Volleyball Positions 101: Player Roles in Detail

Volleyball Positions

Volleyball players play distinct roles that require specific skill sets, each with a unique set of abilities.

What are the volleyball positions? Each player plays a specific role on the court during the game, known as their volleyball position. Setters, outside hitters, opposites, middle blockers, liberos, and defensive specialists are the six key positions in volleyball.

The serving specialist position also exists, although it is rare to see this position.

We’ll start by taking a look at each position’s starting location, and then we’ll discuss each position’s individual responsibilities.

Volleyball Positions in Court: Diagrams

Volleyball Positions

Volleyball court positions are often referred to as numbers. As you rotate clockwise through each zone, the numbers go backward to 1 at the back/middle position.

Each player’s role is represented by a typical home position in the above diagram. Depending on the role/position of the player, this is where the player spends most of their time.

  • Setter: Sets usually from position 1 or position 2 if they’re on the front court.
  • Middle Blockers: It is a surprise that middles are usually found in the 6 or 3 positions on the court. Most of the time, middles replace liberos in the backcourt, so they spend most of their time in position 3.
  • Outside Hitters: Also known as left-side hitters or wing hitters, these guys operate out of the left side of the court from positions 4 and 5.
  • Opposite Hitters: Players who stick at positions 1 and 2 are called right-side hitters.
  • Libero: Plays exclusively in the backcourt out of the 6 position.

I have a complete guide to volleyball rotations and volleyball shoes if you’d like to learn more about which shoes are best for each position on the court!

The Basics of Volleyball Positions: Abbreviations

As shown below, shorthand abbreviations are often used to refer to these positions.

Volleyball PositionAbbreviation
SetterS
Middle BlockerMB
Outside HitterOH
Opposite HitterOPP
LiberoL
Defensive SpecialistDS

The following is a list of all the positions and their responsibilities.

The Setter Volleyball Positions

Setter Volleyball Positions

In volleyball, the setter orchestrates the offense for the team. Among their responsibilities is delivering the ball from passers in the backcourt to hitters in the frontcourt.

Setters are the brains of the operation. What happens in court is dictated by them. Their communication skills are excellent, and they are natural leaders.

Although they may not be the team captain, they should act as if they are.

Setters are responsible for delivering goods. As a setter, you are responsible for accurately ‘setting’ the second touch of a serve into the perfect hitting window for the outside hitter, opposite hitter, or middle hitter to hit the ball.

An excellent setter will identify and exploit weaknesses in the opposition’s defense.

Setters use sign language to communicate. Hand signals are frequently used by setters to communicate specific attacks or combinations to the offense.

In between plays, this is usually done secretly so the opposition won’t know what specific attacks to prepare for.

In addition to setting and defending, setters may occasionally pass the ball if necessary, depending on the formation. The ball must also be served by them.

A setter’s responsibilities and attributes

  • Leadership, assertiveness: An effective setter must be able to lead by example. The defense and the offense rely on them for everything on the court: they’re the glue that holds both together.
  • Consistent and accurate: Butter must be consistently set. The setter must place the ball in the right spot for the attacker to put it away.
  • Decently strong: High and long setters often need to be able to consistently throw the ball across the court. Those who are younger and weaker may not be able to push the ball into the hitting window.
  • Quickness: Setters often need to track down sloppy passes to get under the second ball. It is important that they are fast and agile.
  • Height: Many people think tall hitters and middle blockers are the most important, but being a tall setter will make it much harder for your opponents to block efficiently.

The Middle Blocker Volleyball Positions

Middle Blocker Volleyball Positions

They run quick attacks through the middle of the court and block attacks from the opposing team. Middle blockers are usually the tallest players on the court.

Middle blocker, the great big dumb one. In the middle blocker position, sometimes called a middle hitter, or simply a middle, athleticism and technical prowess are often lacking.

Two things motivate them: blocking and hitting. Middle blockers tend to lack court awareness, have poor passing skills, and can’t dig well at the junior level.

The middle is a blocking specialist. In order to defend against attacks from the opposition’s outside, middle, and opposite, the middle blocker must stand in the center of the court.

Their footwork and reaction times must be strong, and they must be able to quickly transition from defensive to offensive mode.

Swift attacks from the middle hitter. Attacks through the middle of the court are usually run by middle blockers through a fast-paced attack called a ‘quick’.

Almost immediately after the ball leaves the setter’s hands, the middle hitter will try to contact it.

A wing attack can then take advantage of the defensive pressure freed up by the middle blocker’s commitment.

