Many setters linger too long in their defensive positions, making it difficult if not impossible to reach the target area in time to set even the best passes. This is a hard skill to master, particularly for players who are coming to setting from a different position, but it’s a vital one.
Note: Most of what I’m covering here applies to back row setters; when a setter is on the front row, during half of a 5-1 offense, for example, these tips are less applicable.
In a nutshell, setters should abandon their defensive positions the instant it becomes clear they are not going to be passing the first ball and go as fast as they can to the target area. This is hopefully where their teammates will be passing the ball, so the sooner the setter can get there the better his/her chances are of having a lot of options for the set.
There’s a fine line here — you don’t want to bail out too soon and leave a huge hole in your team’s defense, but you also don’t want to hang out too long and cause yourself unnecessary stress by being late to the target area.
One of the best way to train for this is to learn to read hitters. By examining arm position and body language, you can tell where many hitters are going to send the ball. This gives you an advantage by letting you know if it’s likely that you’ll be involved in the dig. You can then prepare to either dig the ball (and let your team know that someone else has to set) or get ready to release to the target.
This takes A LOT of practice, and it’s likely that you’ll get burned a few times. Remember that although your primary responsibility is the second ball, if you neglect your defensive duties and let the first ball hit the ground, there won’t ever be a second ball for you to set.
The easy side of this is the free ball. If the other team is passing or setting the ball over, there is absolutely no reason for the setter to pass it. These are “attacks” that should be very easy for your five teammates to handle without you, so you as the setter are freed from passing responsibilities and should release to the target as soon as it’s clear a free ball is coming. The remaining two back row players should shift slightly to the right to compensate for your absence.
Make sure, however, that your teammates know you’re going to be doing this on a free ball so they can adjust their positions. If you just vacate your spot without telling anyone you can leave a large part of the court vulnerable.
Take the time to master this part of setting, and you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to get to the ball on time, which in turn will increase your setting accuracy.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.