Ultimate Guide To Indoor Volleyball Positions

Ultimate Guide To Indoor Volleyball Positions

The following topics will be covered in our Ultimate Guide To Indoor Volleyball Positions:

  • Court layout
  • General flow of the game
  • Indoor Volleyball Positions
  • Setter
  • Middle Hitter / Blocker
  • Opposite Hitter / Blocker
  • Outside Hitter
  • Libero
  • Defensive Specialist
  • Serving Specialist

Volleyball positions, rotations, and formations are three of the most important aspects of Volleyball irrespective if you’re playing in a recreational or competitive league.

Volleyball combines strategy, skill, and social interaction, and requires teamwork, excellent communication, and optimal ‘think on your feet’ problem solving skills. As indoor volleyball is an intense, fast-paced game with a lot of quick movements on the court, things can become fast, furious, and fierce in an instant, demanding players to make split second in-the-moment decisions. Teams hit, block, dig, serve, spike, and do whatever it takes to claim the set, and ultimately the victory. Players need to be prepared for anything.

To ensure your team can compete with the best of them and be considered true competitors, it is essential that each player knows what their respective role is and what is expected of them the moment they step onto the court.

That being said, volleyball is a team sport. While it is crucial that each player masters their unique skill set, players need to trust and depend on each other to succeed.

Court Layout & General Flow of the Game

Before we dive deeper into the specific indoor volleyball positions and their distinct roles and skill sets, here is a quick outline and overview of the volleyball court layout and the general flow of the game for extra insight and understanding.

Court Layout

Indoor Volleyball Court Layout - Ultimate Guide To Indoor Volleyball Positions

The volleyball court has a standard dimension of 18 meters by 9 meters. The court has named lines that mark the important portions of the court.

Every volleyball court has the following lines:

  • Centre Line: Located directly under the volleyball net, the center line marks the exact middle of the court, separating the opposing sides.
  • Sideline: The sideline runs along the length of the court marking the outer boundary.
  • End Line / Baseline: The end line / baseline marks the outer boundary of the court along its width.
  • Attack Line: The attack line is also known as the ‘3-meter line’. The attack line separates the frontcourt from the backcourt. It is not only crucial in the overall court layout but plays a key role in the rules of play in volleyball. The attack line is a major determining factor in terms of which players can ‘attack’ or hit the ball over the net.
  • Free Zone: The free zone is usually a 3-meter-wide space / area surrounding the entire court within which the ball can be played during a rally.
  • Backcourt: The backcourt is the area of the court behind the attack line.
  • Frontcourt: The frontcourt is the area of the court in front of the attack line.

General Flow of the Game

As with any sport, volleyball has an array of specific terms and definitions used to describe various aspects of play, rules etc. Two terms that are vital to the sport of volleyball and the general flow of the game is ‘offense’ and ‘defense’.

It is essential to not only know what these terms mean, but understand their impact / influence on the game, as well as recognise the major distinctions between them.

As a game of volleyball can be unpredictable and action-packed, with things changing, flipping, and switching in an instant, it is crucial to keep track of what’s happening on the court, especially as opposing teams transfer from offensive strategy to defensive strategy very quickly during a rally.

When a team is in possession of the ball and trying to score a point, they are on ‘offense’. The opposing team trying to prevent their opponents from scoring is on ‘defense’. The moment the ball crosses the net to the other side, the two opposing teams switch from offense to defense and vice versa.

The team that is in possession of the ball / the team that is on offense has a maximum of three ‘touches’ to get the ball back over the net in a rally, but the flow of the game / rally has a general look and feel to it.

The team receiving the ball (either via a serve from the other team to start a rally or during an ongoing rally) usually ‘digs’ or otherwise stops the ball from hitting the floor (i.e. being ‘grounded’) on their side of the court – If the ball is ‘grounded’ or cannot be returned back over the net, the offensive team scores a point.

As mentioned, the team that is on offense (offensive team) has a maximum of three ‘touches’ to get the ball over the net into the opposing team’s side of the court.

