The common thought on tall players playing, on your Volleyball team, was to use them as hitters or middle blockers. It only makes good coaching sense. They are tall and get above the net to either kill or block a ball.
I coached Volleyball for 21 years. The last two years that I coached, I started to go against the set idea of using shorter players as my setter. At first I didn’t think that it would work because of two reasons. First, taller players are less mobile and uncoordinated. Second, since the setter has to make the second hit (2nd ball to play), they have to be able to run it down and play it back.
Each player on the court has a weakness as well as their strengths. Taking this into account, I decided to give it a try and see what occurs. To change my line of thought, I also had to change the way my players thought, too. This wasn’t easy. They had played a5-1 and 6-2 offense for so long that it was hard to get them to make the change. However, with persistence and work, we were able to do it. We still used two setters during play. But, as soon as the player rotated to the back row, we subbed for them.
The setter always played in the front row. On the serve, we would have them switch to the right front position. From there, they would take the second ball (second hit). Everyone knew that this ball would be theirs and stay out of the way. Many times the setter wouldn’t go all the way to the right front position on the switch. This way they were closer to the ball. However, on the serve, everyones goal was to place the ball to the right front position as best as they could. The setter would then either set the ball to the outside hitter or middle hitter (blocker) for the kill. Many times we would even set the middle back or left back for a kill or down ball. Remember these two positions must hit the ball from behind the spiking line. Maybe twice a game only, we would let the right back get a hit (down ball).
By playing this way, we were able to use everyone of our players on the court in an attack mode. To my surprise, we discovered that our setter was running down the second balls less and less. Since the setter had less running to do, they didn’t get as tired and we had much better ball and attack control. Since the setter was taller and in the front row, they could be used as an outside blocker when we were on defense. Every once in awhile, someone would even give them a pass good enough to spike. However, that was a rarity. We also discovered that by using a taller setter, the defense (opposite team) had a hard time reading the type of set we would use. Quick Kill sets were very hard to read, because the setters hands were closer to the top of the net than a shorter setters would have been.
The same was even true with a long outside pass to our outside attacker (killer) or back row player. This meant that the opposite team had less time to react on defense.
We did encounter a major set back though. Many times after we had a ball blocked back at us after a kill, our setter was slow to recover. This could be because of several reasons. They were either too slow, not concentrating on covering, or just not use to doing something they were now required to do. However, I thought that the positives were more important than the negatives. My thought in Volleyball was to be more aggressive on offense than defensive minded. If you are defensive minded, then that is what you are going to do all the time play defense. If that is the case, I feel you will lose more than win.
So now what do you do with the shorter players on the team? You can still use them effectively. I used them as diggers and even back row hitters. If we had a nice lead, I would even let them spell one of the bigger players for a moment or two. There is an old saying “speed kills.” I would use my smaller players to run down balls from the back row. Whenever, they came into a game, the other players knew that they were there for a purpose. Many times we would play the odds on where an attacker on the other team would hit at, and use our smaller players to move to that area. Since they were short, they could get closer to the floor to dig hard hits.
It takes courage to change things and you must convince your players that they can adapt to new ideas. If you as a coach can do this, then using a taller player as a setter might be able to improve your attack on offense.
The last thing that I will say is this. The most important skill in the game of Volleyball is just being able to handle the ball. this is both true for the individual as well as the team as a group.