Perfect volleyball qualities in a player and thorough knowledge of the game's mechanics are the goals of good setters. It takes more, however, to be a great setter.
The setter is the brains of the offense. They choose the direction of the spike and the spiker's most effective play in any given position. They are in the best position to know if a spiker is getting a reasonable set. They know if the passes are short or too low, indicating weakness in the back line.
Accordingly, the setter knows best the capabilities of the team mates, their temperament, and physical condition. The setter is able to observe the weaknesses and strong points of the opposing defense. Proper use of this knowledge will enable the setter to make more effective use of the team's spikers. If they can add to this a flair for doing what is unexpected to the opposition but in coordination with the capabilities of their team mates, the resulting surprise action will win many plays.
Where should the set be in relation to the side line? Normally, the arc of the ball should be such that the spiker makes contact with the ball about 36 inches inside the court, whether it be the right or left side.
How high should the ball be set? Normally, the ball should be set slightly lower than most spikers prefer for their most relaxed, hard spikes. Between 13 and 16 feet is the most effective height of the set, the height being in direct relation to the distance of the setter from the spiker.
When players are first learning how to spike, setters should strive to set the ball at a consistent height. This makes the ball easier to hit. As mentioned previously, the height of sets should be varied in good competition. Sets of consistent height give the opposing blockers the advantage of knowing when the spike will be hit. This makes the job of blocking easier.
Good spikers who practice can hit sets of two or three different heights. First they learn by a system of signals with the setter. Later they develop a sense of intuition as to when sets of varying heights are coming.
How far from the net should the set be? Normally, the ball should be set from 12 to 18 inches from the net unless the opposition blocking is particularly effective. In that case the ball should be moved back to 24 inches or 30 inches from the net. If the opposition blocking is highly ineffective, the ball can be set near the net.
Should a setter directly play the ball which has been hit over the net by the opposition? Normally, the setter should avoid making this play if another player can make a reasonable pass. Occasionally, a setter may choose to eliminate the pass from the fundamental pass-set-spike by setting the first ball. This is a difficult but very effective play when properly executed.
When should the setter not take the first pass from a team mate? They should not set the ball when it is passed away from their normal position. In this instance the player closest to the ball should set it, and the usual setter should get ready to spike.
When should a setter spike the first or third ball? If they cannot spike well, it would be unwise for them to attempt this play. However, the good setter can also spike when necessary.
Basically, the purpose of the setter is to place the ball in a position from which the most effective spike can be made. Pass-set-spike should be considered as one continuing play, each equally necessary for a winning offense.
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