Middle blocker responsibilities and attributes

  • Defensive powerhouse: Joint blocking with the wings is coordinated by the middle, which establishes position and timing. A volleyball player with weak blocking is almost always doomed to failure.
  • Height: Having height is a requirement for middle blockers. As a result, if you are close to the top of the net, you will more easily be able to block quick attacks.
  • Fast footwork: Elite setters use their feet really fast to move the ball to the sticks. To have any chance of blocking the opposition’s hitter, you have to move your feet extremely efficiently as a middle blocker.

The Outside Hitter Volleyball Positions

Outside Hitter Volleyball Positions

Left-side hitters are commonly seen as the go-to attacking option on the court as they attack out of the left side of the court. During serve reception, they are also crucial for passing the ball.

A rockstar on the court: The Outside Hitter. It is a well-known fact that the outside spiker is typically the most talented spiker at the youth level.

Jumping high and hitting hard are usually their strengths. Often, they receive more sets than middle or opposing players.

The second ball is often ‘released’ to the outside when the play breaks down and the defense is scrambling.

A great outside hitter is also a great passer. If all you know how to do is hit the ball, you won’t go very far as an outside…

In addition to being a good hitter, the outsider must be a well-rounded player. Because they are an important part of service reception, they need to know how to pass as well.

In addition to blocking and defending, they must also be able to attack. In order to be a good outside player, one must be an all-rounder as well.

Outside Hitters Responsibilities & Attributes

  • Consistent and reliable: A good outside is not one who repeatedly tanks balls into the net or shanks passes. As an attacker, they must pass the ball well and be consistent.
  • Smart offensively: Good players know when to whale on a ball and when to roll and tip it around the circle.
  • Athletic: Of all positions, outsiders have the highest vertical jump. It will be easier for the outside to get by blockers if they can hit hard. Moreover, they must be able to change quickly from defensive to attacking mode and hit balls in awkward positions.

The Opposite Hitter Volleyball Positions

Opposite Hitter Volleyball Positions

Attacking and blocking are the primary duties of the opposite hitter on the right side of the court.

Although they’re one of the primary wing attackers on the court, opposite hitters are quite different in their role from outside hitters.

The opposing hitter doesn’t actually have to pass. Due to the lack of passing, the opposite does not need to be a great serve receiver.

The opposite hitter combines the abilities of an outside hitter and a middle blocker.

It is not uncommon for opposing hitters to assist with setting. Setters will often step in if out (i.e. they hit the first ball or are unable to reach the second ball) so having an opposite with good hands is helpful.

Spiking specialist on the back row of the opposing team. From the back row, these players also need to be good at hitting the ball. It’s not uncommon for rivals to be able to jump better than each other…

Volleyball’s most impressive moment is watching an opposite completely destroy a back-row attack!

It is common for opposing hitters to be left-handed. Due to the fact that opposing players attack from the right side of the court, it’s quite advantageous for them to be left-handed. As a left-handed player, the ball does not have to cross their body in order to be attacked.

However, there are some outstanding opposites out there, as well as some outstanding outsiders.

The opposition is a proficient blocker. As an opposing team’s outside hitter, the opponents play a crucial role in blocking.

In order to deter left-sided offenses, opposite hitters need to be tall and jump well.

Opposite hitter responsibilities & attributes

  • Attacks from the back row: Spiking takes a lot of practice. A good opposite will be a threat from anywhere on the court if he can pump a ball around a block and find the open court.
  • Athletic and tall: Opposites are similar to outside hitters who are really good at blocking and spiking but haven’t practiced passing much. Their height and power are often impressive.
  • Left-handed: Right-handed players can be great opposites, but left-handed players do have an advantage when hitting from the right side of the court.

The Libero Volleyball Positions

Libero Volleyball Positions

Liberos are specialists in passing and defense on the back row.

In addition to serving and receiving, they are also digging the ball and making all sorts of defensive plays when they sub into the backcourt for the middle blocker.

A Libero is a technician. On the court, they frequently dive and roll all over the place, making athletic defensive saves while controlling the back row. Their accuracy is usually the best on the team.

Liberos are the shortest volleyball players. Liberos tend to be the smallest players in a lineup. Due to the fact that they only play in the back row, and are forbidden from spiking the ball, they sacrifice height in exchange for extreme agility and accuracy.

A different color jersey is worn by the libero. In order for the referees to keep an eye on the libero’s position, they wear a different color jersey than the rest of the team.

Libero Responsibilities & Attributes

  • Being able to take charge: Liberos play the role of backcourt captains, similar to setters. When a serve goes into a seam between two receivers, the libero is always responsible for passing it to the other side.
  • Accurate setter: A libero is often assigned to deliver a ball to a hitter when the setter cannot reach the second ball (since they cannot attack, they may as well). Even after a pass goes awry, an attacker still has a chance to make a kill by setting long distances with high precision.
  • A lot of speed and agility: It’s like watching little powerhouses. There is no doubt that they are quick on their feet and have incredible reaction times.

