Perhaps no other skill in volleyball is taught so differently as setting. I have seen many great setting coaches train their setters in completely dissimilar fashion, and as I look at the skill, and some of the world’s best setters, I wonder if we can distill the skill down to a few simple concepts:
1. It’s really important where you take the ball: Taking the ball on your midline is crucial. Some great setters take the ball high above their head, some take it down on their chin, but taking it on your midline is a critical aspect of being a consistently good setter.
2. Great setters are dynamic: This makes jump setting within the 3 meter line important. It also means the pivot might be the best move off the net because it allows us to run fast without having to worry about slowing down. There’s also some torque created in the move which is a nice help when generating force to make the long set.
3. They’re simple when they set: There’s not a lot going on other than their arms are extending and their hands are staying open in the direction of their release. The rest of the body is fairly vertical and still.
4. Their hands are strong, simple, and open on the release: The reality is your wrists and fingers have to bend when they set the ball. That’s why they’re called joints. The challenge is not allowing that bio mechanical fact to disrupt a clean set with good location. Keeping your hands strong, simple and open, and thinking about the target (not the actual release) should allow the fine motor control of your fingers to work on their own towards delivering a good set.
5. Setters Have an Eye-Sequence: A setter should look at the following things in sequence:
– The serve: Is it going to dribble over the net? If so, the setter will probably need to make a play, if not, the setter should be registering who is going to pass the ball and make the best effort possible to get to the right of that passer. This will allow the setter to move forward a great majority of the time.
– The Passer: The setter needs to be still on the passer’s contact and looking at their platform to calculate where and how they will make their approach to the ball
– “Where am I taking it?”: When teaching eye work to our players, there’s a motor learning principle called “speeded response”, a quick summary is the questions we ask our players to answer within a play must prompt real-time decisions from them. So, asking a player after a play “What were you looking at?” is a nice tool for learning, but perhaps a better method of teaching is a key before the play begins that prompts the athlete to look at the right area of information and make a good decision. What we’ve found through trial-and-error is asking our setters to ask themselves “where am I taking it?” before the play begins, has promoted an effective speeded response. This is always a work in progress but so far we like it.
Taking these concepts into our training gyms should help in developing effective setters. Of course, we’re talking about setting, so there’s lots of schools of thought.