How to read a hitter and blocker in volleyball: Win with these tips

In volleyball, it is essential that you defend and attack well. To do this, you have to anticipate how the other team is going to react. In offense, you do this by looking at how the blockers are moving. In defense, you keep an eye on the hitters. This will allow you to react faster and increase the chances of winning. Let’s discuss how this works in practice. 

How to read a hitter in volleyball: defend better

Liberos and middle blockers have to anticipate where the ball is going to get. The best way to do this is not by looking at the hitter but looking at the setter. This gives an indication of where the ball is going. Just by looking at how they fold their hands can give an indication of the direction that the ball will go in. Knowing this can already save you valuable seconds. In some systems, there is only one setter in the team. If that person is not able to set, the libero might take over. In other systems, you have two setters. You have to know what system the other team is using so that you know who will give an assist. 

The position of the hitters also gives an indication of where the ball will land. During the rotation, you have to check where they are moving to. 

Photo by Stephen Baker on Unsplash

Hitters will sometimes fake an attack. If the ball is not coming their way but they are pretending an attack, it is obviously just a decoy and they want to distract you. Volleyball players often stand on the tip of their feet during defense so that they can move quite easily. If you notice that a player is faking an attack, you have to be able to move quickly to fend off the real attack. 

There are typically two hitters per team and you have to keep an eye on them at all times. Other players can attack as well but typically the hitter is going to do this. If one of the hitters is defending and has already touched the ball, it can give an indication that the other hitter might attack.

Setters often use hand signals to communicate to whom they are going to pass. Sometimes they don’t hide this well enough and you can read the game. This can be a great way to see who is going to attack. Often setters don’t know that they don’t hide their hand signals well enough so it is a great way to see what is going on. 

Your coach often can provide valuable information as well. You can ask if he has tips about how to defend against this specific hitter if you are struggling to defend against him or her. 

 How to read a blocker in volleyball: score more points

It can be really annoying if you hit the blocker as it is hard to recover the ball after this. The middle blocker is often the main player that you have to keep an eye on but he or she can get help from other players on the front row to make the block wider. It is important to realize that a blocker typically has to set a few steps sidewards before it can jump. Once you see them starting to move to the left or right, they might prepare for a block. Smaller players have to move more as they need to prepare their jump. Taller players often don’t have to move as much as they don’t have to jump as high. 

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

From the moment that a blocker is jumping, he or she is not able to move a lot anymore. Therefore it can be a great idea to fake an attack so that the blocker is distracted by this. Once this happens, it is quite easy to score. It can add more variety to your attacks as well. The problem that a lot of teams have is that their attacks are too predictable. This makes it easy for the defense to stop the attack. If you add more elements to the attack (such as fake attacks, adding effect to the ball), it will be possible to score more easily.

If you see two or three players on the front line standing quite close to each other, it can be an indication that they will work together to set a block. This can be hard to evade by yourself so you have to react quickly when you see this happening. You can add more effect to the ball or indicate to your team members that they should pass to someone else.  

After a while, you will also get a feel for how good the middle blocker is. Teams have typically two middle blockers. If you notice that one of them is performing quite badly, you can use this to your advantage and pay less attention to them.  You have to know where the middle blocker is in the rotation as they move over the court during the match. 

To conclude, being able to anticipate how the offense or defense of the other team is going to react is very important. This will allow you to react faster and win more points. At first, it can be quite challenging to do this as you have to look at the ball and players on your own team. It can take years before you have enough energy to take into account how the other team is moving. This is what separates beginners from advanced players. You might struggle with this at first but eventually, you will be able to do it as well. At first, you will have to think about these things but after a while, you will be able to do it without thinking. Volleyball is all about getting in a flow during the match.