Volleyball Hand Signals: How A Setter Calls Offensive Volleyball Plays

Setters use volleyball hand signals to call the volleyball plays which are sets delivered at different speeds and locations to hitters to hit along the net. 


The setter is responsible for running her team's offense. 

When her team is in service receive, at the beginning of each rally, its her job to tell her hitters what type of set each of them are going to get if

a) she gets a good pass and/or

b) she doesn't get a good pass



Volleyball Offensive Plays 
Plays Hand Signals


How does a setter "call a play."  

After a rally is finished, when the receiving team is setting up in their receiving pattern the setter uses hand signals to "communicate to each eligible hitter" which type of set they will be getting after the whistle blows and the opposing team has served the ball.

Most hand signals are not complicated. Each hitter knows that each signal is related to the type of set they are going to get because this is something they train for in volleyball practices. 

So if a setter shows her left side hitter the number four, then the left side hitter knows she will be getting  high ball to Zone 4.

So if a setter shows her left side hitter the number four, then the left side hitter knows she will be getting  high ball to Zone 4.So if a setter shows her left side hitter the number four, then the left side hitter knows she will be getting high ball to Zone 4.


If the middle blocker is shown a hand signal for the number one, then the middle blocker knows she will be getting a quick or a "one" ball in Zone 3.


If the middle blocker is shown a hand signal for the number one, then the middle blocker knows she will be getting a quick or a If the middle blocker is shown a hand signal for the number one, then the middle blocker knows she will be getting a quick or a "one" ball in Zone 3.

If the opposite or right side hitter is given a hand signal for the number five then the right side knows she will be getting a high ball set to Zone 2 after the whistle blows and once her team has passed the ball to the setter. 


If the opposite or right side hitter is given a hand signal for the number five then the right side knows she will be getting a high ball set to Zone 2If the opposite or right side hitter is given a hand signal for the number five then the right side knows she will be getting a high ball set to Zone 2


Why Are Hand Signals Used To Call Volleyball Plays? 


Hand signals are used to call volleyball plays because...

1. The setter can hide her hand signal behind a players back so the opposing teams blockers can't see what she is calling

2. In noisy gyms its impossible for the setter to talk to her hitters that may be in the back row or on the opposite side of the court. If she uses hand signals then they can run their offensive play without saying a word. 


Volleyball Hand Signals: 


A setter can "run a play" with a series of slow or fast sets. 

While fast sets are lower to the net, slow sets are higher sets pushed 8 - 10 feet well above the top of the net.

Each player on offense will get a hand signal as to the type of set they will get.

When all the hitters are each given a different set to run at various locations along the net and they run the play together that's called a "combination play." 


Easy Volleyball Offensive Plays: The Four Set, The One Set, The Five Set


The "4 - 1 - 5" play is the volleyball play most commonly run by setters and is the easiest offensive play to learn.

This a high ball set to each of the front row hitters, except the middle blocker. 




The only person who gets a quicker lower set in this offensive combination play is the middle blocker, who on a good pass, will approach the setter with a three-step spike approach and attempt to a hit a quick and low set that's 1-2 feet in the air right in front of the setter in Zone 3. 


The The "4 - 1 - 5" play is one of the most common volleyball offensive plays run by setters and is the easiest offensive play to learn. (Tennessee Journalist)


The hand signal for the 4-1-5 is easy to learn and understand.

In serve receive, before the server serves the setter holds up four fingers to the left side hitter, then one forefinger to her middle hitter then all five fingers they'll hold up to her right side hitter to call the play. 

The setter holds up four fingers to the left side hitter, then one forefinger to her middle hitter then all five fingers they'll hold up to her right side hitter to call the 4-1-5 offensive volleyball play. 



Volleyball Hand Signals


Volleyball Hand Signals For Plays To Zone 4:

Fast Sets To The Outside Hitter


The most common volleyball offensive plays set to the left side:

  • The hand signal for the "Hut" varies with each team but for the most part the setter will wave their right hand across their chest for the left side outside hitter to see the call
  • The "Hut" is a medium high/medium speed rainbow shaped set that falls just inside the left antenna after peaking 5-6 feet above the net


The hand signal for the The hand signal for the "Go" - is forefinger and middle finger held together like a gun with the setter wiggles the thumb like a trigger to show that this is a super fast speed set to the outside.

