All Volleyball Positions, Names, And Roles Explained

There are six core positions in volleyball. Each one is designed to serve a unique and specific role to aid in the success of the game and the team. Just like in other competitive sports, each player has a responsibility to fulfill their role to the highest of their abilities. Not only do they need to perform their role, but they need to ensure that they do it well.

Volleyball is a fast-paced sport that requires serious athletic ability and stamina. The best position for you depends on your level and skill set. If you’re intrigued to learn more about the main volleyball positions and which appeals to your strengths, read on. We’ll go over each role on the volleyball court, so you can fully understand the terms and how they add to the game.

What Are The Six Positions?

Before we learn the definition of each position, let’s familiarize ourselves with the names: 

  • Setter
  • Outside hitter
  • Middle blocker
  • Opposite hitter
  • Libero
  • Defensive specialist

With this in mind, let’s break down each role covering duties and importance. 

1. The Setter

The setter is a major position in a volleyball team, and it is often considered the most important role in a game. 

This team member is in charge of the offense, as well as ensuring the ball is set up correctly for their fellow teammates to attempt a spike. Once the ball has been hit their way, the setter is typically the second teammate to touch the ball. It is then on their shoulders to know exactly where each of the players are on the volleyball court, so they can decide who will take on the final pass.

As well as setting, this player is responsible for ensuring each teammate is in their correct position at all times. They must also make sure they communicate the play to their teammates efficiently before the serve. 

Due to them being the main contributor to the offense, the setter must make sure they have a delicate touch. This is so the ball can be set perfectly for one of the attacking volleyball players. And as mentioned, communication is key. The setter needs to know exactly where each player is. They also need to ensure that each teammate is on the same page at all times during the game. 

Essentially, without the volleyball setter, the game would not see any technical ball movement or hard spikes.

2. The Outside Hitter

Also known as outside, pin, left side, and OH, the outside hitter is the lead attacker when it comes to the offensive strategy. 

A successful outside hitter needs to be quick on their feet, be able to jump high, and not be phased by quick-changing situations. For example, the volleyball won’t always be in the prime vicinity of the outside hitter, so they need to be prepared and able to hit it from a variety of different locations. It definitely takes commitment, hard work, and endurance to be the OH.

As well as hitting from the left side of the volleyball court, the outside hitter will also block, hit from the back row, play middle-back or left defense, and pass in serve receive. When they get to the back row, this is when they’ll typically take on the responsibilities of playing and passing defense, too. This player usually gets the most sets, especially when the setter isn’t in system. This is because the outside set can be one of the easiest options to set.

3. The Middle Blocker

The middle blocker is the tallest person on the volleyball team.  

This player is also known as the middle hitter, and their main role is to act as the first line of defense against the hits coming from the opposing team. The middle blocker should be able to quickly read the motives of the opposing attackers in order to raise their arms above the net to block an attempt. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a defense-only role. They have the chance for quick points throughout a volleyball set, with middle sets often being some of the hardest to set, which means they demand good passes. This results in the middle blocker usually getting the fewest sets, but they have the highest hitting percentages.

4. The Opposite Hitter

The opposite hitter is also known as the right-side hitter, and they need to be able to play both offense and defense well. They are the opposite of the left side hitter, which means they take hits from behind the setter.

For example, in a 6-1, the opposite hitter (like the outside) will have an option to play all the way around the court – passing, hitting out from the back row, and defending. They’ll need to swing from the front and back row, play right-back defense, and block the opposing team’s outside hitter. 

This position will also have lots of opportunities to hit the ball, so having a good jumping ability – like the outside hitter – is very important. The main difference between the opposite hitter and the outside hitter is that they have a bigger defensive responsibility. They need to be able to receive the serve from the opposite team in order to meet the requirements of this position.

5. The Libero

This may be one of the volleyball terms non-players are most unfamiliar with. Or perhaps the term they find a little harder to understand. But don’t worry, we’ve got you…

The libero is only permitted to play on the back row of the volleyball court, or the back row in five out of the six rotations. Because of this, it makes them the ideal player to receive a hit from the opposing team. They typically sub in for both of a team’s middle blockers, but when a libero does come in for another player, it doesn’t actually count as a substitution. 

The libero players are strictly defensive, and they are serve-receive specialists. This means they need to be fast and have precision, as they often need to change direction quickly. There are also strict rules that the libero needs to follow, which include:

  • Not attacking the ball from above the height of the volleyball net.
  • They can only overhand set an attacker on the front row from behind the 10-foot court line.
  • They are not allowed to serve.
  • They are not allowed to block.
  • They are not allowed to attempt to block.

You can always point out a libero on a volleyball court, too. This is because they are required to wear a different colored jersey.

6. The Defensive Specialist

Similar to the libero player, the defensive specialist is required to play in the back row of the volleyball court, and they are responsible for receiving serve and playing defense. However, unlike the libero, they are not required to wear a different colored jersey.

The defensive specialist has the ability to substitute out any teammate on the court, but it counts against the team’s total number of substitutions, which is 12. This player is usually in for three out of six of the rotations within a game, and their primary focus is to make sure passing and ball control is on-point. This makes them work well together with the libero.

The Extra Volleyball Position

While the primary focus is on the six positions listed above, there is another position in the volleyball terms handbook that is worth knowing: The Serving Specialist. This is the player who basically just subs in to serve, and they can be very useful for maintaining possession of service and reducing service errors, all of which are very crucial to the game. 

However, they are not as useful in the defense department for the serving team. This is because it typically puts them in a weaker position defense-wise for the remainder of the point, which means they will not be as strong defensively.

A serving specialist does need to have a very strong and consistent serve, though, as they sub in for players who are not as strong behind the service line. 

Which Position Will You Go For?

So, there you have it. All the volleyball terms and positions explained. 

The setter holds the most important position on the court because they’re in charge of the offense and need to know where every player is at, at all times. The outside hitter or OH is the lead attacker in the offensive strategy, while the middle blocker consists of the tallest player on the team. The opposite hitter is similar to the OH, except they need to play both offense and defense. Then you have the libero and defensive specialist. The former is the player with the different colored jersey and the latter plays in the back row and are responsible for receiving serves.

Hopefully, you now have the knowledge to decide which position you think you’ll excel at the most. Or, if you’re watching a loved one play, you understand what their role is and what’s expected of them. From the pressure of the setter to making sure your team has an excellent defensive squad, every player on the court plays an important role.