Volleyball Positions
What Are They on the Court?

Middle Blockers, Setters, Outside Hitters and Liberos
What  position in volleyball do you play?

The roles and primary volleyball positions on the court: the setter,

hitters, middle blockers, defensive specialists and liberos and

the responsibilities they each have are usually explained as soon as 

you join a new club, high school, college or professional six player team.

Learn the roles and responsibilities of the setter, the middle blocker,

the outside hitter, defensive specialist and the libero which differ

greatly just like the physical requirements needed to play each

position do.

Check it out...

Volleyball Positions on the Court
The Setters

Setters are the unofficial leaders on the court.

Although it may not happen all the time, setters are trained to get to

and attempt to set every second ball to one of their three front row or

any of their two non-libero back row attackers or players so that they

can hit the ball over the net.

The setter runs the team's offense by telling or signalling each of

her intended hitters, before the referee blows their whistle, what kind of

set she is going to deliver to them.

The setter's job is to outsmart the opposing team's block so that

her hitters hit the ball with the least number of opposing blockers trying to

block their spike attempts.

The role of the setter can be compared to that of a quarterback on a

football team.

Kele Eveland of Setter Training U.com Has 5 Tips For Setters

Setters call the plays, then they run the offense. Shot callers or play

makers, setters are in charge of getting the second ball to one of

her hitters and she chooses which one.  

Characteristics Good Volleyball Setters Need To Have

  • Leadership

Ideally, the volleyball players in these roles should have  good

leadership qualities because they take on the responsibilities of leading

and guiding the team while they are on the court.

Volleyball Positions:Caitlin Ogletree setting in actionVolleyball Positions:Caitlin Ogletree setting in action

  • Confidence

Confidence is another key quality all setters should have

because their job is to keep an eye on the opposing team's

defense during each rally so that they can see where there are holes in

the block and/or where there are weak points in the opposing team's


  • Playmaker

Once they identify those weaknesses they will set the ball to their 

hitters that can hit the balls at or through those holes so that her team 

scores points consistently.

The goal is to exploit the weaknesses in the opposing team's block and


If you are a setter then you are in charge of directing your 

team's offensive attack, just like a point guard on a basketball 

team would.

Off the Court with Texas Volleyball Setter Chloe Collins

Defensive Volleyball Positions on the Court
Middle Blockers

Middle blockers are usually the tallest players on the team and they

play one of the important defensive volleyball player positions on the


In the photo below the player wearing the #21 jersey is playing in the

middle blocking position for the Illinois State Redbirds collegiate


You can compare the middle blocker to the defensive linebacker in

football and the center on a basketball team.

Their primary responsibility once their team has served the ball is to

travel laterally along the net in such a way that they put up a block,

either by themselves or with the help of their outside blockers, against

any of the hitters on the opposing team in an attempt to stop them

from hitting or tipping the ball past the net and into their court.

If a team is on offense, and by this I mean if they are about to be

served the ball, then the players that were middle blockers become

middle hitters.

Middle hitters or middle attackers specialize in hitting the ball from the

middle area of the net which is called zone 3 on the court.

On each team there are usually two middle blocking/hitting players,

one that plays in the front row while the other plays opposite them in the

back row.

If a team is in the correct rotation, then one middle blocker rotates up

to their front row, when the other one is rotating back to the back row.

And you're right, two middle blockers can never play in the same

row together.

Stanford Player Inky Ajanaku

Explains the Day in a Life of a Volleyball Middle Blocker 

NCAA champion, Stanford women's volleyball middle blocker Inky Ajanaku, '16, provides a behind-the-scenes look at her typical game day and shows how the Buck/Cardinal Club supports her and her teammates in their championship pursuits.

Volleyball Positions on the Court
The Liberos

Liberos are specialized volleyball positions on the court for those

who excel in passing the ball, playing defense, serving and setting the ball

in the backrow.

The word "libero" means "free" in Italian and it refers to the libero's

ability to move freely in and out of the back court since they can take

the place of any back row player.

The role and requirements of the libero were invented to be one

of the volleyball positions on the court that's exclusively limited

to the back row.

Volleyball Positions on the Court
What can the Libero do and not do?

I would compare the libero position to the pinch hitter in baseball.

Her role calls for her to be the one back row player to go in for a

front row player when the front row player rotates to the back row.

The libero's volleyball jersey is always in contrasting colors to that

of her teammates since she only plays in the back row.