The breakdown of the three touches as per the flow of the game is as follows:

  • The first touch is essentially a ‘pass’ to another player for the team’s second touch.
  • The second touch is deemed the ‘set’. As the name implies, the primary and sole purpose of the second touch (the set) is to set the ball up at the best possible angle and air position to elevate and maximize the chances of the third and final touch getting over the net and grounding on the opposing team’s side of the court.
  • The third touch – AKA the final touch – AKA the ‘attack’ is the last time a player can touch the ball when they are in possession of the ball during a rally / on offense trying to score a point. The third touch needs to be both powerful and strategic.

During the offensive team’s three-touch offensive play, the team on defense waits, watches, attempts to arrange its players, make tactical shifts and split-second strategic plays and moves all in the effort to pre-empt, prevent, and prepare for the opposing team’s third touch and ‘attack’.

The rally between the two teams can continue for as long as necessary (depending on how equally matched the two teams are) until the ball is ultimately grounded on one of the opposing team’s side of the court or if the ball is otherwise unable to be returned to the opposing team’s side of the court.

**Extra Note: It should be noted that the team on offense does have a maximum of three touches to get the ball over the net and into the opposing team’s side of the court and that the offensive team generally opt to use all three of their touches, they do not have to use their maximum three touches if they choose not to.

For example, if the team on offense recognizes and instantly seizes a gap or potential opportunity to score a point after only two touches, either due to smart, swift, strategic offensive play, as a means of strategy to catch the opposing team off guard by doing the opposite of what they would expect, or even to simply save the ball from being grounded by their opponents – all of this is allowed.

HERE IS THE SNAG – There are certain restrictions and rules in place regarding which player / players are allowed / permitted to get the ball over the net. We’ll cover this soon, so keep a lookout!

Indoor Volleyball Positions & Roles

Each position has a certain role and set of skills that is vital to helping the team succeed. In order to be a strong and cohesive winning team, every volleyball player on the team needs to excel at their individual position.

There are six different indoor volleyball positions.

The six volleyball positions are:

  • Setter
  • Outside Hitter | Left-Side Hitter
  • Opposite Hitter | Right-Side Hitter
  • Middle Hitter | Middle Blocker
  • Libero
  • Defensive Specialist
  • Serving Specialist

In indoor volleyball there are three ‘front row players’ and three ‘back row players’ during each point in a rally / volleyball game.

The diagram below shows the numbered court positions and their layout on the one side of the court (called ‘zones’) with the volleyball positions on the other side.

Ultimate Guide To Indoor Volleyball Positions

For reference purposes, the court positions or ‘zones’ are imaginary fixed spots numbered 1 through to 6 in order to discuss, execute, and implement formation strategy.

It is important to note that while the position numbers don’t change (for example, position 6 is always in the middle of the back court, and position 2 is always in the front court on the right-hand side), the player positions are able to change as the players move around on the courtduring a rally, with certain regulations and restrictions in the rules as to which player positions can attack depending on whether they are in the front row or the back row at the time of the serve.

To understand the role of each player, let’s dive deeper into the different indoor volleyball player positions.

Ultimate Guide To Indoor Volleyball Positions - Setter


The setter of a volleyball team can be compared to the quarterback of a football team or point guard of a basketball team. The setter is seen as the leader and main ‘point of reference’ and guidance on the volleyball court, especially with regards to the flow of the game.

As the respective leader of the team, the setter is the player who runs the team’s offense. During the offensive team’s three-touch offensive play, the setter generally receives the ball via a ‘pass’ (i.e. the first touch) and as such, has the second touch of the ball. As ‘the setter’, one of their primary responsibilities on offense is to set the ball up, at an exceptional angle and position, for the hitters to attack via the third touch.

During a rally, the setter has to make several split-second decisions including, which hitter to set and what kind of set to give them. They also need to decide when to get back into position for defense as well as where to line up for defense.

When the team is on defense, the setter watches the flow of play from their assigned area / zone and must be ready to defend their area from attack either at the net or in the backcourt at any moment.

