The opposite hitter AKA right side hitter is quite often the most dominant offensive weapon on the volleyball court.
They’re usually very tall, very strong and athletic, and are out there for the sole purpose of blocking and killing the ball.
This was a position I spent quite a bit of time playing during my career, so I know a thing or two about it!
In this article we’re going to look at what exactly an opposite hitter does, what traits and skills they should possess, as well as some things you can do to become a better right side hitter.
What Does An Opposite Hitter Do In Volleyball?
The opposite hitter is one of the two main wing attackers and they operate out of the right hand side of the court.
When in the front court, their base position is 2 and when in the back court, their base position is 1.
Opposite hitters are usually very offensive minded players who are primarily on the court to win points.
Opposite Hitters Don’t Usually Pass
Opposites are not usually involved in passing.
When in the back row, they’re usually pushed out of the passing lineup so the outside hitters and libero can receive the serve.
Opposite Hitters Have To Block The Outside Hitter
When in the front court, the opposite/right side hitter is matched up against the opposing team’s outside/left side hitter.
One of their primary responsibilities is to block the outside and to neutralize that offensive threat as much as possible.
This is a big responsibility as the left side attacker is usually going to be a dangerous offensive weapon and they’ll always be hitting from the front row, so they’re usually pretty tough to block.
Opposite Hitters Often Attack From The Back Row
Opposites hit far more back row attacks than any other position in volleyball.
Most of the time they’re going to be running the D ball which is a right side attack from the back row.
The reason for this is because when the opposite is in the back row, the setter will be in the front court, which means there’s more offensive options for a team.
In this rotation, the setter can dump the ball or set the outside, middle, or opposite.
Opposites Also Have To Serve & Defend
Opposite hitters of course need to be able to serve the ball well and defend in the back court too, so they need some ability to dig the ball even though they won’t usually be passing much.
What Are The Strengths Of A Good Opposite Hitter?
One of the scariest things to play against in volleyball is a super dominant opposite hitter.
They’re often taller, stronger, and more efficient than the other attackers on court.
Great Opposites Are Often Left Handed
When you’re hitting from the right side of the court, it’s a lot easier to contact the ball when spiking if you’re left handed, as the ball doesn’t have to cross your entire torso to reach your hitting window.
It’s the same reason why right handed hitters usually feel more comfortable hitting from the left side of the court.
Having said that, I wrote an article recently where I ranked the current top 5 opposite hitters in the world… and every single one of them was right handed!
Part of this is due to the fact that there’s simply a lot more right handed volleyballers, but you’ll find a disproportionate amount of lefties either play as opposite hitter or setter.
Opposite Hitters Are Usually Really Tall
Generally speaking, opposites are the second tallest player on the volleyball court, only slightly shorter than the middle blocker.
Part of the reason opposite hitters are so tall is because of this blocking responsibility.
The other team’s outside hitter is usually exceptionally skilled and will always hit from the front row when the ball gets set to the left side, so it makes sense to have a tall player with an excellent block height in the opposite role.
The other half of the reason why opposites are so tall is because they often have to hit the D Ball which is a back row attack from the right side of the court.
In order to stand a chance at killing the ball from the back row, opposites need to contact the ball with a high spike height which also helps them avoid being blocked.
Great Opposites Are Strong, Powerful, & Athletic
Not only do opposites have to be tall, but they’re quite often super athletic as well.
The higher an opposite hitter can jump, the better they’ll be at blocking and spiking.
Also having a strong and explosive upper body means they can hit the ball harder which is particularly useful when attacking from the back row.
How Important Is The Opposite Hitter?
Having a decent opposite hitter on your team adds depth to your offensive strategy.
If you’ve got an opposite who can hit the D ball well and actually kill the ball from the back row, this allows teams to run rotations with a front court setter, opening up a ton of options offensively.
Defensively speaking, an opposite hitter who is an excellent blocker will make the opposing outside hitter’s life very difficult.
If your opposite hitter is weak, your offense will be too reliant on your outside hitter and you might have a tough time neutralizing the opposition’s offense.
Is Opposite Hitter A Good Position In Volleyball?
Personally, I’m a big fan of the opposite hitter position.
Mainly because you don’t really have to pass the ball much – and I was actually quite good at hitting from the right side.
Hitting back row attacks is also a unique challenge which is quite enjoyable once you get the hang of it.
So if you like hitting and blocking a lot, opposite can be quite a fun position to play!
Maybe you really struggle hitting from the right side of the court, in which case you might not like this position at all.
Should I Be An Opposite Hitter?
Despite it being an enjoyable position to play, it’s not going to be a good match for the vast majority of volleyballers, because it demands a fairly rare set of physical attributes to do well in this role.
Physical Attributes Of An Opposite Hitter
Opposite is a very ‘physical’ position which means you kind of need to ‘fit the bill’ if you’re going to be successful at the highest level in this role.
So we know that for men at the highest level of the game, the average height for an opposite hitter is 6’8.5″ or 204.5cm and for women it’s 187cm or 6’1″.
These numbers are also reflected by the average heights in college volleyball.
Clearly, this rules out 99.9% of the population from having a good chance of succeeding at the highest level in the role of opposite hitter.
Of course, if you’re just looking to play the position recreationally or at a lower level, you can definitely get away with being a lot shorter, but it’s still a position that’s very much suited to taller players.
For more details on height benchmarks for opposite hitters, how tall you need to be as an opposite to get a college scholarship, as well as some tips on how to succeed as a shorter opposite, be sure to check out my full article on opposite hitter height.
