5 Volleyball Setting Drills to Develop Strong and Accurate Sets

The setter position is the most complex role on a volleyball team.

Similar to a midfielder in soccer, a point guard in basketball, or a quarterback in American football, virtually all offensive attacks go through the setter.

The setter must practice skills directly relating to setting the ball, but should also be proficient in blocking and hitting.

Here we will present 5 drills that will establish and perfect the skills necessary for all high-quality setters to have.

While primarily geared to the setter position, these drills can be utilised for everyone on the court, in the event they must set during a rally or as an emergency fill in.

girl setting ball during volleyball match

5 Volleyball Setting Drills

1. Setting the Fan

How it Works:

The setter will set balls coming from different angles in the back row after squaring to the target.

Purpose: 

This drill enforces proper footwork by allowing the setter to practices setting balls received from different angles.

Drill Setup:

  • A coach or player to underhand toss balls to the setter.

  • A player standing at each antenna to receive sets and return balls to the coach or player tossing the ball.

  • Setter stands at the setter position, two feet right of center in the front row.

Instructions:

  1. The person elected to toss the ball will start from standing on the left sideline just behind the three-meter line.
  1. The person elected to toss the ball will toss the ball to the setter, who sets the ball to either antenna.
  1. The person who catches the set returns the ball to the person elected to toss the ball.
  1. This process is repeated from the same spot three to five times.
  1. After repeating three to five times, the person who is tossing the ball moves two steps back and right.
  1. The drill continues following the same process until the person tossing the ball has made their way to the opposite sideline in an arc shape and back along the same arc.

Variations:

Call the Set – The person who is tossing the ball can call out which direction to set as the ball is in flight. This adds the potential to train the setter not to decide where to go with the ball early.

Real Passes – Someone can toss the ball to a passer from the other side of the net, allowing the setter to see real passes rather than simple tosses. The passer should rotate just like the person tossing the ball would, from sideline to sideline.

Peripheral Work – Put a player or coach in the middle blocker position on the opposite side of the net. As the ball arrives to the setter the middle blocker points either left or right, indicating which way the setter should set. This allows the setter to work on the peripheral vision required to make good decisions at the net, based on what the defense is doing.

Coaching Points:

  • The setter will be challenged to continue to get square (shoulders/hips perpendicular to net, feet facing sideline) as the tosses comes from middle back. Encourage the setter to continue to use good footwork (left/right/square) to be square under the ball.

  • Encourage the setter not to give away the set by leaning back to prepare to back set before the pass arrives.

  • Once the setter is proficient, you should move on to calling the set direction mid-air to continue to reinforce “hiding” where the set will go.

2. Catch it in the Cone

How it Works: 

The setter attempts to catch a tennis ball in a small cone above her or his forehead.

Purpose: 

This drill encourages proper footwork and hand placement.

Drill Setup:

  • A small training cone (like those used for field training drills).

  • A tennis ball.

  • Someone to toss the ball.

Instructions:

  1. The setter stands with the cone above her/his forehead, with the point facing down and touching the forehead.
  1. The hands should be supporting the cone in setting position, with the opening of the cone resting on the upward facing palms.
  1. A tennis ball is tossed in the air and the setter moves her/his feet to get square under the tennis ball.
  1. The setter attempts to “catch” the ball in the cone above her/his forehead in a position square to the target.

Variations:

Three Balls - Have three tennis balls and three people tossing them from different angles. This will add an element of complexity to the drill.

From the Back – Have the setter start in various rotational positions to mimic coming from a spot to set on serve receive.

Coaching Points:

  • The setter should focus on getting feet underneath the ball.

  • The setter should be square to the left front of the net, regardless of where the ball comes from.

  • The setter should receive the ball in the cone directly above the forehead.

3. Figure Eight

How it Works: 

The setter will run a figure eight pattern around two other players, alternating turns setting to each other.

Purpose: 

This drill exercises setting on the move versus from a static position. Setters rarely get perfect setting conditions throughout a match, and practicing less than optimal conditions is key to learning to set from a variety of passes.

Drill Setup:

  • Three players – all setters if possible but could include liberos if necessary.

  • Two players (passive players) stand facing each other 10 – 12 feet apart.

  • The main participant (active player) should be the setter or player needing the work.

  • The active player is standing beside one of the other players, facing the opposite player.

  • One ball.