As the setter plays a crucial role in the team’s offensive game and strategy, they must be able to make a rapid transition from defense back to offense by getting into position to receive the second touch and set the ball up for the hitter to attack.

It is not unusual for the setter to be involved in every rally / play. In fact, as the setter is responsible for setting up the ball for the hitters to attack they really should be involved in every play.

The home position of the setter is either position 1 or 2, depending on if they are in the front or back court.

  • Setter Position: In the front row, the setter’s base defense position is at the front right spot. When they move into the back row, their base defense position usually becomes the back right spot.

Responsibilities & Roles

  • Spearheads / runs the offense
  • Set the ball for the hitters to attack
  • Dig and block on defense
  • Use a ‘dump shot’ to keep opponents off balance

Attributes & Skills

  • Setters have exceptionally strong leadership skills.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Able to make quick in-the-moment decisions | Setters are the key decision makers on the court.
  • Setters must be able to see, assess, and anticipate the flow of play. The best setters are able to predict and understand the thought process of opposing players and are always one step ahead of their opponent. This allows them to better control their team’s offense and play to their strengths.
  • Accuracy, control, and consistency in terms of setting the ball to provide attackers with the best chance possible to ground the ball on the opposing team’s side of the court. The more consistent the setter, the more confident the hitters.
  • As setters are required to do everything (pass, dig, set, hit, etc.), they must be athletic and highly skilled volleyball players. Speed, agility, coordination, and the ability to move quickly around the court in transition are key to being a great setter.
  • Setters must have a high volleyball IQ as well as a good understanding of all the strategic aspects of the game.
  • Be motivational and uplifting and keep the team’s momentum up.
  • Excellent blocking abilities.
Ultimate Guide To Indoor Volleyball Positions - Middle Hitter

Middle Hitter | Middle Blocker

Depending on whether his/her team is on offense or defense, the middle hitter transitions to the middle blocker.

  • Middle Hitter = Offense
  • Middle Blocker = Defense

On offense, the middle hitter executes rapid attacks close to the setter, often attacking the ball on the third touch before the ball’s trajectory reaches the peak of its arc. As the middle hitter engages in the third touch of the team’s offensive play, they should be able to deliver a powerful and strategic final hit or spike, read, assess, and pre-empt the setter’s actions, and effectively judge, and adjust their approach to the third and final touch of the ball.

As the middle hitter is responsible for executing the third attacking shot they must be able to assess the opposing team’s defensive setup in order to deliver a strategic and powerful hit in a high-chance grounding area.

On defense, the middle blocker’s main responsibility is to block the opposing team’s attacks.

The middle blocker is not only responsible for defending his / her team’s zone 3, but also moves from side to side to assist with double (i.e. two players) blocking an attack from the sides of the court near the net. Due to their key role in blocking attacks from the opposing team, they are often tasked with the responsibility of coordinating the frontcourt players for blocking.

  • Middle Hitter Position: The middle hitter’s base defense position will be at the front middle spot. In the back row, the middle hitter’s base defense position will generally be at the back left spot. Because they are usually replaced by the libero, they only play defense while serving.

Responsibilities & Roles

  • Block the opponent’s shots
  • Read the opponent’s hitters to set up blocks
  • Use quick attacks on offense
  • Act as a decoy on offense

Attributes & Skills

  • Height: Middle Hitters are extremely tall and have great jumping abilities for both blocking attacks as well as getting above the defender’s blocks to meet the ball at a high point.
  • Lateral Agility: Middle hitters need to be agile and quick on their feet. Getting from one end of the net to the other in a flash is one of the most important characteristics of a great middle hitter. 
  • Power: Middle is a power position. A great middle hitter spikes the volleyball with power and speed.
  • High Volleyball IQ: Middle hitters need to be able to read the setter and react, judge, and adjust their movements and actions to that of the setter. This means they need to be in cohesion with the setter’s actions.
  • Strong hands: BLOCK! BLOCK! BLOCK! That’s what middle hitters are asked to do every single time they step on the volleyball court. Their hands take a beating so it’s incredibly important for them to be strong.
  • Quick evaluation skills to anticipate the opposing team’s attack.
  • Great strategic thinking and analytic skills.

