Setter in volleyball (1)

As the basketball teams have point guards to make plays, the setters are the ones who make them in volleyball. They have the most challenging job on the court because they depend on the attackers’ performance; sometimes, even great setters can look bad on the court if other players don’t contribute. In this post, we will look at the position of the setter in volleyball, specifics, skills, and how the teams use them in volleyball games.

The setter is the player who runs the team’s offense, and the primary responsibility is to get the second ball to hitters so that the team can perform a successful attack. The setters are also the only players on the court who plays all the time on the right side of the court, meaning besides set, they have also to master defense, block, serve and in some cases even attack. Good communication skills are crucial to running the offense efficiently.

In volleyball, it can come to all kinds of situations; passes can be perfect or bad, deflections in defense can be unpredictable; therefore setter needs to have fast legs to set the balls far from the net successfully.

Setter responsibilities and playing zones / Zone 1 – Setting, Defense, Serve / Zone 2- Setting, Blocking, Defense, Sometimes attack

Setters always have multiple options in attack, so it’s crucial to distribute sets among players properly, depending on where the ball is and the percentage of the attackers.

What makes a good setter in volleyball

As the primary playmaker in the team, the setter needs to distribute sets between players properly for the team to be successful. There are always four options in the attack: opposite hitter, two outside hitters, and middle blocker. Set should be there where it makes the most sense depending on the quality of the pass or defense.

Set on the left side of the court

Setting in front is the easiest and safest set in volleyball. Set can be either quick or high depending on the pass or defense, which is up to the hitter to call. Usually, sets are high when the situation is not perfect, either after defense or bad pass. On the other hand, the setter should play fast if the pass or free ball is excellent, making it hard for the opponent to perform a quality double or triple block.

Filip Despotovski / Tough set to the left side of the court

Set on the right side of the court

Setting on the right side is more challenging because the setter cannot see the hitter; therefore, the players must be in tune to perform it effectively. Most of the time, the option on the right side is the opposite hitter, which should be the best attacker in the team, so it makes sense to set back, especially in hard situations.

Matthias Valkiers / Set back on the right side of the court

First tempo or quick attack

Looking at the statistic, the first tempo in volleyball is the most efficient attack, and it runs through the middle. In the US, players call it also a quick attack.

The job of the middle blocker is to jump every time on the first tempo, and it is a setter’s job to decide whether to set or not. The first tempo or quick attack is highly effective, so it makes sense to set in the middle of the court if the situation is perfect or positive. 

Besides, It will give the opposing team an additional threat, forcing the opponent’s middle blocker to jump, and after that, the setter can make plays more freely, increasing the chance of having only one blocker on the sides. That’s why a perfect pass is so crucial in a volleyball game!

Matthias Valkiers / First tempo or quick attack set

What is pipe attack in volleyball

Pipe attack runs through the middle, with back-row outside hitter hitting the ball. The pipe that is performed fast and with the right timing is extremely dangerous and usually very efficient, so it has to be one of the setter options, especially on the higher level of volleyball.

Filip Despotovski / Pipe set to Redi Bakiri

Why setter is important in volleyball and should avoid the fist touch

Setters should avoid touching the first ball because teams cannot afford to lose them on the set. Losing a setter means losing the first tempo and pipe, so when the free ball comes over the net, other players must take care of it, and the setter runs in the middle of the court to run plays. Exceptions are defenses on strong spikes.

If the setter can’t avoid touching the first ball( Usually with the defense of hard spikes), libero or outside hitter in the back must be ready to make a set.

Blocking the opponent’s outside hitter

Setters play almost half of the game in the front row, so they also have to be decent blockers. That’s also one of the reasons that teams demand taller setters. In zone 2, they block the opponent’s outside hitter most of the time. It is crucial that after landing, they have to be quick with their feet to come under the ball and perform the set efficiently; therefore, they need good quality volleyball shoes with excellent traction, which can help with reactions and speed immensely.

Setter should be also offensive oriented

Usually, the setters have tactical float serve, however on the highest level, you can see them also going for strong jump serves or hybrid.  I mentioned that setters should know how to attack also. That is especially the case when the ball is tight on the net, and being able to kill that second ball with either tip or spike will make the setter stand out.

Matthias Valkiers / Second ball attack

Why communication skills are crucial for setter in volleyball

In volleyball, there is two way of communicating vocal and hand signs. Setter needs to show these signs constantly, so the attackers know which play the team will run. That is especially important for middle blockers because the attack in the middle consists of different variations.

Having a great deal of self-confidence it is crucial for a setter

It is known that the setters mature later than other positions. They need a great deal of confidence to make crucial plays at the end of the games. That is gained through the years of experience and playing; however, there are some cases where young setters became leading players of the teams or even captains; one example is Giannelli, the setter of the Italian national team.

Best Volleyball Shoes For Setters (eDITOR’S CHOICE)

Nike React Hyperset



What does the setter do in volleyball?

Setter needs to distribute the balls to the attackers. The sets need to be as precise as possible to make the attack efficient. Intelligence will play a significant role because the setter needs to know which player sets the ball in certain situations. These decisions can decide the winning team. They need to know which teammate is in the best form and where the most sets will be set. Setters need to have good peripheral vision and constantly watch the other team; if the setter is skilled enough, its very hard to read the sets, increasing the chance of having an attack only with one blocker. And the possibility of scoring a point increase significantly. They also need to be decent in defense, blocking, and serving.

Is setter the hardest position?

In our opinion, it is. Especially mentally. That’s why the setters on the highest level are older on average. Experience makes a good setter. Yes, there are some fantastic young setters, but their prime is set to be in their late twenties. And they can have long careers ahead because the position doesn’t require as many jumps as others. Some professional setters played even into their forties.

How tall can a setter be?

Setter can be of any height. But there are some advantages if the setter is taller when blocking and setting passes very close to the net. The average height of the setters in men’s volleyball is 193cm.

What do coaches look for in setters?

The intelligence decision-making and confidence. Yes, the precision of the sets is also crucial, but nothing beats an intelligent setter that has the confidence to set tough balls to the right player when the game is on the line.



  • Setting to all players and zones
  • Playing either fast or high depending on the situation
  • Making the opponent block hard time to predict where the set will go
  • Sign communication with hitters
  • Different serves variations
  • Self-confidence to make tough decisions
  • Good court vision

We think that would be all about the basics regarding the setter, which we hope gave you a better perspective regarding the position. However, for the more in-depth guides and tips on how to become a better setter and volleyball player in general, signup for the newsletter and get them directly to your email inbox. You don’t want to miss out on these!

So what do you think about our article regarding the setter? Would you add something that we might miss? Leave the comment down below; we would be happy to hear your thoughts.

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