November 23, 2015

Setter or Libero?

Dear Volleyball Coach,

I have a 5'2 1/2" 14 year old.  Her growth potential was 5'2"-5'5".  She has grown 1/2" in the last three months.  She has played one year of 14s club volleyball power league at a beginner level where the girls had little experience.  The coach took a great interest in her and developed her into a decent setter with no back up position.  This year she made the JV team as a freshmen for her high school team.  Her official position is 'setter/opposite' and she is not the starting setter.

 She has gone to a few of the area elite team clinics where they have gone to nationals.  Someone suggested that I ask the coach at a club that regularly goes to nationals about her chances to play for him.  He said if she plays for him he sees her as a "back up setter" or "DS".  She was flattered that he would consider her for his team since she just started a year and a half ago.

She has expressed interest in wanting to play at the college level.  She really wants to play and be a starter and develop into the best player she could be.

She has expressed interest in Libero as well but hasn't done much back row.  She doesn't want to be a DS because she doesn't want to get subbed out.  I'm torn between better coaching and touch time in games.  If she goes back to her old team, they practice 5 hours a week, the more elite teams in our area have at least double that in practices.

Should she develop DS skills and go for a higher level of play of should she try to focus more on becoming a better setter?

Should she play for a coach on a more competitive team settling for being the back up setter or should she play for a less competitive team where she will more likely be the starting setter"?   If she were younger I would most likely want her to play for a team where she would be the starter.

Thank you!


The expected height of your daughter would make it a challenge to be a collegiate setter who was in for 6 rotations (5-1 offense), but more realistic if the collegiate program runs a 6-2 front to back offense, where the 2 setters play back row.  If she tops out at 5'5" and is athletic (good jump), then a NCAA DII/DII/NAIA program is possible, but that may be a stretch because of the sheer numbers of high school age setters which are taller.

The libero position is the least height influenced for college volleyball recruiting, but it is arguable the toughest to get recruited in because there are so many quality liberos each year.  It has reached the point for DI that Liberos are often expected to walk on for a year or two before maybe, possible, hopefully getting an athletic scholarship.

Because your daughter is just a freshman and has not been playing very long, the focus should be on getting her as many touches upon the ball as possible (games/practices or a combination of both).  College volleyball players have very good skill sets because they have received thousands of repetitions.

I would suggest that your daughter stay in the setting position for one more year, to develop her skills in that position, along with her mental side of the the game.  There is still plenty of time to move her into the Libero/DS position as a Junior/Senior, should her height not reach what is anticipated.

Let me close by saying that your daughter is a freshman, and a freshman who has not played the sport for very long.  With that in mind, recruiting should not be in the viewfinder right now.  Keep it out of the serious conversations, but rather focus on developing skills.  

As I have written about many times online, in my book (Inside College Volleyball) and during my NCSA Athletic Recruiting Talks, your talent will determine your opportunities.  So, as a younger player, do everything possible to develop your volleyball abilities.


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