If you were curious as to why one of the players always has a different

color jersey than their teammates, that's to identify them to the

referee, as to which player is the libero.

She can come in and out of the game an unlimited number of times as

long as she comes in for the same player each time.

If you're one of those girls who may be the shortest but the

quickest on your team, the libero could be one of the volleyball

positions on the court which could be a great option for you to aspire to


You can really make a huge difference on your team in this position and

being a starting libero guarantees you plenty of playing time during

each game.

The libero is not allowed to hit the ball when any part of the ball is

above the level of the top of the net.

Although she can't block the ball, or attempt to block it, a libero can

set one of her other players if they are in the backrow or front row.

Offensive Volleyball Positions on the Court
Left Side Outside Hitters

I'm partial to this position, because it's been my favorite of the two

volleyball positions on the court I've specialized in throughout my career

as a high school, collegiate and professional player.

Players who play in this position are also known by another  slang

term as left side hitters. They are referred to as "cannons".

Left sides are called the "cannons" because even though they play their

offensive position the furthest away from the setter, they are quite

often the hardest hitters on the team.

If the setter can be compared to the quarterback or point guard, then

the outside hitter or spiker would be considered the running back or

wide receiver in volleyball.

The "outside hitter," the "spiker" or the cannon "receives the ball" or

gets set the ball in many different occasions, usually as the third and last

contact allowed for a team.

The outside hitter, usually has the third contact on the ball and is

responsible for sending the ball over the net into the opponent's court

with the goal to score a point.

Regardless of the accuracy of the set an outside hitter may get, they

are responsible for attacking the ball so the end result is a point or


The outside hitter has a selection of ways to attack the ball which

include spiking, tipping, setting, dumping the ball, or attacking it with

an off-speed hit. An outside hitter can kick the ball over if need be. 

Their primary job is to score offensive points. They are quite often the

athletes on the team who are quick, jump high, and are physically

coordinated and agile.

They train in practice to hit all sorts of sets so that they can beat the

block by hitting the ball...hard...repeatedly.

If a setter is in trouble, the easiest thing for her to do, is to set the ball

to her left side hitter.

Many times these aren't perfect sets, so a left side hitter puts in hours of

training to hit imperfect sets, so that they can still score points or hit

sideouts off the sets that aren't right where they are supposed to be.

For some, left side hitters are referred to as "vacuum cleaners" because

its their job to clean up all the trash. No offense to anyone, that's just

what a player in one of these volleyball positions on the court

specifically on the left side is often called. 

Just like there are two middle blockers on every team, there are two left

side hitters per team, so when one is in the front row, the other plays

opposite her in the back row.

And just like middle blockers, if a left side hitter is on defense, then she

becomes the left side blocker.

Volleyball Positions on the Court
Right Side Or Opposite Hitters

If two middle blockers play opposite each other on a team, and

two left side hitters play opposite each other, then who plays opposite

the setter?

That would be one of the final volleyball positions on the court to talk

about which belongs to the offside hitter, also known as "the opposite"

or right side hitter.

Penn State Right Side Hitter vs Illinois Illini Double Block Photo by Richard YuanPenn State Right Side Hitter vs Illinois Illini Double Block Photo by Richard Yuan

Lots of name for lots of responsibilities.

First, because the right side hitter becomes the right side blocker when

her team is on defense, she is lined up to block the left side hitter of

the opposite team.

Remember the left side hitter is usually the more prolific hitter on

her team, so the opposing right side blocker has a pretty important job,

trying to block the ball hit by one of the best athletes on the opposing


This alone often makes the right side hitter position one of the toughest

volleyball positions on the court to play in.

Another responsibility of the right side player occurs when her team is

on defense.

If the setter digs the ball then it use to be the right side hitter's

responsibility to step in to become the temporary setter, now its up to the

libero to set the second ball...

She sets the ball, usually a high ball out to her middle blocker or

opposite hitter.

When the right side player rotates to the back row to play defense, the

setter who plays opposite her/him rotates up to the front row.

Volleyball Positions: Where Do You Go From Here?

I got you! Here's where you need to go now! Here are three options: 

  1. Learn more about the various Positions in Volleyball.
  2. Follow the suggested reading on our Sitemap page                    Learning How To Play (Sitemap)
  3. Or visit the pages in the Volleyball Positions section in the drop down menu at the top of the page

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