In This Lesson We’ll Cover:
- What a volleyball position is
- The six types of volleyball positions
- Where these 6 positions are traditionally assigned
- Outside Hitter
- Middle Hitter
- Right Side Hitter
- Defensive Specialist
There are 6 main positions in volleyball that players are categorized by they are:
- Outside Hitters
- Right Side Hitters
- Middle Hitters
- Defensive Specialists
Each position will have certain tasks and areas of the court that the player is assigned to cover. These may change at coaches discretion, but for the most part remain pretty standard across the game. Let’s discuss in further detail.
What Is A Position In Volleyball?
A volleyball position is essentially a job that a player fulfills on the court. Positions are classified by offense, defense and setters. The position is tied to a spot on the volleyball court. For example outside hitters are almost always assigned to the left front court spot which is the spot 4 on the volleyball court.
There are six set spots on a court and they NEVER change. When someone refers to the left back spot on the court, no matter what player is there, it is called the five position or just “five”.
When a coach chooses players for a volleyball team they will generally put at least two of each position on the team to substitute out for each other, though this varies between levels of competition. For this reason, volleyball teams typically have between 10 and 14 players. We’ll discuss rotation and player substitutions in more detail in our next lesson. Now let’s get into the positions that players fulfill on a team.
The Six Volleyball Player Positions
There are six players on a team, one for each of the six spots on the court. There will USUALLY be one of each type of player on the court at a time per team. As we said before each position has a job tied to a spot.
One of the six jobs on the court is the task of running the offense. Similar to the quarterback on a football team, volleyball teams have setters who fulfill this role.
A setter will traditionally get the second contact on the ball which they receive from one of the other players on their team, though setters are sometimes forced to take the first contact when playing defense. Every player on the team plays defense. The setter redirects a pass (also known as a bump) to one of the front row players who we call hitters.
PRO TIP: “Bump” like “spike”, is a term that goes largely unsaid in the volleyball world, but seems to be permanently attached to the popular idea of the sport. If you want to be taken seriously as a player, coach or fan don’t use either of these terms! Instead use “pass” or “hit” respectively.
Setters are assigned to the 1 position on the court in most lineups, though all setters will aim to set in the front row between the 2 and 3 position then will play defense in the 1 or 2 spot.
Setting is arguably the most difficult job on the court. Setters must be incredibly smart in their decision making process and have more impact on the outcome of the game than any other.
Depending on how the coach sets up their lineup, a team will play 1-2 setters per game and in rare cases 3. Some setters will play a full 6 rotation game where they either set from the front row or play as a right side hitter.
As we discussed in prior lessons, there are two positions who play all the way around the court in special circumstances, setter/right side hitters are one of these examples.
The hitter is mainly responsible for… you guessed it! Hitting the ball. Hitting is largely known as spiking in the non volleyball world, but most experienced players, coaches, parents and fans don’t use that term.
Hitting is an offensive maneuver that a volleyball team uses in an attempt to score points on the other team.
There are 3 types of hitters in the game of volleyball, one for each of the spots in the front row (positions 4, 3, and 2 on the court). The hitting positions are outside hitters, middle hitters and right side hitters. Let’s briefly discuss what their jobs are.
The outside hitter is an offensive player who’s position is assigned to the “4” or the left front spot on the court. These hitters are generally the shortest in the front row and their job is mainly to attack or hit the ball. Other hitters, like middle hitters, by comparison, are more responsible for the blocking, though outside hitters will block as well.
An outside hitter will typically take more swings or attacks than any other player on the court. This is because they are open to the court meaning they are facing their team when hitting. Their right shoulder is open to their team (with right handed outsides). This makes outside hitters the easiest of the pin hitters to set.
Pin hitter: Outside and right side hitters. The term refers to the players who hit next to the “pins” or the antennas. The antennas are located on the net at the side lines and are a boundary for the court. The 4 and 2 spots on the court are considered pin hitting positions.
Outside hitters are the other example of a potential 6 rotation player, which simply means they are never substituted out. Outside hitters, like setters sometimes stay in the entirety of the game. This happens when an outside hitter is an exceptional back row player in addition to their hitting abilities.
The middle hitter is the player stationed in the middle front of the court which is also known as the 3 spot. Middles tend to be the tallest players on a volleyball team.
Middle hitters are an offensive position who are also a key defensive player. This is because the middle hitter is responsible for setting the block no matter what player on the opposing team is hitting. The pin hitters, by contrast, only block about half of the time depending on which player on the other team is attacking.
Middle hitter is the other position some argue is the most difficult job on the volleyball court. Middles must read the setter on the opposing team to anticipate which hitter will be getting the set. If a middle is late on the block, it is very hard for the defensive players behind them who are attempting to dig that hitter. Middles are also a key offensive player.
Middle hitters run more variations of sets than the average hitter. This is of course dependent on the pass that the setter receives. We’ll discuss the middle hitter and all of the positions in more detail later in our curriculum.
Right Side Hitter
Right side hitters which are also referred to as “opposites” are positioned on the right front spot on the court or the 2. We call right side hitters opposites because they are opposite of the setter in rotation.
Left handed people make excellent right side hitters because they are open to the court the same way right handed outside hitters are open to their team when they hit.
Right side hitters tend to be the second tallest position on the court. This is because they block more frequently than an outside hitter and a taller block is preferable.
Right side hitters block the outside hitters on the opposing team, and outside hitters will usually get more sets than any other hitting position.
Finally, we have defensive players. Defensive players are broken up into liberos and defensive specialists. They are mainly responsible for preventing the other team from scoring. They do this by making incredible saves when the opposing team attempts to score.
Defensive players are also called passers. Passers “pass” the ball. Whether that means receiving a serve, passing a free ball or digging an attack.
The libero is traditionally assigned to the left back position of the court which is also known as the 5 spot. Liberos do sometimes play middle back, but this is at player and coaches discretion.
The libero is the player on a volleyball team who wears a different colored jersey, like the goal keeper on a soccer team. Also similar in concept to a goal keeper, the libero is responsible for keeping the other team from scoring.
Libero’s main responsibilities include: serve, serve receive, passing, digging and coverage of the team’s offense. Essentially the libero, like other defensive players, redirects the ball to the setter when they receive the first contact on the team.
The libero is typically subbed in for the middle hitters who tend to be the worst defensive players on the team as far as back row goes, though this is obviously a generalization, middle hitters are sometimes excellent passers.
The key distinction between a libero and a defensive specialist is the substitution rules each position follows. Defensive specialists are subbed in and out by coaches using a traditional sub whereas liberos have their own set of rules which we’ll discuss in further detail later in our curriculum.
To simplify, know that the libero tends to be the best defensive player on the team and they will typically play 5 full rotations and 1 half rotation. They are essentially always in the game.
The defensive specialists or “DS” are typically used as a substitute for outside hitters. Both outside hitters who play in the back row and defensive specialists who might sub for them traditionally play in the middle back position which is assigned the numeric 6.
The objective of the DS is to defend the court, preventing the ball from hitting the ground within their territory as the opposing team performs its offensive maneuvers. The defender, when they have first contact, will pass the ball to the setter in the front right of the court.
- A volleyball position is a job that a player fulfills
- There are 6 positions in volleyball
- The positions are classified by offense, defense and setters
- There are two types of defensive positions
- There are three types of offense positions