In volleyball, each team can field six players on the court at a time and each of these six players will have their unique role to play towards the success of the team. Now, when it comes to volleyball positions, i.e., the specific role a player is required to carry out during play, there are some overlaps involved. This means one may not necessarily have six different positions or unique roles corresponding to the six slots on the court.
This may sound a bit intriguing for those starting out in the sport, but please read on and you will realize that it is nothing too difficult to understand. First of all, let’s have a break down on the main volleyball positions.
Volleyball Positions and What They Do
The Outside Hitter plays the role of the lead attacker when his or her team is on offense. The other names for this position are Left-Side Hitter and Power Hitter. Normally, a right-handed outside hitter would hit from the left side of the court (hence the name ‘left-side hitter’) since that is the optimum position from which she can make her spikes most lethal. That said, a highly-skilled outside hitter is able to quickly assess the play and adapt accordingly so that she can score from a variety of places, including from the back court.
Opposite, or Right-Side, Hitter
An Opposite Hitter requires to have both decent offensive and defensive skills. She will score now and then when the opportunity arises (especially when the blockers from the opposite team are concentrating chiefly on the outside hitter), but she also plays a highly important role in defense.
Just as the name suggests, the Setter is someone who sets the attack of her team. Typically, the setter will have the second touch (after dig or bump) whence she will set the ball for the attacker to hit. As such, a setter needs to have the delicate touch to quickly and perfectly set the ball for attack and she must also have good communication with the attacking players on the court. The latter is also important to keep the opposite team guessing as to where the ball is going to be set.
Also known as Middle Hitter, the player in this position is the first line of defense for her team. Often the tallest player on the court, a skillful middle blocker must be good at anticipating the attack from the opposite end and position herself accordingly so she can block the spike. When blocking a spike, the middle blocker will often be joined by other front court players. However, it is chiefly the role of the middle blocker to anticipate the attack correctly and the other blockers will normally follow her cue. In addition, the middle blocker must also be able to capitalize on quick sets to score a few points for her team (hence the name middle hitter).
Defensive Specialist and/or Libero
A DS or defensive specialist is the main pillar of a team’s back court defense. She must have great digging and bumping skills and must be well able to anticipate the serves and attacks from the opposite team. A Libero should have the same skill sets as a DS. However, these two positions are not the same in modern volleyball. The role of the libero was introduced in 1998 to make the sport more attractive and flexible and there are a number of specific, set rules for the Libero to follow (such as she cannot attack the ball or touch it above the net height, and so on). However, the most important thing to know is that the libero is not part of the fielded team of six players (which a DS is) and she can sub out a player and enter the court any time (between serves, that is) without needing an official substitution. One can easily spot a libero on a volleyball court as they are required to wear a different-colored jersey from the rest of the team, as also by the fact that the libero is often the shortest player in the team.
So, the above are the main positions on a volleyball court. Now, how these positions will be distributed or utilized during a match depends mainly on the playing style of a team. For example, a team strong in offense will often field two outside hitters in addition to the right-side or opposite hitter, the setter, the middle blocker and a DS. This is by far the most common setup. On the other hand, a team relying mostly on its defense will often sacrifice one outside hitter position for a player with strong defensive skills.