Terry Pettit, who I interviewed for Volleyball Coaching Wizards, posted something on Facebook that’s interesting to think about.

Let me suggest something radical. As teams continue to attack the opposing setter, a higher percentage of the match has become the libero bump setting a pin hitter. The game slows down, and unless a team has an elite outside attacker receiving the bump set, players are either tipping, roll-shotting, or just keeping the ball in play. When I first started coaching, the right-side player was called a “technique” player. That meant that she was trained in setting skills and would set either the middle attacker or the left side player after the setter dug the ball. I wish more teams would explore this option. You could transition to slides, go sets, pipes, or left-handed attacks from the technique player. It would place more emphasis on “training” an athlete in more skills.

A second option might be to allow the libero to set the ball inside the 10′ line in transition. (Not during serve-reception) This would create a more dynamic offense that was less dependent on high outside bump-sets. It would make the game even faster and increase the number of sets to middle attackers.

Let me first address the second part.

Allowing the libero to use their hands in front of the Attack Line (3m/10′ line) would indeed likely increase offensive efficiency. Problem is, that shortens rallies, which is the opposite of what the FIVB is after. So don’t look for anything like that to happen.

Right side setting

Now to the first part of Terry’s post.

Back in the day, as he notes, it was quite common for the right front player to take 2nd ball if the setter had to play the first. Even with a libero, I’ve used this approach myself. During my second year with the Exeter women I had an OPP with prior setting experience. In that group, she was the best option for taking the 2nd ball. This is even more the case when you consider that I only used my libero on one of my MBs, and she played in 6 rather than 5.

To that end, who takes second ball when the setter plays first contact, shouldn’t automatically just be about the libero. It should be about who’s best to do the job, just like with anything else.

The push back I would give Terry here relates to dug balls. Generally speaking, we coaches encourage digs off the net (do we change that?). It would take a pretty special player to be able to excel at hitting and blocking on the right, and to also be able to run an offense from the 3m line as the secondary setter. Even in the old days when it was common for the RS to take the 2nd ball you didn’t see them running many quicks, nevermind shoots (31s).

I’m not saying it can’t happen. It’s a question of trade-offs, though. Is your team better off with the RS developing their setting skills? Or is it better for them to improve their high ball attacking? That’s something each coach has to evaluate for themselves.

Of course, in a truly developmental situation you probably want to focus on building more skills.

One other option

Interestingly, Terry didn’t bring up increased setter development for liberos. Why don’t we see more of them jump setting while taking off from behind the 3m line? It happens in the men’s game, but is extremely rare on the women’s side.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Men's & Women's Head Volleyball Coach at Medaille College, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

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