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Volleyball 103- Court Rotations

What is the rule about rotations and what strategy to coaches use to maximize their strengths?

2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship
Starting rotation gets ready to play
Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

This article addresses starting rotations and matchups on the court. Remember from the rules of volleyball that when your team wins a point that your opponent served you side-out and must move your players clockwise on the court before you serve the next point.

As you rotate one new person is in the back row and one new person is in the front row. When a side-out happens and a team rotates you will often see a substitution happen.

Subs are common question area so we’ll talk more about them next time. For now, let’s stay focused on how rotations impact the game.

VB court with rotation direction

Coaches determine their starting lineup based on many factors. One of those factors is who the best server on your team is. You could, say, start her in the serving position for a strong start to the match.

A good server can first get an ace. No doubt that is a great way to start the game. A good server can also force a bad pass which in turn limits the number of people the setter can set and allows your block to set up on the hitters for a better defense. Also, a good start.

Coach will also consider the best scoring rotation for the team. As the match goes on, assistant coaches take statistics on how well the team scores in each rotation. Inevitably, one or two rotations are much better than the others. These rotations generally are better or worse no matter who the opponent is so a coach can know where his/her team scores or gets stuck.

One big factor that determines if one rotation is better than another is who the hitters on your team match up against the blockers for the other team. Your team has a number one hitter and the other team has a number one blocker.

Sometimes it works to match them up against each other and other times you gain an advantage by moving your top hitter to hit against a weaker blocker. Of course that means that someone else on your team has to hit against the opponents top blocker.

Players matter, naturally, and different players match up well, or not so well, against another player. Watching these individual matchups is a real thrill when, say, two All Americans match up against each other. Strength on strength, let the best player win!

A coach has much to consider when the setter is front row. When the setter is front row, there are only two hitters front row (in most offensive systems). Two hitters compared to three is a significant difference in the game plan.

Many teams will make sure a great backrow attacker is in the backrow (probably your number one outside hitter) when your setter is front row. Now the setter has two front row hitters and a good backrow hitter as an option too.

That is the basics for volleyball rotations. Next time we’ll talk substitutions and then get into the libero position (the person that wears the different color jersey).