What does out of system mean in volleyball? This is likely something most regular readers of this blog know, but not everyone else does. Someone came here with exactly that question in mind, so let me provide an explanation.
In volleyball, a team is fully in-system when the serve receive pass or dig is good enough that the setter has all of their attacking options available. From a statistical perspective, that means a 3-pass in the 0-3 scale (or a ++ in the ++/+/-/0 system described in this post). In other words, the setter can set left, right, or quick to the middle.
You could also say a team is in-system with a slightly lower quality pass or dig. It’s not as good as on a perfect pass, but the setter still has multiple options.
By contrast, a team is considered out-of-system when they pass or dig poorly. This generally leads to the setter having only one setting option. If the first ball is poor enough, someone other than the setter must take the second contact.
There is also the case where the setter plays the first ball. Regardless of how well they dig the ball, the fact that someone else then takes the second contact means the team is out-of-system.
So basically, out-of-system means either the setter cannot play the second ball or only has a single setting option.
Why is this important?
Because it is very likely that the team’s offense is less effective when out-of-system. The sets are not as accurate or consistent. The offense does not run as quickly, and as a result there is usually at least a double block facing the hitter. That is why one of the strategies you will see is to intentionally attack the other team’s setter. That automatically puts them out-of-system, making a good return attack less likely. It’s also why good teams practice being out-of-system, because it happens a lot.
Hope that makes things clear. Let me know if you have any questions.