The setter is the offensive leader of a volleyball team. They make important decisions about which plays to run for their team to have the best chance to score.
In this article we will discuss the many responsibilities and roles of the setter as well as other important information about the setter position.
What Is A Setter?
The setter is the player that runs the team’s offense. They are responsible for getting the second ball after a serve from the other team so they can then set the ball up to a hitter. They decide which plays to run and which hitter will get the ball. Good communication skills and quick decision making are critical skills to have for the setter position.
In the front row, the setter plays on the right side and helps block the outside hitter of the other team. In the back row, the setter plays right back and digs when necessary and gets up to the net quickly to set a hitter. The setter must be quick on the court as they are the player that is responsible for getting to the second ball.
The setter is the communication link between the coach and the players while on the court. For example, the coach may tell the setter where the ball should be served through hand gestures. The setter will then relay that information to the player serving.
The players become dependent on communication from the coach coming from the setter. This way not all the players are looking at the coach and taking their eyes off the court.
History Of The Setter
The setter position was created in the Philippines in 1916 when the set and spike were introduced. Four years later, the three hits rule started. The setter position was created to set up the hitter on the second hit. Two years after the setter position was established, six players on each side became the standard.
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 Setter
There are some specific rules a setter must follow during a match, or they could risk their team of losing a point. Below is a list of rules a setter must follow.
- Setter cannot double hit the ball. The setter’s hands need to hit the ball at the same time. They cannot hit the ball twice during a set.
- Setter can attack the ball. The setter can attack the ball in the front row. This attack is called a dump.
- Setter cannot attack in the back row. The setter cannot attack or block when the ball is above the net when playing back row.
- Setter can force a block violation. If the ball is clearly on the setter’s side, they can force an illegal block by setting the ball into the blocker’s hands. If the blocker contacts the ball on the setter’s side, it is an illegal block.
- Setter cannot switch to position before the serve. The setter must be in the correct serve receive position before going to their setting position. They cannot switch until the serve has left the server’s hand.
These are the main rules the Setter must follow while on the court. If you would like to know more of the rules for Setters, you can find them at USA Volleyball.
Responsibilities And Skills Of The Setter
The setter has many responsibilities in the game of volleyball. They also need to posses many skills to carry out those responsibilities. In this section we will discuss the responsibilities and skills a setter needs to be successful.
There are four responsibilities that a setter does that are very important to a team’s success.
- Call plays
- Position check
- Setting the ball
The setter is responsible for communicating the plays to the hitters before and after the ball is passed. They must be able to read both sides of the court quickly to know which hitter to set for the best possible.
The goal is to call a play that will score a point. It is the setter’s job to let the hitters know what kind of set each of the hitters will get if they receive a good pass or a bad pass from the passer.
All sets differ in speed, height, and location. Listed below are some common sets that a setter would use.
- High ball sets– slowest but highest sets a setter delivers
- Medium height ball sets– lower than the high ball sets and higher than the quick sets, usually have more arc at the height of each set
- Quick ball sets– the fastest and lowest sets
These are the main categories of sets, but within each category there are many kinds of sets. For example, the setter may call a five set which means the set will be high to the opposite hitter. The setter will use hand signals for each set to let the hitters know what kind of set they will use on each play.
The setter is responsible for checking to see that all players are in the right position on the court after each rally score. If a player is unsure of where they are supposed to be, they should be able to look to the setter for help.
The setter may need to get their team back into position quickly, so it is important for them to have good communication skills and a good rapport with all the players. Making sure no players are overlapping before a serve is also important as this could lead to a point for the other team.
Setting The Ball
The setter’s main responsibility on the court is setting the ball. They must be willing to move quickly on the court to get the best possible set to a hitter. They may be running from one end of the court to the other if the ball is being volleyed back and forth several times. It is their job to get to that second ball, so all other players need to move out of the way unless the setter calls for help. If that happens, then another player can take the second ball. Usually, the libero will take the second ball and set it.
It is also necessary for a setter to know the abilities of their hitters well. If the setter knows how a hitter likes their sets, that can make it easier for a hitter to make an effective play.
Blocking And Hitting
Blocking and hitting are also responsibilities of the setter. When the setter is playing in the front row, they need to help with blocking when the other team is hitting. This usually happens on the right side of the net where the other team’s outside hitter is hitting. They may also be needed to help with blocking in the middle as well.
