Continuing on the setter training topic, which last looked at weight transfer in the setting motion, in this post I want to address hand position. Most specifically, I want to talk about the ball reception point.

On the forehead

The standard coaching approach to hand positioning is to take the ball above the setter’s forehead. Basically, if the ball went through the hands it would hit them there rather than on the nose or the top of the head. This reception point provides a balanced position. From it, the setter can execute all sets without tipping off their intention.


I used this keyword with the setter my first year at Brown. Basically, it was my reminder to her to take the ball in the middle of her stance. Her tendency was to take it a little to her right. The result was a set which drifted toward the net. What happens when the setter takes the ball away from center-line is that one hand ends becomes the dominant force rather than balanced contact and/or there’s a lateral weight shift rather than a back-to-front one, which has a similar effect. That setter was Ivy League Player of the Year that season, by the way.

Hand shape

I once saw a coach instruct players on proper setting hand position in a way that’s stuck with me since. I’ve shared it with a number of others who also think it is a great way to think about it. This coach said to the players that they should imagine holding a 2 liter soda bottle with two hands in a relaxed position in front of them. Then, the coach said to tip that bottle up like they were pouring the soda out over their forehead. The result is the ball-shaped receiving position we’re after.

High contact

The other things coaches aim for with setters is a ball contact point as high as possible. This is done to speed up the quick attack, putting the opposing block under maximum pressure. Clearly, if you are coaching a team which does not feature a fast offense then a high contact point isn’t going to be a real concern. I would also add that as much as you might aim for ball contact at maximum height, there’s a trade-off. Have the arms too extended when the ball is received and setting to the pins becomes a challenge. Each setter needs to find that point where they can set fast in the middle but also have the strength to consistently set outside as well.

Those are the key things I think about in terms of hand position and ball reception. In a future post I’ll get into the question of ball-to-hand or hand-to-ball type setting. Meanwhile, I’d love to get your thoughts on this subject. Feel free to leave a comment below.

If you enjoyed this post, have a look at How do you train setters?

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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.

    1 Response to "Setter Training: Hand Position"

    • Oliver

      Just a remark concerning the high contact point. I once heard and agree completely that it is a good idea to minimize movement in the big joints in arms and legs when setting or receiving. The big joints have the potential for asynchronous movements. Therefore a high contact point while setting also prevents the setter from using the elbow too much.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.