In a previous article I discussed how important it is to have a solid footwork foundation. Now it’s time to expand your setting skills to include not only footwork but your hands as well.
There are three main principles that you should keep in mind when setting:
1. Your hands need to be both soft and strong.
As the ball approaches you your hands should already be above your head with wrists cocked back slightly. Cushion the ball as it contacts your hands by flexing your wrists just a little more and then straighten them quickly. Use both hands equally to direct the ball toward your chosen hitter.
Remember that there is a very small difference between soft hands that can cushion the ball and illegally holding the volleyball too long. If you break your wrists too much and appear to carry the ball, you’ll be called for a lift and your opponents will get a point.
Conversely, your hands can’t be too stiff either. Without some give in your wrists you’ll never get the ball under control. When using a forearm pass you’re just redirecting the ball’s momentum toward the target by allowing it to ricochet off your arms. Setting, however, demands that you alter the ball’s path as it leaves your hands.
As it approaches you (the setter) the volleyball is traveling toward the net. After the set you want it to travel parallel to the net. So without hands that are soft enough to cushion the ball and alter its path without holding on too long, you won’t be able to achieve accurate sets.
2. Thumbs in the eyes
Please keep in mind that I’m not advocating that you really jab your thumbs into your eyes. What I am saying is that as you receive the ball your thumbs should be almost directly above your eyes.
To achieve this position your wrists need to be flexed slightly and your fingers rounded. This type of position should direct your thumbs back toward your face; if they’re not pulled back they’ll be in the way of the ball, and jammed thumbs will ruin anybody’s day.
As mentioned in #1 we need hands that can cushion the ball without carrying it too long, which means we need nice ball-shaped hands. And of course the only way to get our hands to make a spherical shape is by pulling our thumbs back toward our eyes.
By making sure your thumbs are pointing toward your eyes and not your mouth or forehead you’ll be well on your way toward achieving a more consistent set.
3. Take a cue from soccer
I know this might seem a little odd since soccer players use their feet and setting involves just your hands, but to have accurate ball position when setting the volleyball we can imitate soccer players a little. More specifically, I’m referring to heading the ball.
If your footwork has been accurate and you’ve positioned yourself underneath the ball in preparation for setting, it should be approaching your forehead. Moving your hands away at the last second should result in the volleyball hitting your forehead, not your mouth or the top of your head.
Again, I’m not advocating that you actually let the ball hit you on the head or in the face.
Keeping the ball above your forehead will allow you to take full advantage of the power generated by your arms, wrists and leg muscles. Maintaining this ball position every time you set will also decrease the amount of time the ball is in your hands, making it less likely for you to be called for a lift.