Instructions:

  1. A ball is tossed to passive player standing alone, who sets it to the other passive player with the active player next to her or him.
  1. The receiving passive player sets a high ball back.
  1. The active player runs a figure eight through the players, stopping beside the opposite passive player and sets the ball to the passive player, who sets it back while the active player joins her or him after another figure eight.
  1. The passive players repeat this process as the active player runs figure eights and sets every other ball to the opposite passive player.

Variations:

Jump Sets - The active player will jump set off both feet after each figure eight.

One Footed Sets - The active player will serve off one foot after each figure eight – the foot farthest from the net should be the foot contacting the ground.

Coaching Points:

  • Pay attention to the left/right/set footwork. The right foot should be planted and forward before contacting the ball. Players will tend to sacrifice this footwork as they come off the figure eight movement.

  • Jump sets should be monitored to ensure the ball is contacted high in the air. Again, players will sacrifice mechanics after coming off the figure eight movement.

  • Learning and practicing one footed setting is crucial, as there are many occasions in a match requiring this movement from setters – balls tight to the net or well off the net are examples.

4. Four in a Row

How it Works: 

Four players stand along the three-meter line and set balls to each other in a prescribed order. After each person sets, they must run and touch the end line before their next set.

Purpose: 

This drill encourages all players to set with control and intention, regardless of scenario. This drill is intended for the entire team, as anyone may be called on to set in different circumstances throughout the match. All players should be confident enough to deliver a ball to the outside that can be attacked.

Drill Setup:

  • Four players on the three-meter line standing equidistant from each other starting at one sideline and ending at the other (player one is on one sideline and player four is on the other, players two and three are the middle players).

  • All players are facing the middle of the court toward each other.

  • One ball.

Instructions:

  1. Players will set the ball in this order: player two to player three; player three to player one; player one to player four; player four to player two.
  1. After each set the setter will run, touch the end line, and return to their spot on the three-meter line before the ball arrives.
  1. Once player four sets to player two, the cycle starts anew: player two to player three; player three to player one; player one to player four; player four to player two and repeat.
  1. The drill is complete after a predetermined number of end line touches or after a preset time has expired.

Variations:

Pushups – Instead of running to the end line the setter drops and does two pushups before the next ball arrives. Practice caution to ensure no one is stepped on when using this variation.

Coaching Points:

  • Players should be focused on keeping control of the set and setting it along the three-meter line to their target; the sprints to the end line tend to encourage players to focus on just getting the ball up rather than executing controlled sets.

  • Players must realize that just because they do not play the setter position does not mean they can neglect developing this skill.

  • For larger teams, both sides of the court or multiple lines can be used so everyone can participate in groups of four.

5. Point Pass

How it Works:

Players guide the ball counter clockwise around a triangular pattern with one person at the “point” bump passing while the other two players use an overhead set.

Purpose: 

This volleyball setting drill is intended for the entire team, as anyone may be called on to set in different circumstances throughout the match. All players should be confident enough to deliver a ball to the outside that can be attacked.

Drill Setup:

  • Four players – one at the top point of the triangle, one in line behind that player, and one player at each of the base points of the triangle (all players about 12 feet apart).

  • One ball is required for this drill.

Instructions:

  1. Someone will toss the ball to the player at the “top point” of the triangle.
  1. The point player will bump pass the ball counterclockwise and follow the ball to the position she or he just passed to.
  1. The player in that position will overhead pass a ball to the third player and follow the ball to the position she or he just passed to.
  1. The player in the third position will overhead pass a ball to the “top point” position, which is now the person that was in line behind the original passer.
  1. The “top point” will again bump pass and the cycle repeats, with all players following the ball they pass in a rotation.

Variations:

Troubled Pass – Once players have the sequence of rotation down, encourage the point passer to begin making “bad passes”. This will encourage the ability to set an attackable ball from different body positions and areas on the court.

Coaching Points:

  • Encourage players to use an overhead pass for their sets. A lot of “non-setters” will rely on bump setting. The point of this drill is to build confidence, so all players can provide a good set and a hittable ball to the outside position.

  • Players who do not typically set will be tempted to face the passer and side set the outside. This can lead to a weak or short set. Encourage players to square their body to the target.


Conclusion

Setters have a large array of jobs to do throughout a match.

It’s vital for great setters to work on being well-rounded volleyball players, so they excel at anything they are called upon to do.

From core strength to good decision making, volleyball setting drills are at the heart of setter development.

And the 12 drills above should be a great start toward ensuring your setters are prepared for their jobs.
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