Volleyball Positions and Roles

Volleyball Positions And Roles

Volleyball positions and roles are important to know and understand. This information helps you perform better on the court, as well as understand the game while watching.

The volleyball positions are Setter, Libero, Defensive Specialist, Outside Hitter, Middle Blocker, and Opposite Hitter. Each of these positions have their own roles and set of skills, however these skills can sometimes overlap.

In this article, we will explain each position in depth as well as share some responsibilities of that position. The more you know about this game, the more enjoyable it is to watch or play.

Before we discuss the positions, we must first go over the zones of a volleyball court. This way you understand which area of the court each position covers.

There are six zones on a volleyball court. These zones begin with zone one at the back right of the court and rotate counter clockwise. The players rotate clockwise through these zones. After the serve, each player quickly shifts to their position’s zone on the court. You can see how this works in the picture below.

Zones on the Volleyball Court


AKA: S, Right Back

The setter is the offensive leader on the court that communicates by telling or signaling the players what offense they are going to run. They are trained to get to every second ball after the first pass and set to one of the front row hitters or a non-libero hitter in the back row. Being quick on your feet is necessary for this position.

The main setter(s) on the team usually focus only on this position. It takes a lot of practice time to get the ball where it needs to be for the hitters. Seasoned setters will get to know how their hitters like to receive the ball for a hit and will set the ball to the hitters liking. Doing this helps the hitters get the best possible set for a kill on the other side of the net.

Newer setters will need to focus more on the basics such as using their fingertips and making sure they are not carrying the ball. They also to need to practice setting to a target area and work on the height of their set for a hitter to attack the ball. As they become more comfortable with setting, calling plays and sets become easier. 

It is important for the setter to be a good thinker while out on the court. They set up the hitter for a hit, therefore, they need to always be watching the opposing team and seeing how they can outsmart them. 


The setter has many responsibilities on the volleyball court. Some of those responsibilities are listed below and are very important for the success of the team.

  • Offensive leader
  • Communicator to the players and coach
  • Sets the second ball to a hitter
  • Quick on their feet
  • A good decision maker
  • Calls plays

Location On The Court

Setter Position on the Court

The setter usually starts a match in the right back row position, or zone 1, which means they will play defense for that rotation. Often, they will be the first server for the team. When they rotate through the back row, they will come up to the net with the middle blocker and outside hitter. This allows the front right-side player to play back on defense. 

Learn More About The Setter Position


AKA: L, Middle Back, Defensive Specialist

The libero is the best defensive player on the team that has great ball control when passing or saving the ball in the back row. They are trained to do anything possible to keep the ball in play. They dig the ball by falling, sliding, or even pancaking (holding their hand flat to the ground to allow the ball to bounce off it). They typically come in for the middle blocker in the front row.

The libero (which means “free” in Italian) is allowed to freely come in and out of the back row without using a substitution. This allows them to play in the game most of the time with only sitting out a short while. They wear a different color jersey that helps the referees know who can come in and out of the game freely. A team can have two liberos, but they cannot be in at the same time.

One skill that a libero must practice is hitting from the back row without attacking the ball. Their feet are not allowed to leave the floor when hitting. It can take a lot of practice time to get good at hitting the ball without jumping especially from the back row. Having an experienced libero that can hit on the team can be an advantage. They can see the whole court on the other side of the net and place it in a hole.  


The libero position has many responsibilities while playing on the court. Listed below are a few of those responsibilities that are important to the team’s success.

  • Great ball control
  • Good communication with other back row players
  • Quick feet
  • Covering the front row players 
  • Following the ball
  • Set second ball if setter passes the first ball

Location On The Court

Libero Position on the Court

The libero position is in the middle back, or zone 6, of the volleyball court. They are responsible for covering the whole deep back row. When they rotate out of the middle back position, they will switch with the other two players after the serve receive. This allows them to stay in the deep back position. 

Learn More About The Libero Position

Defensive Specialist

AKA: DS, Left Back

The defensive specialist is like the libero in that they are primarily a defensive player in the back row. They cover the middle of the court in front of the libero along with another defensive player. Just like the libero, they are trained to do whatever it takes to keep the ball in play. 

The defensive specialist usually comes in for a front row player that may be weaker in the back row. They need to be very good at digging the ball as they will see a lot of short balls coming their way. They are allowed to attack the ball in the back row, but they need to stay behind the 10-foot line. Practicing hitting and becoming a strong hitter from this position can be an advantage as the other team may not be expecting it.  Sometimes, the defensive specialist plays both the front and back row especially if they are a strong hitter. 

A defensive specialist must have the ability to read the other team’s plays effectively. Knowing where the ball is coming from the other side will help the DS get into position quickly. Defensive specialists will often focus on the other team’s hitters to know exactly where the ball will be hit. They then quickly get to that position and make a good, controlled pass to the setter.


The defensive specialist has many responsibilities while playing on the court. Listed below are a few of those responsibilities that help with their team’s success.

  • Great ball control
  • Covering front row players
  • Communicate with the libero
  • Quick feet
  • Dig the ball (whatever it takes)
  • Attack the ball in back row

Location On The Court

Defensive Specialist Position on the Court

The defensive specialist is in the left back position, or zone 5, on the court. They are responsible for covering the middle of the court in front of the libero. Often, they will need to dig short balls. When they are not in the left back position on their rotation, they will switch with a player after the serve receive to get back in that position. 

Learn More About The Defensive Specialist Position

Outside Hitter

AKA: OH, Left Front, Strong Side Hitter, Pin Hitter

The outside hitter is the strongest hitter on the team that receives the most sets. It is the easiest position for the setter to set, therefore, they are the primary scorer on the team. They are trained to hit the ball as hard as they can to score points. Tipping is also used by the outside hitter to get over the block or throw off the opposing team.

