How to become a better setter or passer in volleyball. 3 easy steps

The importance of setters (also called the passer) is often underestimated. Everyone notices the special dig (or dive) and celebrates the player that scored. It is essential to remember that an assist is needed to score and this is where the hitter comes in. This is actually a difficult role as you have to receive the ball and then pass it as well. Everyone has to be able to do this if the setters are not able to take up this role during the attack. Therefore all the players on the team have to learn how to pass. Setters need to have a lot of insight into the game and know how their own functions and also anticipate how the defense of the other team will function. Let’s discuss how you can get a better setter in this article.

1/ Improve your technique

Setting is all about being prepared to receive the ball. You stand on your toes and hold your hands ready. Most often an overhand pass is used for this as it offers more ball control. You hold the ball on the underside and on both outer sides. Then you push it high in the air so that it is easy to push the ball over the net. You can train this by passing it to another friend. The goal is to start passing slowly and gradually you start to increase the rhythm. You have to make sure that you don’t drop the ball. It is also possible to train this by hitting the ball against the wall. 

Let’s take a look at how Olympic medal winner for team USA Rachael Adams describes this:

2/ Communicate better with your team

Setters have to indicate to whom in the team they are going to pass. This can be done by using hand signals or other ways. Hand signals often indicate to whom the setter is going to pass. This allows everyone on the team to prepare for this. It is possible that the ball doesn’t arrive at the setter and that other players have to jump in. 

Being able to coordinate an attack is an essential skill of the setter. You have to be able to see how other people move and adjust your pass based on this. If an attacker is out of position or not attentive, the setter has to be able to adjust the plans on the fly so that the attack can go through without any issues. This can be a challenge for a lot of setters as they have a rigid plan in their mind and get annoyed when they suddenly have to adjust this. It is something that you will need to be able to do as volleyball can be unpredictable.

There are some drills to get better at this:

You also need to know how the spiker (or attacker) wants to receive the ball. Some spikers want to receive the ball very high whereas others prefer to receive it lower. Some of these players want to get the ball right in front of them, others more to their right, and so on. As a setter, you need to learn these preferences and adjust your pass. 

3/ Anticipate how the other team will defend

This is a skill that an advanced setter has. He or she can see when the other team is going to block and adjust the pass based on this. For example, if the middle blocker is right in front of the setter, it can be a good idea to pass the ball to someone else. Especially if multiple players work together to create a block, it can be hard for a spiker to get through this. 

You have to know if the middle blocker is playing or if the libero has replaced this player. Middle blockers are often taller and slower and can be easy to target when they are in the last row. A setter has to be aware of all of these things to adjust the attack based on this. 

A setter has to make sure that there is some variety in the attack. A lot of teams use the same attack over and over again and this makes it too predictable. For example, it is also possible to fake an attack or to give a no-look pass. These things can confuse the defense and make it easier to score. If the setter is looking at the hitter the whole time, the other team can predict the attack and adjust their strategy. As a setter, you have to find the best position on the court to coordinate the attack. Your position on the court has a big impact on how the attack flows. Therefore, you have to think a lot about where you are going to stand during an attack.

Being a setter is challenging and it involves a lot of trial and error to get it right. You have to talk to your team members and the coach a lot during the match to see what is going on and find the best way to attack. Setters often analyze video footage of their game afterward to see how they could have done a better job. 

Most teams have 2 hitters on the court at the same time. In some instances (for example in a 5-1 strategy), there is only one setter. This can put a lot of pressure on this player to perform. The libero can function as a backup setter if the designated hitter is not able to pass. Other players on the team have to be able to set as well in this situation. Therefore passing is a skill that all the team members have to master.

To conclude, we can state that setting or passing is often an underestimated skill in volleyball as it is less visible. Everyone on the team has to be able to give an assist. There are specific drills that can help you to improve your passing skills. Furthermore, you also have to learn how to communicate with your team members to coordinate the attack and understand how the other team is going to defend if you want to become a great passer.