Ask A College Coach
What do you look for in a middle blocker/outside hitter?
“For many of our front row positions here at GSU I am looking for raw athletic ability first and foremost. Obviously not for EVERY player we bring in but there is a certain physicality that we need to have to compete at the level we want. We want our MB/OH's to be at 9'10" or higher and really like when we see them going from slow to fast in their approach without any deceleration. Our outsides play all 6 rotations so solid ball control is a must. I like to see middles that are working hard 100% of the time and really engaged in reading the play, and communicating with their team.”
Assistant Coach, University at Buffalo
“How well they can get kills and how high they are blocking wise are really important. So arm speed, athleticism and how strong they are can all be a factor. Height is important but it is not the end of the world if a kid is only 5’10 for us if they are quick and jump well. For an OH, ball control is added thing we look for since for us a 6 rotation kid is a double plus!”
Head Coach, Radford University
“Outside hitters need to be able to terminate. Whether hitting hard shots line or cross, using the block or roll shots, OH’s need to be able to put the ball away. Most college coaches are looking for OH’s who can be primary passers in serve receive and play front and back row. Being able to block is a bonus, especially since more teams are running the slide toward their side. Physically, having quick feet, a dynamic jump and a good arm swing are key.
I’ll use the term middle blocker instead of middle hitter because I want my middles to be primary blockers first. Lateral quickness and quick reactions are key. If a middle is good off of one leg behind the setter, they can be a good fit for a team running a 5-1 offense and need a middle next to the setter. They can also be recruited to play opposite the setter because of their ability to block. Height is certainly a bonus, but I have seen smaller middles with big jumps be effective. I think it’s important for middles to learn how to pass/play defense. Just because someone plays middle in high school or club, doesn’t mean they will be good or big enough to play middle at the collegiate level.
Opposites are counted on to have some of the same skills are OH’s and middles. Most teams have at least one outside who can put balls away. Having an OP who can terminate could be the difference maker. OP’s need to be able to block and possibly handle the 2nd ball. And just like the middles, they should be taught passing/defense. If an OP can play all around and hit out of the back row, they would be a good option for a team running a 5-1.”
Former Head Coach (retired in 2014 after 30 years), George Mason University
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“These are both very different positions to evaluate. OH – we look for a lot of different things. You do not always necessarily need to posses all of these traits however. Height is always a bonus but not always a prerequisite. Jumping ability, arm speed, and instincts are some of the more primary attributes. Ball control can make up for a lot of other flaws and there is always a place on the court for an OH that can handle the rock. MB – again, size is nice but not always a prerequisite. 6’0 is probably on the smaller end for an ACC MB. After noticing a MBs height we look for lateral quickness and versatility as an attacker. Again, arm speed is important for an offensive MB.”
Assistant Volleyball Coach, UVA
“In an outside we first look for someone who can score and is athletic. From there we look to see if they are an all-around player that we can use in the back row as well. A variety of shots already developed is definitely an advantage. Most of our Outsides are anywhere between 5-8 and 6ft and have a vertical around 9’4 to 9’9 and block touches above 9 ft.
In our middles we look for those that can be an offensive threat and have the ability to block pin to pin. Middles have to be extremely hard workers and being able to close on a block and transition to make themselves available is key. Our middles tend to be around 5’10 – 6’1 and approach from 9’5 to 9’9 and block touch around 9’1 – 9’3.”
Head Volleyball Coach, University of Mary Washington
"Middle hitter’s need to be quick laterally, with broad shoulders to take up more space naturally as a blocker. Foot speed is huge for transition game and the ability to get up in the air as an offensive option. They also have to have the highest level of effort of all hitters because often they drive and work without getting set but that job is equally as important as the player that gets set against the solo block. Outsides have to be BANGERS without fear of error. They have to be explosive with body control to maintain stability throughout long rallies and score when the point becomes available. There are two different kinds of outsides though, one who can score on command and one who is a ball control extend the rally kind of outside. BOTH are needed in collegiate volleyball. "
Former Assistant Volleyball Coach, University of Louisville Volleyball
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Middle- We look for someone that is dynamic. Has to be willing to work harder than anyone else on the court. As a middle you try to master blocking footwork, transition, and being up (in the air) on every play as an option.
Outside – Needs to have a high volleyball IQ. Needs to be able to hit multiple shots. Great outsides want the ball on every play. They need to be able to terminate the ball.
Chad M Gatzlaff
Middle hitter: Play around 9‐10 or higher, lateral quickness, penetrate on block and ability to take up space, quick arm, ability to get off and on the net quickly in transition.
Outside hitter: vision of the block and court, ability to attack aggressively with minimal errors, want to play defense, quiet body and platform in serve receive, ability to attack an out of system ball.
In middle hitters I look for players who are high energy, relentless, and ALWAYS up and available on every set, regardless of the location. I try to find middles who have a solid, controlled block that pushes across the net. In outside hitters I look for ball control, the ability to move her feet to the ball and get a good approach, and mental toughness. Outsides tend to get some notsoperfect sets, and being able to do something smart with the ball and stay aggressive is huge. The setter is doing the best she can, it’s the outside’s responsibility to make the play happen.
Attack height. Arm Swing. Dynamic athlete.
Ohs, we also look at the ability to pass and attack BR.
Middles: we look at blocking mechanics
Athleticism, versatility, coachability, OH playing all the way around. M terminating and blocking.
The first thing I look for in any hitter is a shoulder. An armswing is like a signature, everyone has a very unique one, and some are more effective than others. By the time I get a player their signature has been developed a certain way over many many year, so it's also one of the hardest things to change. I had to completely change mine once I joined the national team so I know how difficult it can be to teach an old dog new tricks.
For middles I look for those players that are ‘True’ middles that are trained and want to be in the middle of all of the action. I look for ones that are smart, well-conditioned, athletic and quick to close blocks. They do not necessarily have to be very tall for community college volleyball but they must be able to play ‘BIG’ and have that mentality of ‘Owning the net’!! It’s all about that middle attitude.
For Outside hitters, I look for ones that can pass well and play solid defense if possible. I do want them to be able to pound the ball hard but also to me a very smart hitter. I prefer them to be well balanced and be able to play all the way around. Her backrow attack is just as important as her front row attack. Plus I like for my outsides to be mentally strong so when ‘Crunch Time’ comes, they can get the job done and put that ball to the floor no matter what.
Head Women's Volleyball Coach, Northern Virginia Community College
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