Ask A College Coach
What do you look for in a setter?
“The setter position is one of the hardest to recruit. Arguably the position that makes or breaks your team, you need to make sure they are a player that your team will respond to positively. Technique-wise I am looking for a neutral contact/intake and consistent location. Footwork is huge for me but when it comes down to it if the setter is making great decisions and delivering a hittable ball at the right times, they will be getting a lot of attention from me.”
Assistant Coach, University at Buffalo
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“Someone that has natural leadership abilities and that is confident on the floor, they need to command the attention of their teammates who pass and hit for them. Again blocking is a factor but not the end of the world if they are smaller, however we do like setters that have some size and are athletic enough to run down balls out of system. They have to be able to set hittable balls more often than not (with their hands or platform when they are on the run), and they need to show the ability to be able to be an active defender. ”
Head Coach, Radford University
“I believe setters should be Court Generals as they are in charge of the offense. Their number one job is to put up hittable balls. They need to develop the ability to make good decisions on the fly, and remember what works and what doesn’t. They need to have “thick skin”, and be able to take blame sometimes when the hitter isn’t successful. They are in charge of the 2nd ball, and must be able to communicate with their team if they cannot get to the ball. It’s their job to say who needs to take the 2nd ball, not just yell “Setter Out”. Physically, having big hands, a good touch, and quick feet are key. Whether running a 5-1 or 6-2, more coaches are looking for jump setters. Blocking and attacking the 2nd ball are bonus skills. Setters need to be steady emotionally even when things get crazy on the court.”
Former Head Coach (retired in 2014 after 30 years), George Mason University
“Setters have to be able to think the game and make good decisions. They must put their hitters in position to score by moving hitters around and always communicating with front row and back row attackers before every play. Quickness to the ball is huge. Maybe the most obvious thing we look for in a setter is smooth hands – someone that does not hold the ball too long but someone that has a smooth release and takes the ball high on her forehead. Location is something you can easily improve with repetition but this is also an important factor. A setter that is not a liability in the front row as a blocker is also something we consider. (it depends on what system the team likes to run. We prefer a 5-1 offense which means we can’t have a 5’8 setter that is not real dynamic as a blocker). Leadership is probably one of the first things you notice with setters and the best ones are the best leaders.”
Assistant Volleyball Coach, UVA
“First thing we look for is set location, we used to look for athleticism but found it was more important to find setters who can locate the ball for our hitters. From there we look at athleticism and can they get to balls out of system. Since the majority of the game is out of system it is important that we find setters who have this ability. We find setters who can do the above two things usually have good hands which of course are very important. Most setters don’t play the level of defense that is required at the college level so we don’t always count this against them but a setter who shows already that she is willing to play defense definitely can move up on the list with all other skills being equal. We like setters who are vocal and are willing to take charge when needed and calm their team when required. This is one of the rarest skills we see in setters but the ones who have this are considered special.”
Head Volleyball Coach, University of Mary Washington
"Leadership and personality are the two biggest things. Then it comes down to hands, foot speed to run down out of system balls and still keep the team in system."
Former Assistant Volleyball Coach, University of Louisville Volleyball
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Setters and Liberos are the most important players on the court. The setter has to be the floor captain. The setter should be able to put every girl in their position in every rotation. A good setter is unselfish, has a high volleyball IQ, and understands all her teammates.
Chad M Gatzlaff
Setter: Deliver a consistent ball with tempo and location, quick to the ball, high hands when delivering the set, takes the ball in the air when she can, finds her middles from off the net, turns a poor pass into a great set by getting her attacker a hittable ball, deceptive (consistent) posture, high energy, positive teammate regardless of the score, makes good decisions, knows what the defense looks like at all times, works well with the coach.
Obviously having great hands is a priority, but in setters I also always look for raw athleticism and the ability to get her feet quickly to the ball first. Then I look for “volleyball IQ,” good decision making, and leadership ability. Being able to maintain composure and instill confidence in her teammates.
We like setters that Run the floor. We want more than a ball placer. We are looking for a setter who can think the game. We like our setters to be floor leaders.
Leadership, footspeed, composure, intelligence
I look for someone who understands how the game works and how they can manipulate things like tempo, rhythm, flow, and decisions to have a profound impact on the outcome of a match. In short - smart decision making, I can teach them the rest, but if you don't understand what to do in various situations you will never be a great conductor for your team.
For setters, I tend to look for ones that are leaders, smart and have a nice calmness to them. I like for them to have nice hands and quick feet to get to the ball. More than that, I like for my setters to have great eyes to see what is going on on the other side of the net and strong communication between the players and coaches. I like for her to be creative and to think outside the box when needed as I always want my players to think for themselves as the game is going on. Plus I love for my setter to really know her teammates and players and know their limitations and potential.
Head Women's Volleyball Coach, Northern Virginia Community College
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