As a setter, you hold both the team's most powerful position and its most frustrating one. Setters control the tempo, create the offense and maintain momentum. But with errant passing or weak hitters, setters can be left feeling ineffectual and unable to contribute.
Even if you sometimes feel dependent on your teammates, remeber that a setter has weapons, too. Here are six that make you a more potent player.
Good Setting Technique
Setters sometimes forget to keep an eye on their own technique. If hitters aren't converting and passers aren't performing, it's easy to shift the blame. But if you work on achieving your best technique on every set, you can save a lot of those bad passes or give a struggling hitter an easy set.
Let's look at setting from the ground up. First, work on having quick feet-this means moving to the ball before setting it. Once you're there and ready, your feet should be shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Bend your knees slightly, and make sure your weight is evenly distributed from the balls of your feet to the arches. Don't have your weight too far forward or backward because this makes it difficult to change direction.
The foot closest to the net should be a little ahead of the other one. This slightly rotates your hips and shoulders into the court and helps keep the set from drifting too tight or over the net.
Elevate your hands to your forehead, and cock your wrists in anticipation of the set. Keep your hand and fingers firm, point your elbows out at an angle between 45 and 90 degrees.
When you set, use all of your fingers. The ring fingers and the pinkies help stabilize the ball. Also, the more surface area you touch, the better you can control the ball.
Take the set at your forehead, and use your entire body to push it towards the hitter. Finally, follow through with your hands after the ball is released; this helps keep it in a true trajectory.
This is often used by setters who receive a too-tight pass. But by using it only as an emergency play, they lose out on the offensive power behind the tip.
The best time to use the tip is on a good pass because the defense won't expect it. You have to execute it fairly quickly, but being deceptive is more important than being fast. Good setters combine both speed and deception when they tip.
When executing the tip, use a firm hand and a quick wrist. Avoid using your elbow as a lever because this "slam dunk' technique will usually get you called for a throw.
You can tip with either hand, and you can direct the ball forward, behind you or to the middle of the court. A tip can be hit short or deep.
I usually tip to the middle because it allows me to be the most deceptive. If the defense changes strategy or is covering the middle well, I'll tip toward the sidelines.
It's a good idea to stick with your strong tip, but still throw in a little variety. Eight o ten times I'll go with my favorite shot, but the other times I'll target a new area. And if my opponents start expecting the short tip, I'll go to the deep corner.
The Jump Set
Jump setting is a great setter's tool, and it creates many advantages. First, it speeds up your offense because you reach the ball sooner. Second, it often makes it easier to set quicks or shoots because you're closer to the height of your attacker as she jumps in her approach. And third, it can fool your opponents into thinking you're going to attack. If they put a blocker on you, that's one less blocker for your hitter to worry about.
I like to jump set to the outside because a lot of setters jump only when they're going to set the middle.
I think it's important that setters learn to set every set both from the ground and from a jump set. When you jump set, make sure your feet are in position first-you have to be under the ball to make an accurate jump set. Use the same body and hand positioning as you'd use on a set from the ground. Set the ball when you reach the peak of your jump. And practice, practice, practice. This set doesn't come naturally to most people and takes work to master.
Saving the Tight Pass
Sometimes, your passers will overshoot their target (you), and the ball will begin to drift over the net. Instead of cowering as the opposing hitter smashes it back at you, take steps to save the tight pass.
On a tight pass, your first priority is to make a set. On a tight and high pass, the first option is to use a jump set. But doing this requires a pretty good jump and good arm and hand strength.
Angle your back toward the net to keep from netting, jump straight up and contact the ball with both hands. Angle your hands back to your side of the court to help keep the set off the net.
A second option-one that's much harder to execute-is the one-handed set (pictured). Reach high with your outside hand (the one closest to the net) and keep your hand, fingers and wrist stiff. You have to kind of poke at the ball. This is the safest way to do it without being called for a lift. The softer your hand and wrist are, the more likely it is that the ref will blow the whistle.
If you can't reach the ball and you're a front-row setter, try to attack the ball either with a hit or a tip. Or you can put up a block against the opponent's attack.
If you're in the back-row, the last-ditch options are limited. If the ball is out of your reach and drifting over the net, try faking a set. This will confuse your opponents and might keep them from attacking the overpass. Another thing you can do is fake a block by jumping, and then pull your hands down. This can also affect their options.
Saving the Net Pass
Almost as bad as an overpass is the pass that shoots into the net. But this doesn't take away all your setting options.
Your first step is to save the ball. Watch to see where the ball is going to hit the net, and position yourself under it. Bend your knees, crouch down and wait for the ball to pop out so you can make a bump set (pictured).
Keep an eye on where the ball contacts the net. If it hits up high, chances are that the ball will roll down the net. You'll need to stay close to the net to make this play. If the ball hits low, it will probably pop out. Be ready to react and move away from the net to reach it.
The biggest mistake is to stay too high. If you're not crouching low and aren't ready to react, you're more likely to misjudge the ball, and then you won't have time to react.
Hand Setting the Low Pass
Sometimes a pass comes at you low and quick. Instead of waiting (or hoping) for the ball to hit the net, try to get your hands on it and set it from a low position. It takes a lot of arm strength to set an outside ball like this and a lot of leg strength to support your body in a crouched position. But if you can do it, this is the best way to deal with a low pass. Getting your hands on the ball gives you much better control and better location options.
Get a quick read on the ball, and decide where it's going to drop. Hustle to that position, and get low. Make sure your feet and body are under the ball because you'll need that leverage to push the ball up. Take the set in the normal setting position, and push it to your target (pictured).