Had a question come in about when setter development should start when I coached in England.

How early do coaches teach setting to 12U and under? Does England have a scope and sequence chart that plans out what skills are taught to players at a particular age?

I generally agree with the approach they had in England at the national level when I was there. They don’t do any real specialization at the 12-and-under age group. They started to identify and develop setters in the U14s.

Even then, though, it was within the context of a multi-setter system (thinking mainly 4-2 at that stage). It was not yet with the idea that someone becomes just a setter full-time. They wanted to develop well-rounded players through the early age groups.

The idea behind introducing a 2-setter system is also that for any given team you’ll probably have 3-4 setters in training at those early stages. That means having more potential setters in the pool as they progress up the age groups until eventually it narrows down when they’re playing a 5-1 system (predominantly) at U18s/19s.

They also leave libero development until later so players are going all the way around.

My posts on setter training here, here, here, and here may also interest you.

You can also check out my discussion of a playing system progression.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

    6 replies to "How early do you start setter training?"

    • Oliver Wagner

      I completely agree with your mental thoughts about a setter. Although I think that the hands, feets and other stuff can be learned. A setter is your teams quarterback and he needs to want to have exactly this job.

      Therefore I don’t think that a specialization in the early years does make any sense. I am not sure which age is the best right now because I lack the experience. For the first time I am working with a U16 team and I have not many clues yet about who might have a potential for which position.

      For once I am supporting the “German way”. Give the kids a broad development as long as possible. Which means: no libero is allowed before U18. And coaches are encouraged to play no system before the U18 level.

      Right now my team simply rotates without any specialization. Everybody sets, hits and blocks on any given position. I know what most coaches are thinking now: if I let all my guys setting we have no chance at all. I agree that you have to cut down your own ambitions at the early stages but on the long run, you will have middles who can set a high ball effectively, your opposite is an option as a receiver, and you had enough time to find out who has the best mental (and physical, if you like) preconditions for being a good setter.

      Right now we are the only U16 team in our state that renounces any specialization. And we are doing just fine with this. While other teams have to put a lot of work and practice time into developing a solid system, we can focus on the basic technical and tactical issues of the game. I think this will also help in the future. I believe that a good knowledge about the things your teammates next to you are doing, helps you to do the best job.

    • John Forman

      I think you hit on the major conflict in all this – developing vs. winning. As soon as winning starts to become a priority the inclination will be to try to do those things which provide an advantage in matches even though in the long run just being better at teaching and training serves the same purpose.

    • markleb

      Two points… As soon as you are using setters, even if it is a 6-6, they should be doing setting training. Otherwise there is no point in not specialising. The point of not specialising is that everyone is training for everything, not that you are leaving them alone.
      Secondly, I don’t accept the premise that development and winning are mutually exclusive. This is the assumption that drives coaches to specialise, and I don’t think it’s valid. If the focus is on development then it is certainly more difficult to win but it’s not one or the other.

    • John Forman

      I don’t think there is any disagreement about having to do setting training even when you’re running a 6-6. In fact, that’s the whole point being made – everyone is working on all facets of their game, not just a few players working on specific skills.

      On the development vs. winning, I don’t think we actually disagree the way you think. I personally don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. A coach who does a good job developing their players is going to tend to see them have success on the court, obviously. My point was more related to coaches who put winning first and make player training/specialization decisions based on that.

    • Stuart Pask

      Ok. So you have a 4’ 11” girl. All her relatives are also short. At the end of 8th grade. Yes, a growth spurt is possible. This girl is not going to be a higher level front row attacker. Why not let her work to be the best Libero or setter. If they love the game why not let them get good at something. I like tall setters also. LOL

      • John Forman

        Stuart – The story I tell in https://coachingvb.com/let-them-play/ is a big reason why I’m not a fan of early positional specialization (as I mentioned in the post, pre-14s if not pre-high school). You never know when attacking skills can come in handy! She can probably skip the blocking, though. lol

Please share your own ideas and opinions.