Having trouble figuring out what volleyball position you should play?
You’re not alone.
Many top volleyball players still find themselves switching positions well into their careers as they look for new opportunities.
The volleyball position you play should largely be determined by your physical attributes and strengths, as well as what aspects of the game you enjoy the most.
In this article I’m going to walk you through everything you need to think about before picking a volleyball position to focus on.
What Things You Need To Consider
First of all, if you’re just a volleyball beginner, you don’t really need to worry too much about positions just yet.
Just get on the court, get a feel for the game, and give yourself some time to see what parts of the game you excel at, and what you don’t.
I don’t think I had an official position for the first couple years that I played volleyball.
If you’re unsure what positions even are, be sure to check out my full article explaining the various roles and responsibilities of each volleyball position.
Eventually, you will want to focus in on 1 primary player position and maybe have a secondary position that you’ll play from time to time.
Another good idea is to check out my article where I ranked each position from hardest to easiest.
The sooner you start specializing and developing those position-specific skills, the quicker you’ll develop as a volleyballer.
Let’s jump straight into my list of the most important things to think about before choosing your volleyball position.
1. What Do You Enjoy?
Exactly what is it about volleyball that you like?
Is it the thrill of stuff blocking someone one on one?
Is it the team aspect of the sport?
Do you enjoy making really difficult digs in the back court?
Or do you live to crush the ball into the attack line?
For me it was the thrill of spiking which drew me to the sport. So I knew I wasn’t likely to be a setter or libero.
I had also been obsessed with growing my vertical jump for years before I found volleyball, so naturally it made sense I’d play a position where a good amount of jumping was involved.
2. How Far Do You Want To Go In The Sport Of Volleyball?
Is volleyball just something you plan on playing for enjoyment?
Or could you see yourself one day playing professionally in Europe somewhere?
If you’re just starting out, chances are you don’t yet have such aspirations and simply enjoy playing recreationally.
Eventually you may find that interest develops into a passion and you become quite good at the sport.
Some of you may see yourself eventually pursuing the game very seriously, whether it’s to land a college scholarship or to play professionally or even in the Olympics.
If that’s you, you definitely need to think long and hard about the following considerations because these next things on my list will have a big impact on how successful you’ll be in certain positions.
3. Height & Growth Potential
When we’d screen younger athletes trying out for the high performance volleyball program back home, one of the questions we’d ask them is how tall their parents are.
Knowing whether you’ll end up 180cm tall or 210cm tall is really important when thinking about positions in volleyball.
Depending on your age, it may be very difficult to forecast exactly how tall you’re going to be.
I had a friend who was 6’2″ as a senior in high school who was 6’8″ by the time he was 22 years old.
He went from being barely tall enough to play outside hitter to being tall enough to play as a professional middle blocker!
Examine Your Current Age, Height, & Parents’ Height
Generally speaking, you can get a pretty good idea of how tall you’re going to be as an adult from looking at how tall you currently are as well as looking at the height of your parents.
You won’t always get it right, but hopefully you can make a guess that gets you to within 5-10cm.
The younger you are, less accurate your prediction will be.
Let’s look at which volleyball positions correspond best with which height ranges.
The below figures are based on the heights of fully grown adults (for men, early 20s, for women ages 15-16).
I put together these ranges based on the heights of hundreds of Olympic level players from a variety of countries.
Note that the above heights are merely guidelines. There are always exceptions.
If you click on any of the positions in the table above, you’ll be taken to a separate article where I discuss the height requirements of each position at much greater length.
If you really want to be a hitter but think you’ll only end up being 175cm tops as a woman, perhaps play with the idea of doing some setting.
If I was in this boat, I’d practice as an outside hitter but focus a lot of my time and effort on passing, so that if things didn’t work out as a passer hitter, I could always become a libero.
I’d also be in the gym working hard on my vertical jump!
Many people passionate about volleyball simply aren’t that tall. And that’s okay. You can’t change your height.
What you can do, however, is read my article on the best positions for shorter players so you can make the most of what you’ve got!
4. Left Handed Or Right Handed?
This one is really important.
Basically if you’re a lefty, it’s easier to hit from the right side of the court and if you’re a righty, it’s easier to hit from the left side of the court.
This is because the ball doesn’t have to cross your entire body before entering your hitting window.
As such, most opposites are left handed and most outside hitters are right handed.
If you have the potential to be really tall and you’re left handed, you could easily become an excellent opposite hitter with enough hard work!
There’s still a good amount of right handed opposites but they’re usually really tall to make up for the added difficulty in hitting the ball.
There’s very few left handed outside hitters at the highest levels, but they do exist!
If You’re A Lefty, Choose Opposite Or Setter!
If you’re not super tall but you’re still left handed, consider becoming a setter.
Left handed setters are particularly valuable when in the front court as they can spike/dump the second ball over the net much easier than righties can (as demonstrated above).
