There’s an interesting snippet from the book Peak – which I reviewed. It speaks of quarterbacks, but I think it relates quite well to setters.

“Something very similar is true for football, although it is mainly the quarterback who needs to develop mental representations of events on the field. This explains why the most successful quarterbacks are generally the ones who spend the most time in the film room, watching and analyzing the plays of their own team and their opponents. The best quarterbacks keep track of what’s happening everywhere on the field, and after the game they can generally recall most of the game’s plays, providing detailed descriptions of the movements of many players on each team.

The quote goes on to speak about the timing of a quarterback’s decision. In volleyball the setter doesn’t generally have the luxury of deciding when to make a decision, though. They will receive the ball at a time determined by the pass or dig. How fast or slow that gets to them drives the timing of their decision which set to make. That’s why I left that part out.

For me, the focus here is on court awareness.

Good setters know where everyone is on the court. Part of that is because they know the offensive call, and thus the responsibilities of each player in that structure. Another part is awareness of the movement of their teammates, and to a degree the opposition. Finally, there’s also situational understanding.

It’s that latter element which tends to separate good setters from average ones. They understand the implications of what’s going on around them. On a very simple level, it could be something like, “My libero just had to make a diving save in the middle of the court, so the pipe isn’t available”. At more complex levels additional elements factor in – both on their side of the court and the other.

So we need to make sure our setter training doesn’t skimp on helping them understand what’s happening around them and how it factors in to their decision-making.

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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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