Being Left Handed Is A Big Bonus
Being left handed as an opposite hitter is a huge advantage.
As I mentioned earlier, this is because the ball doesn’t have to cross your entire body to get to your hitting window.
It’s the same reason that you probably feel more comfortable hitting from the left side of the court if you’re right handed.
While being left handed is a big plus, being really tall is far more significant in this role.
The current top 5 opposite hitters in the world are all right handed, so even though being a lefty is beneficial, it’s definitely not necessary.
Athleticism & Jumping Ability
The crazy thing about the opposite position is that it’s not enough to just be really tall and lanky. You need to be able to jump and hit the ball hard, too.
By improving your vertical jump, you immediately increase your blocking and spiking ability, which is the best way to overcome not being crazy tall!
If you’re still unsure whether opposite hitter is right for you, be sure to check out this article for more information on how to choose the right volleyball position for you.
What Do Coaches Look For In An Opposite Hitter?
Now that you’re sure you want to pursue the role of opposite, perhaps you’re interested in playing college volleyball and like the idea of a sports scholarship.
Perhaps you eventually want to play professionally as an opposite hitter…
In any case, you have to understand how marketable you are as an athlete.
Opposite Hitter Recruitment Guidelines
Let’s take a quick look at what scouts and coaches are paying attention to when it comes to opposite hitters.
Jumping Ability & Arm Length
The below numbers are for women’s volleyball as per the NCSA website.1https://www.ncsasports.org/womens-volleyball/recruiting-guidelines
I’m never quite sure how accurate these numbers are because it doesn’t make any sense for the block jump and attack jump to be the same height, so take the above with a grain of salt.
Men’s recruiting guidelines aren’t public, but I would submit that a 345cm spike height would be a good starting point for a D1 collegiate opposite.
Eventually, you’ll want that number to be at least 350cm by the time you’re done with college.
A block reach of 335cm or more would be handy as well.
I’m basing these numbers off of the national program benchmarks we have in Australia and the numbers of several elite level opposites I’ve trained with in the past.
Height is more of a factor now than ever when it comes to sports scholarships in volleyball.
Height is particularly important in the role of opposite hitter for reasons I’ve discussed above.
For a full list of the height benchmarks required for college volleyball opposite hitters to appeal to recruiters, be sure to check out my full article on how tall opposites need to be.
You need to have played a good amount of club volleyball for recruiters to consider you.
At least 2-5 years of decent level competition is what they’re after.
Basically you need to show them that you know what you’re doing on court.
How To Be A Better Opposite Hitter
In order to become a better opposite hitter, you need to become more of the things that define a great opposite.
Physical, athletic, skillful spiker, dominant blocker.
Let’s make this really simple and discuss the 20% of things which will get you 80% of the results.
Below are by far the 4 most important things you need to put your time and effort into to become a better opposite hitter.
1. Hit The Ball More (From The Right Side)
One half of the opposite hitter equation is how well you can hit the ball.
Want to get better at hitting? Hit more balls.
It’s really that simple.
Partner up with a setter and drag them to the court for some extra work each week.
If you can find another hitter to block while you hit, this would be ideal.
The two of you can alternate.
Don’t just go through the motions here either, you need to be very deliberate and highly focused in order to make actual progress.
Formulate a plan. Maybe it looks something like this.
- Hit 5 balls sharp down the line
- Hit 15 balls at the back right corner
- Hit 5 balls sharp cross court
- Hit 15 balls into the back left corner
If you have a blocker, make it your mission to never once get stuff blocked.
Maybe as part of your plan you’re going to hit 5-15 balls high off the hands of the block.
There’s really no excuses to not get more hitting repetitions in.
All you need is a net, a setter, and another hitter/blocker who wants to improve also.
2. Increase Your Vertical Jump
As a right side hitter, you need to be able to jump, especially if you’re not as tall as you’d like to be.
Some of you will be gifted and naturally springy; the vast majority of us are not.
The primary goal of your strength and conditioning routine should be to increase your spike height as much as possible.
To play volleyball internationally, male opposite hitters will ideally have a spike height north of 350cm, and women should aim for 320cm.
You also need to train your upper body so you can hit the ball harder!
3. Practice The Back Row Attack
As an opposite hitter, you’re going to find yourself hitting from the back row far more often than any other position will.
You need to become a master of the D ball, which is the back row attack from the back/right zone of the court.
When you’re doing your hitting drills, make sure you aren’t only practicing from the front/right side, but also have your setter set you plenty of back row attacks so you can work on this shot.
Focus on making a nice high contact with the ball and hitting only into the back meter of the court.
4. Develop Your Jump Serve
As an opposite hitter, you’re perfectly configured physically to have a brutally powerful top spin jump serve.
Tall players who can generate a lot of power such as middle blockers and opposite hitters are usually the athletes who have the best jump serves.
This is because they contact the ball higher and harder than anyone else.
By spending some extra time each week drilling that jump serve, one day it may become one of the strongest aspects of your game, winning you countless points.
This will massively increase your value as an asset on the volleyball court.
Volleyball Opposite Hitter FAQ
A volleyball team will usually only have 2 opposite hitters: 1 on the court and one replacement on the bench.
Opposite hitter is not the same position as outside hitter. The opposite hitter is a right side wing hitter whereas the outside hitter is a left side hitter.
Although they’re both wing hitters, there are many other distinctions between these two player positions, but the main one is their physical location on court.
The answer to this question will depend on how tall you are, whether you’re left or right handed, how well you can pass, and a few other factors.
Check out my article which aims to help you choose the right volleyball position.