5. Jumping Ability
Just how naturally springy are you as an athlete?
The vast majority of you will answer with ‘not very’ or ‘average’ and some of you simply won’t have a clue.
Some of you have a God given ability to jump high and know it.
Being able to jump high is somewhat important in volleyball, but it isn’t everything.
In any case, it’s something that can be developed over years with enough hard work and dedication.
I used to describe my vertical jump as ‘aggressively average’ but after 3-4 years of lifting was able to manage a 35″ vertical and 344cm spike reach as a 17 year old.
Which Positions Need To Be Able To Jump High?
For whom is jumping ability going to be most important?
Outside hitters need more bounce than every other position because they’re typically the shortest attackers and have to deal with huge opposite blockers.
If you’re a 200cm outside hitter, then being able to jump really high is going to be a lot less important than if you’re 180cm tall, for obvious reasons.
A Massive Vertical Jump Can Be A Huge Asset
I always like to share the story of Mireya Luis, the highest jumping women’s volleyball player of all time!
She was just 175cm tall but had the highest spike height in the world.
If you’re a not so tall outside hitter, you can definitely succeed in volleyball, but you’ll need to learn how to jump!
6. Exceptional Talents & Ability
Do you have any unusual talent in digging, passing, or setting?
Do you have amazing fingers known for the nectar sets they produce?
Or perhaps you have incredible agility and an ability to dig balls no one else can get close to?
If you have a particular talent in any one of these areas, consider doubling down on it and focusing your time and effort on further developing that ability.
It’s Never Too Early To Specialize
Perhaps you’re quite short but an excellent defender and enjoy passing, so you decide from an early age you’re going to be a libero.
While everyone else is trying their hand at passing, setting, and spiking, you’re only working on passing and digging.
Chances are down the line you’re going to be extremely good as a libero because you’ve been able to get more reps in than anyone else.
It’s harder to specialize as a hitter because you may play different positions for different teams: middle at school, outside/opposite for club.
7. What Personality Traits & Leadership Skills Do You Have?
I’ve found that certain positions require certain types of people to play them well.
If you’re a shy, quiet kid who tends to keep to themselves and isn’t a big talker, you might really struggle as a setter.
This position requires someone willing to take charge on court, call the shots, and take responsibility for the entire offense.
They must be the most vocal player on the team.
Not everyone is able to do this purely because of who they are as a person. And that’s okay.
Outside hitters are in a similar position and ought to be someone willing to shoulder extra responsibility as the primary attacker on the court.
Both the setter and outside need to be extremely reliable and ideally should possess solid leadership skills.
Middle blockers, opposites, and liberos can kind of just keep their heads down and play their role for the most part.
Don’t Get Attached To Your Position
The position you currently play in volleyball may not be the position you play in a few years time.
Don’t let your position become your identity.
I told you about my friend who grew 6 inches in 4 years – that opened up many different options for him in terms of what direction he went in.
He started as a 6’2″ passer hitter who was contemplating becoming a libero but ended up as a 6’8″ opposite hitter.
For me personally, I played middle blocker on the national youth team but was explicitly told if I wanted to eventually make the senior men’s team, I’d need to switch to outside hitter.
Be willing to change your position if it affords you an opportunity you wouldn’t otherwise have.
I know of people who tried out for state teams as one position and ended up winning a national championship medal in a completely different position.
If you’re a libero or setter, you can for the most part specialize in those positions fairly early on.
But particularly if you’re a wing hitter, it’s best to be practice hitting from both sides of the court so you can chop and change between outside and opposite when it makes sense to.
Your Position Will Probably Choose You
You’ll probably find that you don’t have as much of a say in what position you end up playing as you’d like.
For me, I was one of the taller guys when I started playing, so I was pretty quickly thrust into the role of middle blocker.
I had tried outside hitter beforehand but was pretty useless.
Because I actually had success in the MB position, it stuck with me for most of my career.
When you first try out for a volleyball team, your coach will probably take one look at you and assign you a position based on height or their first impression of your capabilities.
Make A Decision And Stand By It
While it’s perfectly fine to just go with the flow and play the positions you’re assigned, at some stage I think it’s a good idea to decide for yourself what’s best for you long term.
While I was the tallest player on my high school team, I knew that I’d never be tall enough to play that position at the senior level, so I should have made a decision earlier to deliberately choose to focus elsewhere.
But that probably would have meant letting my team down since there was no one else who could fill that role… so there’s a lot of factors to consider.
If you’re unhappy with the position you’re spending most of your time playing, it’s okay to try something different and refuse to play certain roles for certain teams.
It’ll help you get the experience you need to finally make that transition.
If you’re playing at a fairly high level, maybe experiment with playing some other positions in a more social/relaxed game where there’s less pressure and expectation for you to perform.
Hopefully that’s given you plenty to think about…