Who should be leader on the court?

Leadership is a major consideration for any team. To that end, a coach presented the following scenario.

If my best player is the Alpha, asserting herself, telling people where to go etc. But she isn’t the setter, how do you feel about that. I.e. does the player’s position matter?

Here’s what I personally believe. Feel free to argue otherwise.

The setter should be a leader on the court, but does not need to be the leader. For sure, the setter runs the offense. In that role it is important that they be a leader.

Similarly, the libero is the first ball specialist As such, they have leadership responsibility in the areas of defense and serve reception.

Then there’s the middle blocker. They are generally in charge of the blocking side of things – especially when their team is serving. As such, they are leaders in their own way also.

As you can see, I expect leadership to be shared around. It comes from multiple sources and in different ways. Rarely will you have a situation where only one player is the leader, even if they are captain. They may be the vocal leader, and as such the most overt. That isn’t the only form of leadership, however. Nor is it necessarily the most important.

So the answer the question posed, I have no problem with a non-setter being the “alpha”. That is, of course, so long as they are not in conflict with the other leaders and lead in an appropriate fashion (different discussion).

I should note that the above has little to do with who you select for the official team captain. That’s a different type of responsibility. It’s about dealing with the referee, not about dealing with their teammates – though there can certainly be overlap.

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John most recently coached for an NCAA Division II women's team. That followed a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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