In a previous post we talked about the importance of footwork in setting, so today we’ll go over three crucial guidelines for incorporating your hands into your setting footwork.
1. Soft, yet strong
As the ball contacts your hands you need to cushion it very slightly. Your wrists should bend just a little bit and then snap out quickly to direct the ball to your hitter. There’s a fine line between having hands that are soft enough to cushion the ball and holding on too long. Of course if the volleyball stays in contact with your hands too long or you break your wrists too much you’ll get called for a lift and the other team will get a point.
But you can’t have rigid hands either, or you’ll never get the ball under control. When passing the volleyball you basically just let it ricochet off your forearms and try to redirect its momentum toward the target, but when setting you always need to change the trajectory. The ball is coming toward the net from the interior of your court, and 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, you won’t be able to achieve accurate sets.
2. Thumbs in the eyes
Just so we’re clear, you shouldn’t actually poke yourself in the eyes with your thumbs. But your thumbs should be almost directly above your eyes when you set the volleyball. This means your wrists are flexed slightly and your hands are rounded. The thumbs need to be back toward your face, otherwise they’ll get in the way as the ball approaches, and nobody wants a jammed thumb. Also we want our hands to be ball-shaped so they cushion the volleyball, and pulling the thumbs back is the only way to get that rounded shape.
3. Take a cue from soccer
Typically we don’t think of soccer (aka football) and volleyball as having much in common since one involves primarily feet and one involves primarily hands, but for accurate setting we can take a page out of soccer’s book. I’m talking about the page that talks about heading the ball.
As the ball approaches and your using proper footwork to get into position, keep in mind that if you moved your hands at the last minute the volleyball should hit you on the forehead. Again, I’m not advocating that you actually let the ball hit you on the head or in the face. But if you find yourself setting from above your mouth or way behind your head try to make adjustments so the volleyball stays above your forehead.
Setting too far in front or behind your head takes away all the power being generated by your arms, and also makes you much more likely to get called for an illegal contact.