Opposite Hitter

Also known as the right-side hitter, the opposite hitter is the player that blocks and attacks / hits the ball from the right side of the volleyball net. Opposite hitters are well-rounded players, known to possess the perfect balance of offensive and defensive skills, serving as a multi-purpose tool to bolster both the defensive and attacking line-ups.

The opposite hitter rotates on the court opposite the setter and is often described as the setter’s shadow.

On offense, the opposite hitter not only attacks from the right-side of the court, but often assumes the role of the back-up setter or second setter when needed. As accurate hitters, the opposite hitter is also responsible for the role of off-setter (for when the setter is unable to take the second ball and set).

Due to them being extremely well-rounded players, opposite hitters can easily step into the shoes of passer as they rotate around the court, filling in gaps in the defense and shoring up weak spots.

Because of the way the court is set up, opposite hitters are the best position for left-handed players. 

  • Opposite Hitter Position: In the front row, the opposite hitter’s base defense position is at the front right spot. In the back row, the opposite hitter’s base defense position is usually at the back right spot.

Responsibilities & Roles

  • In the front row, the opposite hitter is responsible for blocking and shutting down the opposing team’s outside hitter’s shots and attacks. 
  • In the back row, the main focus of the opposite hitter is to dig any attack that is hit in their direction.
  • Opposite hitters also hit / attack from the back row. If they do hit from the back row, they usually hit what’s known as a “D Ball”. This is a set that is placed just in front of the ten-foot line on the right side of the volleyball court.

Attributes & Skills

  • Grit: Opposite hitters are always in the danger zone on defense. Whether it is a hard line shot from the outside or a one ball from the opposing middle, they have to be ready for anything and willing to take a hard knock to the face if that’s what it takes. A great opposite hitter is a volleyball player who isn’t afraid to do the dirty work.
  • Confident & bold players: They make their presence known when they’re up at the net and play aggressively when they drop back on defense.
  • Height: While most people assume middle hitters to be the tallest players on the team, that isn’t necessarily true. The best opposite hitters are usually enormous because it’s a volleyball position centered around blocking. By controlling the opposing team’s outside hitter, you give your team a great chance to win.
  • Great court awareness: As opposite hitters play defense on the line, they are responsible for deciding if a spike is in or out. This requires top-notch court awareness.
  • Opposite hitters have excellent all-around volleyball skills as they can play in both the front and back row depending on the needs of the team.
  • Power: Great opposite hitters are almost always larger than whoever is blocking them. Because of this, they need to have the power necessary to put the ball down and not get dug.
  • Strong hands: Similar to the middle hitter, the opposite hitter will be doing a ton of blocking. It’s crucial that they have strong hands to withstand the constant blocking.
  • Excellent ball control for sets, great blockers, and highly skilled setters.
  • Great jumping abilities for both blocking and attacking.
Ultimate Guide To Indoor Volleyball Positions - Hitter

Outside Hitter

Also known as the left-side hitter or left wing spiker, the outside hitter hits and blocks the ball on the front left side of the court. Each team has two outside hitters.

  • Outside Hitter Position: In the front row, the outside hitter’s base defense position is the front left spot. In the back row, the outside hitter’s base defense position will normally be at the middle back spot.

Responsibilities & Roles

  • Outside hitters are responsible for just about everything on a volleyball court, including hitting, blocking, passing, digging, and serving.

On defense outside hitters are responsible for:

  • Blocking the opposing team’s opposite hitter as well as aiding in blocking the opposing team’s middle hitter and sometimes the opposing outside hitter, depending on the blocking scheme.
  • Blocking attacks down the sideline (when playing in the front row).
  • Outside hitters often receive the ball during the serve (along with the Libero).
  • Calls out the hitters on the other side of the net.

On offense outside hitters are responsible for:

  • On offense, the outside hitter is usually one of the main passers and a go-to hitter.
  • Receives the set from the setter on the left side of the court and runs the play the setter calls.
  • Observes the opposing team’s defensive weaknesses and executes a strategic play while attacking.