  • The hand signal for the "Go" - a fast speed/low set with little-to-no-arc that falls inside the left antenna after peaking 3-5 feet above the net - is usually the forefinger and the thumb which the setter wiggles like a gun to show that this is a super fast speed set to the outside. 




  • The hand signal for the "32" set has all five fingers together curved like an umbrella or like a rainbow.  
  • The "32" is a medium speed, medium height umbrella shaped rainbow set that's run as a combination play with the "31"  
  • The setter will signal the middle blocker to run a "31" and will give the hand signal to the outside hitter to run the "32" at the same time. This play is designed for one player to be coming down from their spike approach (the mdidle blocker) as the outside hitter is going up for there's. 
  • The location of this combination play is always between Zone 3 and Zone 4 about 4-5 feet in front of the setter. 

Volleyball Hand Signals For Plays To Zone 3:

Quick Sets To The Middle Blocker


  • The hand signal for the "A" set which is also called a "Back one" is the pinkie finger standing up with all the other fingers down and shown to the middle blocker and/or opposite hitter who runs the offensive play with the high speed set 1-2 feet high that falls just behind the setter's back


The hand signal for the The hand signal for the "A" set which is also called a "Back one" is the pinkie finger standing up with all the other fingers down and shown to the middle blocker
The hand signal for the The hand signal for the "31" set is usually 3 fingers held up for the 3 set also known as the 31 set


  • The hand signal for the "31" set is usually 3 fingers held up for the 3 set also known as the 31 set - a high speed set that falls just 4-5 feet away from the setter between Zone 3 and Zone 4 after peaking one foot above the top of the net
  • Some setters call the 3 by pumping the thumb like a trigger finger while keeping the forefinger and middle finger together pointed like a gun

Some setters call the 3 by pumping the thumb like a trigger finger while keeping the forefinger and middle finger together pointed like a gunSome setters call the 3 by pumping the thumb like a trigger finger while keeping the forefinger and middle finger together pointed like a gun

  • The hand signal for the "2" set is usually 2 fingers held up for this medium tempo ball - that falls just in front of the setter usually in Zone 3 after peaking 2-3 feet above the top of the net
  • Some teams differentiate between keeping these two fingers together or breaking them apart 


The "Back Two" is a two set located two feet right behind the setter and is often run to Zone 3 or Zone 2 and given to the middle or the opposite hitter. 

Similar to the hand signal for the Back One the Back Two is called with the pinkie and the Ring finger raised while the thumb holds down the other two fingers. 


Volleyball Hand Signals For Plays To Zone 2:

Fast Sets To The Opposite/Right Side Hitter

The The "slide" is called with the "Hang Loose" sign with fingers shaped like a "Y" shown to the middle blocker and/or opposite hitter who runs the offensive play.


  • The "slide" is called with the "Hang Loose" sign with fingers shaped like a "Y" shown to the middle blocker and/or opposite hitter who runs the offensive play with the high speed set 1-2 feet high that falls just behind the setter's back
  • This is a flat high speed back set that falls just 4 - 5 feet away from the setter between Zone 3 and Zone 2 after peaking 1-3 feet above the top of the net. 


The setter calls the "Red" set with a closed fist that taps the front of their chest.

The "Red" is a medium speed umbrella shaped back set that falls just 3-4 feet away from the setter towards Zone 2 after peaking 1-3 feet above the top of the net and falling just inside the antenna closest to the second referee.  

The Red set is also known as a back shoot set. 

The The "Red" set is a medium high speed umbrella shaped back set that falls just 3-4 feet away from the setter to Zone 2 after peaking 1-3 feet above the top of the net

Read more about volleyball plays on these pages.

  • Improve Your Volleyball Performance with Vegas VB Coach April Chapple
  •  ›
  • Volleyball Plays Why A Setters Sets Vary In Speed, Height And Location
  •  ›
  • Volleyball Hand Signals: How A Setter Calls Offensive Volleyball Plays
  •  ›




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