Sometimes, a setter may need to be a hitter as well. If they are playing front row and the ball is set by someone else, the setter may need to become a hitter at that point.
A setter must have certain skills to be successful at their responsibilities. Below is a list of those important skills.
- Communication: must be a good communicator with the team and coach
- Consistent: need to have consistent sets that hitters can anticipate
- Leadership: must be a good leader that makes other players feel comfortable enough to communicate with
- Quick decision-maker: must be able to make quick decisions on the court about where the ball should go and if they need to call for help
- Multi-tasker: able to do all the different tasks on the court, setting, blocking, hitting, serving, passing
- Good hands: has good hands to set the ball smoothly even when a tough pass comes to them
Drills For Setters
A way for a setter to get better at setting is by practicing some drills. By practicing drills, a setter will improve and become more consistent. Below is a list of drills a setter can do to become better at their position.
Have A Seat
Two partners sit cross-legged about 8-10 feet across from each other. They set the ball back and forth. This develops wrist and arm strength since the legs are taken out of the set. The players should focus on their arms and hands and how they are positioned for each set. It should be a high arcing set while getting it to the target. This is a great drill for young players just starting out as setter.
The setter faces the wall about 8-10 feet back and tosses the ball up and releases a set against the wall. The setter then catches the ball like they are going to set it again to practice the formation of the hands. After doing this a few times, the setter can try setting to the wall and back to see how many sets they can get in without the ball dropping. When doing this drill, make sure your dominant foot is forward and you are using the right setting formation.
In this more advanced drill, the setter plays both sides of the net. One side of the net starts with five players, while the other side starts with six players including the setter. A coach/assistant tosses the ball to be passed on the six-player side and the setter sets to a hitter. When the ball goes over to the other side, the setter moves under the net to that side to set. The setter goes back and forth from each side setting the ball to the hitters and that’s where it gets its name eleven-player drill.
Setting Control Drill
The setter and a partner stand close together about 3-5 feet away. The partner makes short tosses to the setter, and they set the ball quickly to their partner, but still controlling the ball. The object is to keep the ball under control even when its coming that short. The setter can move their hands any way they need to so the ball is still in control. This is to practice keeping the ball in control with their hands.
View Our 10 Volleyball Setter Drills Article
Equipment For The Setter
Being a setter in volleyball requires a player to be constantly on the move. Choosing equipment that is comfortable and durable is important.
In this section, we will share our top choices for setter’s 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 a pair of shoes for the setter position be sure to look for comfort, durability, and traction. The setter travels all over the court, so having a shoe with these requirements is essential. Below is our choice for best setter shoes.
The Asics Gel-Rocket 10 shoes are a great pair of shoes for a volleyball setter. One of the features that set them apart from other shoes is the traction. Having great traction helps the setter accelerate easier and make needed stops with their feet quicker.
These shoes also feature forefoot gel cushioning that provides excellent cushioning. They are designed with a flexible upper construction that can help feet move more naturally from side to side. There is also a Space Trusstic (plastic bridge under the arch section of the shoe) application in the midsole that improves stability during quick transitions.
With all these features that are specific to the setter position, you would think they would be expensive. However, they are very affordable. The Asics Gel-Rocket 10 shoes have all the features that a setter needs to be successful at their position.
- Great traction
- Improves stability
- Comfortable gel cushioning
The setter moves around the court quickly, so it is important that their knee pads are made to be flexible and comfortable. A setter may often have to dig the ball making knee pads an essential item for them. Below is our best choice for setter knee pads.
The Asics Setter Knee Pads are highly recommended for the setter position. These knee pads are a low-profile design which means they are shorter and more flexible than other knee pads. This makes them less restrictive than traditional knee pads.
Just like the Asics footwear these knee pads have a gel cushioning system which provides great impact absorption. The knee pads are not thick, but because of that they provide a good level of protection without restricting the knee too much.
These knee pads are specifically designed for the left and right knee. Therefore, they must be worn on the designated knee. This allows for an enhanced fit, comfort, and performance. Asics specializes in volleyball equipment, and they do not disappoint with these knee pads.
- Low-profile design
- Great impact absorption
- Less restrictive on the knees for movement
- Gel cushioning system
Behind every great hitter is a great setter. Without a good set, offense becomes obsolete in volleyball. In this section, we will discuss some famous setters that have mastered the setter position.
