Every volleyball player has to master the 5 main volleyball skills. Each player has a unique position on the court and this affects what skill is the most important for any given player. Let’s dive in and discuss this in more detail.
5 main volleyball skills:
In volleyball there are 5 main skills that every player needs to master:
Setting: this is passing to another player so that he or she can score. It is sometimes also called giving an assist. It is essential that the ball arrives at the right height and with the desired speed. You can only touch the ball once in volleyball so it can be a challenge to get this right. This is typically done with an overhand pass.
Serving: this is restarting the game after your team has scored. To serve, the player is standing behind the court. The goal is to push the ball over the net and inside the court of the other team. If you can score and the team can’t even touch the ball, it is called an ace. There are several types of serves: from a floater to a top spin. More recently players have started to jump as well and this has added more power to the ball. Some serves go more than 100 miles per hour.
Spiking: This is attacking. You push the ball over the net. The goal is to evade potential blocks and find weak points in the defense. This is done while jumping to add more power to the ball. Sometimes players fake a spike to confuse the defense. Tipping is also a strategy and this is pushing the ball very soft over the net.
Digging: This is defending. The goal is to keep the ball in the air after the other team has attacked. You want to control the ball and pass it to another player. This can be a challenge as a volleyball court is quite big and players sometimes have to dive over the floor to be able to do this.
Blocking: This is jumping behind the net to stop the attack immediately. Volleyball players are not allowed to touch the net so they have to time their block very well. This is quite challenging and not every player is able to block well. Sometimes players can work together to double or even triple stack a block. If the attacker uses a tip (soft push), the team that is stacking the block might get in trouble.
The position of the player: select your skill
Each player needs to master all of these. The most important volleyball skill depends on the position of the player.
Setter: The specialty of this player is setting. They typically receive the ball from the libero (or defensive specialist) and have to pass to the hitters. It is possible that the pass from the libero is quite bad and the setter has to find a way to control the ball anyway. The setter is coordinating the attack and has to select who they are going to pass to. In some instances, there is only one setter on the court but typically there will be two setters at the same time on the court (one in the front row and one in the back row).
Libero: This player can only be active on the last row but can replace any player there. Liberos are great at digging and diving. Generally, they will replace the middle blocker that is standing in the last row as this player is often less agile. This player can make spectacular saves, as seen in the video below. There is only one libero per team on the court. Libero are typically smaller players.
Middle blocker: This player is often the tallest player on the team. They have to try and block the ball at the net. This is quite challenging and you need a lot of insight into the game to be able to do this as you have to time your block very well. It can be a great way to stop an attack if you can pull it off.
Outside hitter and opposite hitter: These are attackers. Therefore they have to master spiking and tipping the ball. It is possible that the pass from the setter is quite weak and the hitters have to find a way to push it over the net anyway.
Defensive specialist: this player has to block and dig as well. Most attacks happen to the last row on the court so this player is mainly useful when he or she is standing there. It is possible that an attack is going to the front row so this player has to remain vigilant.
Volleyball is a team sport so you have to defend and attack well. Therefore it is essential that everyone has unique skills and balances out the team. It happens that one player can play on multiple positions but it doesn’t happen too often.
Given that volleyball players rotate over the court during a match, every player has to stand on every one of the 6 positions on the court (3 positions on the front row behind the net and 3 positions on the last row). In some strategies, there is only 1 setter. If this player is not able to provide an assist, another player has to take up this role. Hitters also have to stand in the last row so they have to be able to serve and spike as well.
This is why players have to be able to perform all the main skills. They can be great at one thing but they need to be able to do all of the 5 main skills if they want to add a lot of value to the team. Offensive players have to take up their defensive roles as well. In some sports, you can get away with only focussing on defending or attacking but this is not the case in volleyball as the players have to rotate over the court and they are spread out over it.
This keeps it engaging as players have to work on a lot of skills. This is also why coaches pay so much attention to each of these 5 skills and make all the players go through the drills even if the skill is not immediately related to their position.
In beach volleyball, there are only 2 players per team and therefore both players have to be able to attack and defend. Given that this is a very high-paced game, this can push players to their limits. A lot of indoor volleyball players give beach volleyball a try to see how they stack up. This can be a great way to improve all of your volleyball skills.
To conclude, we can state that all 5 volleyball skills are important for a volleyball player and you need to be able to perform all of them. It is possible to specialize in one of these skills and get a specific position on the court.
For newer players, this is less relevant but players that participate in competitions will have to excel at one skill and really develop this. It can take several years until you fully master this skill and you will have to train a lot. This includes repeating the same drills over and over again. A lot of people don’t want to put in that much work and hope that one trick will make them great at volleyball. Unfortunately, this is not how it works. Professional volleyball players have spent years refining their skills and still practice every day.