The outside hitter usually comes in for a back row player that is rotating to the front. Sometimes, they are an all-around player because they have great passing skills and can hit the ball exceptionally well from the back row. They also tend to be good at covering the volleyball because they back up the block from the opposing teams outside hitter.

Blocking is another skill of the outside hitter. Along with the middle blocker, they block the opposite side hitter on the other team. Timing is everything when blocking, so they work closely with the middle blocker by communicating how they will block together.


There are many responsibilities of the outside hitter. Below is a list of a few that help their team be successful.

  • Hit the ball hard
  • Be aggressive
  • Blocks at the net
  • Runs plays called by the setter
  • Be confident
  • Serve receive

Location On The Court

Outside Hitter Position on the Court

The outside hitter is in the front left position, or zone 4, on the court. They will hit from this side of the court which is often referred to as the strong side. Because the setter faces the left side of the court, it is the easiest spot for them to set. When the outside hitter rotates to another position, they will switch with the other front row players to get back to the left side of the court. 

Learn More About The Outside Hitter Position

Middle Blocker

AKA: MB, MH, Middle Hitter

The middle blocker is typically the tallest player on the team and is the first line of defense when the opposing team is attacking the ball. They block in all three positions in the front row. It is best for them to have a good vertical jump to get as far over the net as they can. They are trained to block and hit the ball straight down onto their opponent.

The middle blocker usually comes into the game when the libero rotates to the front row. Because this is not a substitution, it is a quick switch. Even though they are called the middle blocker, they will also be a third hitter in the front row. When the pass is too close to the net from the opposing team, it is a perfect opportunity for the middle blocker to jump and hit the ball straight down back into the other team’s court. 

If the middle blocker is blocking and the ball just touches their fingers, they need to be quick thinkers on how to keep the ball in play. They may have to quickly pass it up or go to the ground to dig it up. These players should be flexible and quick.


The middle blocker has many responsibilities on the court. Below is a list of some of those responsibilities that help their team be successful.

  • Read the opposing team’s hitters
  • Block with strong hands
  • High vertical jump
  • Quick feet
  • Good footwork at the net
  • Aggressive

Location On The Court

Middle Blocker Position on the Court

The middle blocker is in the front middle, or zone 3, on the court. They will hit from the front middle position, but also help block both the outside and opposite hitters. When a hitter from the opposing team is going up for an attack, the middle blocker will quickly go to the right or left side to assist in blocking.

Learn More About The Middle Blocker Position

Opposite Hitter

AKA: OPP, Front Right, Right Side Hitter, Weak Side Hitter, Pin Hitter

The opposite hitter is one of the most versatile players on the court. There are many times where they will play both offense and defense. They are a dependable player that can play just about any position on the court. They will often fill in for the setter on the second hit and play defense in the back row on serve receive.

This position does not get as many sets as the other two hitters because the setter will usually have to back set to them. When they do get a set, most opposite hitters are good at placing the ball in a hole on the court. The opposing team is usually not used to the ball going to the opposite hitter, so it can catch them off guard.

When a player is an opposite hitter, they must be good at digging, setting, passing, and blocking as they will do a variety of these skills at any time. One important responsibility they have is covering other players. They are often covering the outside hitter and middle blocker when they are going up for an attack. They must be ready for a tip or down ball from the opposing team. This player can be counted on when things get tough out on the court.


The opposite hitter has many responsibilities out on the volleyball court. Below is a list of some of those responsibilities that help their team be successful.

  • Must know a variety of volleyball skills well
  • Quick feet
  • High level knowledge of the game
  • Strong blocker
  • Covers other players
  • Dependable on the court

Location On The Court

Opposite Hitter Position on the Court

The opposite hitter is in the front right, or zone 2, on the court. They hit and block from the right front position, but also may set and serve receive. They quickly move all around this area to cover players and help keep the ball in play with great effort.

Learn More About The Opposite Hitter Position

Serving Specialist: A serving specialist is another position that is sometimes used in the game of volleyball. They substitute in for a player just to serve and they typically have a strong, consistent serve that is a threat to the opposing team’s defense. The serving specialist is mainly used at the college, international, professional, and olympic levels.

Volleyball Positions FAQ

Volleyball Positions FAQ

How many positions are there in volleyball?

There are six positions in volleyball. The positions are setter, libero, defensive specialist, outside hitter, middle blocker, and opposite hitter.

What is the most important position in volleyball? 

The setter is probably considered the most important position on the team. They are the team leader that calls plays and must get to the second ball. The libero is probably the second most important position because they typically make the first contact with the ball coming over the net and must get a good pass to the setter.

What is the hardest volleyball position?

All positions have their own level of difficulty, but some people would say the setter is the hardest position. They are expected to get the second hit, handle the ball smoothly with their fingers, make quick decisions on which hitter to set, and learn different kinds of sets.

What volleyball position is the tallest?

The middle blocker is typically the tallest player on the court. They are the main blocker in the front row, so it’s an advantage to be tall to get their hands over the net.

What volleyball position is the shortest?

The libero is typically the shortest player on the team. It is easier for them to get to the floor for a dig and stay low. They also never play at the net, so height is not needed for blocking.

What are the beach volleyball positions?

There are no specialized positions in beach volleyball as there are only two players on each side of the net. Each player must be able to pass, dig, set, block, and hit at any time.


The positions in volleyball can be complex, but the more you know about them, the better you will understand the roles of each player. Watching and playing the game will become more exciting when you know what to expect from each position. 

The only way to get better at a position is to practice. I encourage you to learn about your position and find some drills that help you improve your skills. Each of our position pages has drills that strengthen your skills at that position. Visit those pages and become the best player that you can become!

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