Attributes & Skills

  • Great communicators: Outside hitters are in constant communication with every player on their team – Great communication skills are therefore crucial to being a good outside hitter.
  • Excellent athletic ability: An outside hitter needs to be a highly skilled and extremely athletic player.In addition to great all-around volleyball skills (as outside hitters can play in both the back row and front row depending on the needs of the team), power and a good vertical jump are two attributes that separate good outside hitters from great ones.
  • Reach: Whether it’s from jumping high or being tall, reach is crucial to an outside hitter. Having a good reach will enable the player to not only put up a competitive block, but execute a powerful spike.
  • Speed & agility: Speed and agility are two physical attributes that are essential to an outside hitter. Defensively, outside hitters make extremely quick movements to get behind the volleyball. Offensively, they rely on their quickness and agility to transition into their hitting approach.
  • High Volleyball IQ: Outside hitters are smart and strategic players. They must be able to read and react to things like blocks, opposing defenses, and even an opponent’s shoulder placement.
  • Consistency: Consistency is one of the most important characteristics of a great outside hitter. Setters rely heavily on outside hitters, so if they are not performing at their peak, it will affect the entire play.
  • The best outside hitters demonstrate a high level of mental toughness.
  • Premium passing ability in the first touch when receiving the serve.
  • Good ball handling skills.
  • Great digger and hitter who can kill a perfect set and can also work with an off the net or over the shoulder set.
Ultimate Guide To Indoor Volleyball Positions - Libero


  • Libero Position: The libero’s base defense position is the back left spot. This can change depending on what position the libero comes in the game for (usually the middle hitter). 

Responsibilities & Roles

  • The libero is always in the back row and specializes in serve receive and defense (digging). 
  • Great jumping abilities for both blocking attacks as well as getting above the defender’s blocks to meet the ball at a high point.

Attributes & Skills

  • Libero is an incredibly demanding volleyball position that requires a balance of physical and mental characteristics and attributes.
  • Heightened / quick reflexes and reaction time.
  • Optimal awareness and ability to read, assess, and pre-empt game play is a key characteristic of a great libero. Liberos should be able to anticipate where the opposing team’s attackers are going to hit the ball.
  • Quick and agile on the court and the ability to recover his / her stance if digging takes them off their feet.
  • Excellent leadership skills.
  • Good at making split second decisions and giving fellow players direction and guidance during a rally.
  • High Volleyball IQ: Great liberos are the leaders of defense. They fill the holes in blocks, read and interpret arm swings, and alert their fellow teammates of things they notice about the opposing team’s game play or strategy.
  • Consistency: Liberos should be consistent in their passing game. Running an effective offense is impossible without solid passing and that starts with the libero.
  • Hustle: While the setter is the player that runs the most during a volleyball game, the libero takes the most dives. Elite liberos are willing to do whatever it takes and consistently sacrifice their bodies to get that needed touch on the volleyball.
  • Grit: The best liberos are bold and fearless players. Fear causes you to play on your heels which will result in slow movements and poor execution.

Defensive Specialist

A defensive specialist is a player that comes into the game for the sole purpose of playing defense.

  • Defensive Specialist Position: This depends on which position the defensive specialists is entering the game as.As the libero generally comes in for the middle hitter, the defensive specialist will most often replace an opposite or outside hitter.

Responsibilities & Roles:

  • The primary purpose of a defensive specialist is to come in for players who are less capable in the back row and offer additional defensive support.
  • Unlike the libero, a defensive specialist is not limited by any additional rules. In the game, the defensive specialist is allowed to engage in a back row attack and set a front row attack from in front of the 10-foot line.

Serving Specialist

A serving specialist (ss) is a player who specifically comes into the game to serve. 

Responsibilities & Roles

  • The primary responsibility of the serving specialist is to serve the volleyball.
  • The serving specialist plays defense in their respective position on the ensuing point.

Attributes & Skills

  • Exceptional and highly consistent servers.
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