A reader of the blog asked the following question after reading the Setter Training: Weight Transfer post:

“Did I get it right, that you suggest that a young setter might have the front and back foot a little bit apart in order to execute the weight transfer? If so, what about back sets? Does the same back to front weight transfer help the arc in the spine? Or is it the opposite transfer front to back weight?”

Why feet apart?

First, the general recommendation for setters is that the foot closest to the net be somewhat forward of the other. In the indoor game, this basically means right foot forward. If you’re playing on the beach or otherwise in a situation where you’re setting from the left to the right (looking at the net), then your left foot would be closer to the net and thus should be the one slightly forward.

The main reason for this stance is that it keeps the shoulders turned slightly away from the net. This tends to mean mistakes are off the net rather than too tight or even to the other side. I’m not generally a fan of twist or turn setting or follow-through when it can be avoided. The reason is it tends to nullify the purpose of keeping your net-side foot forward. I accept the twist set’s value when forced to come well off the net, though.

Aside from that, you can’t really do a weight transfer through the set from back to front if you don’t have your feet staggered to some degree. Also, I find that setters who set with feet very close together tend to have a tighter overall posture. That is not beneficial to smooth setting, and by extension, accuracy.

What about back setting?

If the idea for the forward set is to transfer weight, what about setting backwards? Wouldn’t you want to do the same thing?

Actually, if you watch a lot of setters you’ll see them sort of do just that. What do they do when they are forced to move back to play the ball (e.g. passed too far toward the right-hand antenna)? They tend to back set in line with their backward weight transfer because it’s quite easy to do. Obviously, that means they aren’t well positioned to set other options, so it’s not what we’re really after.

The other thing you see setters do when they back set is actually take the ball slightly behind them. Essentially, this serves to put their weight behind the ball. That is where you want it in order to be able to push – just like for a front set. The problem there is everyone knows you’re going to set behind.

Using the same back-to-front weight transfer for back sets as the one I talked about for front sets actually makes more sense than you think when you consider the physiology of what’s happening. It’s not the same as when a setter pikes trying to front set. By that I mean their weight is all going in the opposite direction to the ball.

In a back set, in the back-to-front weight transfer you shift your body weight behind the desired path of the ball. At the same time, you are driving force from the legs through the hips, up the torso, and then along the arms. All the force of your body is going in the same direction. Much of that is upward in direction, but that’s fine because when you back set you are usually closer to your target than you are doing a front set to the antenna (shorter set = high arc). And if you need to set further you just alter the trajectory by arching your back more to create a less vertical line of force transfer.

Watch good setters and try it out for yourself to see what I mean.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently Technical Director for 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.

    2 replies to "Setter foot positioning"

    • Riley Hengesbach

      Hi I was looking for ways to help my be able to set farther out and I came across weight transfer. I was wondering if you could make a video on this teaching how to do it and the position your body should be in when doing it. If you could I would greatly appreciate it, thanks!

      • John Forman John Forman

        Hi Riley. I’ll see what I can do.

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