A fellow blogger, Matt, had a question about setter selection come in from an Australian coach. It went like this:

Currently we are doing trails and trying to get a balanced team in order to have our best shot at winning the competition this year. We have one setter who is very keen and enthusiastic she is shorter and lacks some skill and another is not able to play this year. I have been trying to identify another option for us with the players I already have. I have a tall left handed hitter that I want to try and turn into a setter. There is also an older slower hitter who has good hands.

My question: How is the best way to identify someone who could be a setter and then what should I do to accelerate her development?

Of course Matt provided his own answer, but I thought this was something worth addressing here as well.

The main thrust of Matt’s reply was that basically, your first selection criteria for a setter is the setting. Can she put up a consistently hittable ball for the hitters that matter on my team? There are a couple of parts to that question.

Part 1 – Hands

Quite simply, does the player in question have a good touch on the ball and the ability to put up a nice set – or at least the potential to get to that point, depending on your situation. This is simple enough to figure out. Just have them set hitting lines.

Part 2 – Feet

While your setter need not be the fastest player on the court, she needs to be able to get to the ball in good setting posture on a consistent basis. If your team passes nails, then your setter perhaps doesn’t need to be overly quick. If your passing is inconsistent, though, a slow-footed setter will be problematic. A real risk is that they end up encouraging your team to pass poorly (well off the net) because they never properly get to target – and when the passes are actually good, the setter is scrambling to reach them.

Part 3 – Brain

No matter how quick a player is or how beautiful their hands are, if they can’t handle the focus, attention, and decision-making of having to handle the ball on every single play then they’re no good to you. There’s a difference here between a player lacking confidence and one incapable of thinking on her feet. The former will probably get more confident with time and training. The latter will probably never get where you need her to be. This is something which needs to be identified early.

Of course we can list some other factors in here as well, most notably leadership. Most coaches will put that on their list of desirable features for a setter, but the reality is that you can get away with someone else being your leader on the court as long as the setter is doing their job running the offense.


As for the final part of the question asked of Matt regarding accelerating the setter development process, the answer is pretty simple. Set, set set, and set some more! Find a way to get the setter(s) as many ball contacts as possible. If you’re doing a passing drill, have them set the ball to a target. If you’re playing Queen of the Court, have fixed setters. And don’t just have them set balls for the sake of getting setting reps. Force them into decision-making (i.e. game) situations.

You may also be interested in my posts on setter training here, here, here, and here.

Of course, what’s next is deciding on your starting setter(s).

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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.

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