Micah Christenson is ranked number one in the world for the setter position in men’s volleyball. He has been a member of the men’s US national team since 2013 and played on the 2020 US Tokyo Olympic Team. Micah has won many individual awards for being Best Setter including the 2019 FIVB World Cup Championship. When he was just 20 years old, he was the youngest setter ever to compete for the United States National Team. He is known for his brilliant technique and talent on the volleyball court.
In 1993, Micah was born in Honolulu, Hawaii to his athletic parents Robert and Charlene. His parents both played at the collegiate level in basketball and volleyball, so it’s no wonder that he has always been a top athlete. He won many state championships in basketball and volleyball while in high school. He then went on to play volleyball for the University of Southern California where he started all four years.
He is married to Brooke Fournier who is a former USC indoor and beach volleyball player. They have one son, Ezekiel Christenson who was born in 2018.
Jordyn Poulter was named the best setter at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and led her team to the gold medal. She is from the United States and has played professionally since 2018. When she was still in college, she began training with US National Team. She has won many team and individual awards including the All Big Ten Setter of the Year.
Jordyn was born in Naperville, Illinois and grew up in Aurora, Colorado. Her parents, Rhonda and Bob Poulter, attended Eastern Illinois University. She also has a lot of extended family living in Illinois. Because of her ties with the state of Illinois, Jordyn played for the University of Illinois during college. She made the decision to play for Illinois after attending summer camps with coach Kevin Hambly, who is the coach of the university’s volleyball team. Her dad said the rapport that she had built with Coach Hambly was a big deciding factor in playing for the University of Illinois.
Bruno Rezende is one of the best setters in the world from Brazil. He led his Olympic team to gold in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He is considered the brains of the team. He is very good at observing his opponent’s side of the court and setting the ball easy for his teammates to score. He has won many individual awards including Best Setter in the 2016 Olympics.
Bruno is the son of two former professional volleyball players, Bernardihno and Vera Mossa. They both played in the Olympic games and his father won silver medal in 1984 with the Brazilian volleyball team. His father became the coach of the Brazilian team in 2001 to 2017. Bruno was able to be coached by his father during the 2016 Olympics.
Nootsara Tomkom is one of the best setters in the world from Thailand. She has won the Best Setter award 16 times in her career. She has also won 10 consecutive gold medals in the Southeast Asian Games. She says that to get better she thinks about competing against herself. This helps her have a good mindset in pressure situations.
Nootsara started playing volleyball at the age of nine in Thailand. She wanted to follow in her older sister’s footsteps who was already playing at the time. Her parents, Ratchaburi and Chaluay, were very supportive throughout her volleyball career. She said that is how she was able to become a better athlete and player. Nootsara started playing professional volleyball at the age of 20.
Is being the setter hard?
Being the setter in volleyball is one of the hardest positions to play. It demands quick decision-making skills, and they are the leader of the team calling plays.
How tall does a setter need to be?
The setter can be any height; however, they are usually one of the shortest players on the team. The libero is usually the shortest. A tall setter is almost mandatory at a high level of play such as a professional player or D1 college. This is because they play all around and don’t substitute out, so they need to hit and block on occasion.
What does the setter do in volleyball?
In volleyball, the main job of the setter is to set the ball to the hitters that will hopefully score a point. They are the leader of the team that is constantly communicating with their teammates and coach. They also check to make sure that players in position before a serve.
Why does the setter wear a different color jersey?
The setter DOES NOT wear a different color jersey. The libero is the position that wears a different color because they are allowed to come in and out of the game without substituting. The different colored jersey helps the referee keep track of the libero.
Where does the setter stand in volleyball?
The setter typically starts in the left back position and switches back to that position as they rotate through the back row. After the ball comes over the net, the setter transitions to the middle front position to set the ball.
Why do teams hide the setter?
Teams hide the setter to make them available to set the ball on the second hit. If the setter passes the first ball, the team can get thrown off. When the setter does take the first hit, the libero then becomes the setter for that play.
In volleyball, the setter has many responsibilities as they are the leader of the team. They are constantly communicating with their teammates and coach, calling plays, and making sure players are in position. If there is a good setter on the court, the team is going to do well in a match.
If you are working on becoming a setter, be sure to practice setting as much as possible. It is also a good idea to watch other setters play the position and practice some of the drills listed above.