A Volleyball Defensive Specialist (DS)

Volleyball Defensive Specialist

As a defensive specialist, you can substitute into a game for any player in any position, and you will have the same skills as a libero.

In high-pressure situations, the defensive specialist assists. In most cases, DS players enter a game when the scoreboard is very tight toward the end.

DSs are often played in order to deal with upsetting servers or to remove weak defenders and passers.

The extra reliable passer or the ability to make some stuff blocks may help when you need a side out.

Defensive Specialist Responsibilities & Attributes

  • Adapts well to pressure: A DS must stay cool when under pressure, especially when the score is really close.
  • Precision and agility: It is often a DS’s duty to make very accurate passes that will help a team side out. Passing is extremely important, just as it is for a libero. Their defensive coverage must also be efficient, and they must be able to make great scramble plays.

The Serving Specialist Volleyball Positions

Serving Specialist Volleyball Positions

A volleyball team actually has seven positions, according to some people. In volleyball, there are usually either 6 or 7 positions, and I personally don’t think this one counts.

Some players may be subbed in solely for the purpose of winning a point with their exceptionally strong serve.

Serving Specialists in the Perfect Situation. Although it rarely happens, sometimes a team with an extremely strong server may put them in the game to do what they do and then take them out of the rotation once they’re done.

You’re up 27:26 against your opponent, who has a very strong serve reception lineup and an extremely strong offensive player… You have one of your worst players going to the serve line…

It may be a good idea to sub in a player with a particularly reliable and effective serve as a serving specialist, hoping that their service pressure can help secure the set.

It’s Not Really A Thing To Have A Serving Specialist. In terms of serving specialists, you’re about as likely to see one on the court as a unicorn unless you’re playing international or professional tennis.

What are the tallest and shortest volleyball positions?

Middle blockers are usually the tallest volleyball players, while liberos are typically the shortest.

It’s not always the case, however. My height of 6’5” made me the shortest player on the Australian U17 team (if you count the libero as short) as the middle blocker!

Furthermore, it’s common for opposite hitters to be really tall and have an advantage over the middle blocker by a few centimeters.

It is almost always the libero who is the shortest player on the court.

What are the hitting positions in volleyball?

Outside hitters, opposites, and middle blockers are the most common hitting positions in volleyball.

Outside hitters have an advantage over the others when it comes to hitting the ball, followed by opposite hitters and middle blockers.

The setter may even hit the ball if he or she is on the front court, especially if he or she is lefthanded.
Outside hitters, opposites, and middle blockers are the three primary hitting positions in volleyball.

Outside hitters have an advantage over the others when it comes to hitting the ball, followed by opposite hitters and middle blockers.

If the setter is in the front court, especially if he or she is left-handed, they may even hit the ball.

Hitting the ball is prohibited only for the libero.

Volleyball Positions FAQs

What is the hardest volleyball position?

Setting is often viewed as the hardest position on the team due to the immense responsibility it carries.
Defense and offense are held together by the setter. To ensure everyone is on the same page, they communicate constantly with passers, hitters, and the coaching staff.
As each position has its own unique challenges, there is no clear-cut answer to this question.

What volleyball position wears a different shirt?

Liberos wear different colored jerseys from the rest of the team.
A libero is allowed to play only in the back row and cannot spike the ball, so it helps the referees keep track of positions.

What positions serve in volleyball?

Volleyball requires serving from all positions except liberos.
Under USA volleyball rules, the libero may serve in one rotation, although it doesn’t happen often.
Liberos are not allowed to serve in Europe.

What are the best volleyball positions for tall players?

In volleyball, the middle blocker and opposite are the best positions for tall players because they involve more blocking and less passing.
A center is typically the tallest player on the court, followed by the opponents and middles.

What volleyball shoes should each position wear?

It is important to know which volleyball shoes are best for each position. I have discussed this extensively in this article.

What does OH & OPP mean in volleyball?

Outside hitters are referred to as OHs. Opposing hitters are called OPPs.

What does MH refer to in volleyball?

Middle blockers are often referred to as middle hitters, so MH stands for middle hitter.

Conclusion

Teams are built on the foundation of volleyball positions. The roles played by each player are critical to the success of the team, and their specializations enable the team to mix skills, athleticism, and strategy to their maximum potential.

In order to appreciate volleyball’s beauty, you must first understand these positions.

You may also love to read the guide on How Do I Choose Volleyball Shoes?

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