equipment For The Outside Hitter
Being an outside hitter requires making effective plays to score points. Choosing equipment that will help them do that is important.
In this section, we will share our top choices for outside 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
When choosing shoes for an outside hitter be sure to look for comfort, durability, traction, and good cushioning for all those jumps. Having shoes with these features is essential for an outside hitter because of all the plays they need to make for their team. Below is our top choice for best outside hitter shoes.
The Asics Gel-Rocket 10 is a great pair of shoes for the outside hitter. These shoes come with enhanced cushioning and shock absorption to help the player with jumping. They also feature a rear and forefoot gel cushioning system to add to the shock absorption.
These shoes are designed with a lightweight mesh top to help the feet move more naturally. They are made with Trusstic System Technology which reinforces the middle section of the shoes. This reduces the weight of the shoes while keeping the durability intact. Because the sole is made with a more natural rubber, the grip works well when quickly going up to the net for a hit.
The Asics Gel-Rocket 10 shoes are affordable as well. They are often priced the same or below other volleyball shoes and contain more features specific to the sport of volleyball than other brands.
- Shock absorption
- Gel cushioning for comfort
- Lightweight mesh top for more natural movement
- Affordable price
Knee pads are an essential piece of equipment for an outside hitter. Of all the players in the front row, the outside hitter is most often used for serve receive and defense. Be sure to look for knee pads that are durable, comfortable, and provide protection. Below is our top choice for best outside hitter knee pads.
The Mizuno LR6 Knee Pads provide an outside hitter with the right amount of coverage while providing a greater freedom of movement. These knee pads are specifically made to be worn below the kneecaps to protect the knees from injuries. There is padding in high impact areas to absorb shock when digging or sliding for a volleyball.
Mizuno is a company that specializes in volleyball equipment, so it is no surprise that they have done a lot of research and testing to provide high quality knee pads. Some customers in the reviews say that wearing these knee pads are so comfortable it doesn’t even feel like they are wearing any. They also said that they feel their knees are well protected because of the design and padding of the knee pads.
- High impact padding
- Freedom of movement
- Protects knees from injuries
- Great design
One of our other top picks for knee pads are the Nike Vapor Volleyball Knee Pads . These knee pads are made of breathable material and have a dual layer gel cushion for maximum protection. While they are extremely nice, they are a little more expensive.
Famous Outside Hitters
Without an outside hitter, scoring points would be very difficult. There are some players that have mastered this powerful position in volleyball. In this section, we will discuss some famous outside hitters that have excelled to the top.
Wilfredo Leon is an outside hitter from Cuba that has been awarded Best Spiker throughout the past ten years. He started playing volleyball as a seven-year-old with his mom Alina as his coach. He debuted on the Cuban national team at the age of fourteen and won the title of Best Receiver at the World League in 2009. In 2010, he led his team to win the silver medal at World Championship where he was the youngest captain at the age of seventeen.
Wilfredo’s mother was a volleyball player and that’s where his love of volleyball started. On June 24, 2016 he married his girlfriend Malgorzata and later they had a child, Natalia, in 2017. He is now playing volleyball for the Poland Men’s National Team.
Kelsey Robinson is an outside hitter from the United States of America. She has been named Best Outside Spiker since 2015. She played for the University of Tennessee for three years and then transferred to the University of Nebraska where she finished out her college volleyball career. In 2016, she won bronze in the Rio Olympic Games and in 2021, she played for the 2020 Tokyo U.S. Olympic Team where she won the gold medal.
Kelsey was raised in Bartlett, Illinois. Her volleyball career started at an indoor volleyball club at the age of ten. She married volleyball player, Brian Cook in 2021. Her hobbies include cooking and creating recipes, traveling, and writing for her website. She has a YouTube channel where she highlights life as a pro athlete overseas and a website where she shares her love of food, travel, and leisure.
Sergey Tetyukhin is a former Russian outside hitter from Uzbekistan. Throughout his career, he competed in six summer Olympics where he won a total of four medals. He is the only volleyball player that has received all three types of medals from the Olympics. The gold medal was achieved in 2012 during the London Olympics. He has won many team and individual awards including Most Valuable Player ten times and Best Outside Spiker two times.
Sergey started playing volleyball under the guidance of his father and joined his first professional team in 1991. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1992, Sergey’s family moved to Russia where he joined the local volleyball club. He spent most of his career there before retiring in 2018. Now his son Pavel plays for the same club.
Kim Yeon-koung is a former South Korean outside hitter. She is widely regarded as one of the best volleyball players in the world. Even though South Korea placed fourth in the 2012 London Olympics, Kim was named the best scorer and the most valuable player. She scored a total of 207 points which became the most points scored by one player in Olympic history. She won many awards during her career including seven for best outside spiker.
Kim started playing volleyball when she was in the fourth grade. She was inspired by her older sister to play who was also a volleyball player. Because she was less than 5’7” in middle school, she considered playing soccer thinking she was too short for volleyball. In high school, she grew more than 20 inches and started playing at the outside hitter position. She then began receiving recognition from the Korean media for her physical condition and performance in high school.
Outside Hitter FAQ
What does the outside hitter do?
The outside hitter is the lead attacker in the offense. They must be able to jump high, be quick on their feet, and adjust to different situations. They also play the serve receive position on defense where they are expected to pass to the setter.
How tall is the outside hitter?
Anyone can be an outside hitter no matter their height. However, in college and professional volleyball the average height of women outside hitters is 5’10” – 6’0” or more. The men’s average height is 6’4” and above.
Does the outside hitter get a lot of sets?
The outside hitter receives the set the most from the setter. It is the easiest position for the setter to get the ball to whether it’s a good or bad pass. The outside hitter has the most chances to take swings at the ball and score.
Is the outside hitter a spiker?
The outside hitter is a spiker. In volleyball, a spike is usually called a hit. That is why the position is called outside hitter. There is no difference between a spike and a hit. It is the same thing.
Where is the outside hitter position?
The outside hitter plays in zone 4 which is on the front left side of the court. They are responsible for covering the area between the attack line and the center line.
The outside hitter is the lead hitter in the front row. They are responsible for collaborating and communicating effectively with the other hitters and setter in the front row. When you watch a volleyball match, you will usually notice the outside hitter getting the most attempts at hitting because it is easiest for the setter to get the ball to them.
If you are working on becoming an outside hitter, be sure to practice the position as much as possible. It is also a good idea to watch other outside hitters play the position and practice some of the drills listed above.