Shape of the Hands and Setting Story
The Critical Analysis of Volleyball Skills Series will begin a Critical Analysis of Setting. It will be a multi-article series covering different components of setting technique. This initial article will focus on the Shape of the Hands and the Setting Story or distance of the ball above and away from the forehead for sets in front of the setter. Article 2 will focus on back setting components.
Just as there is a multitude of ways for a golfer to grip a golf club or a tennis player to grip a tennis racquet, there is a vast array of ways that setters shape and position their hands on the volleyball. Therefore, a question to ask before proceeding would be, “Do you feel it really makes a significant difference in obtaining the desired results you are attempting to achieve?” Its significance to you as a coach may determine how much time you would devote into having your setter emulate the technique that you prefer.
What components of technique would you consider to be important? Should the fingers be firm, relaxed or something in between? How much finger and hand contact should be made with the ball? What portions of the fingers are used? How should the fingers be shaped? To what extent do you incorporate some form of wrist action in your preferred setting technique?
A photo collage of International Setters is presented to show a variety of hand positions prior to the setter’s contact with the ball. Do you detect any commonalities or distinct differences in technique amongst the setters?
Are there specific observations regarding the shape of the hands, spacing of the fingers, tension of the fingers, spacing distance of the hands, location in relation to the forehead, or the positon of the wrists? Just as in any skill technique, some specific details may be more important to you than others. If you had to choose one or two components to focus on in your setter training, what would they be and why do you believe they are more important than something else?
Ball in Hand Technique Analysis
Are there any common components in technique when the setter has the ball in their hands prior to the release of the set? How much contact is there with the ball, how many fingers are touching the ball, what portion of the fingers are on the ball, what is the shape of the fingers, how far apart are the hands, and what is the position of the wrists before the release of the ball? What is the importance of the location of the elbows in relation to the body and how does that affect the shape of the hands and wrist?
Does the advent of the faster offenses in volleyball change the techniques you teach your setters? If your answer to this question is a yes, what are the components that you feel are more conducive to setting a faster ball? Do you encourage a low, medium, or high reach above the forehead when setting the ball?
Setting the Ball From 1st, 2nd or 3rd Story Above the Forehead
For purposes of this article, I will be referring to 1st, 2nd and 3rd story setting. This would be to describe the distance of the hands above the forehead when contacting the ball prior to the set. Another term to describe having the hands below 1st story would be the “Basement”. The following photographs illustrate approximations of the different stories that setters may use.
Most setters will generally evolve to setting the majority of balls from a specific Story. However, even setters that elect to set from 1st Story will have to eventually set balls from the Basement, 2nd Story and 3rd Story. The speed, trajectory and height of the pass or dig may dictate what Story a setter will have to use in a specific situation. The high looping pass or dig which will drop down near the head of the setter will allow the setter to select the Story of preference. It is in this scenario that setters would gravitate to setting from a specific Story based upon their comfort level, training level or the level that their coach might encourage.
Are there specific advantages or disadvantages in having a setter set from 1st Story versus the 3rd Story? A somewhat equivalent scenario could be a setter jump setting a ball with their hands at a 1st Story level versus standing on the ground and setting from a 1st Story level. The most prevalent reason that I have heard in the volleyball community is that it speeds up the offense and gives the defense less time to react. Some feel that setting from 3rd Story is more deceptive while others have a contrary view.
In an attempt to determine the objective versus subjective effects of setting from the different Stories, I present some photographs and videos for your observation and critical analysis. The first sequence of photographs shows Brazilian Setter Dani Lins setting a lower, fast set to the left antenna. This set will be referred to as a “Go Set”. The three frames were captured from a video clip which will be presented later in this article. For purposes of this analysis, an attempt is made to calculate the time differential between setting from the 3rd Story versus the 2nd Story versus the 1st Story. The methodology used is to make some projected assumptions. If we were to assume that the setter extended her arms up to the ball for a 3rd Story set in the first frame of the sequence below, the timer in the photos would show a starting time of 00.00.000 milliseconds. If the setter lowered her arms to contact the ball for a 2nd Story set in the second frame, the timer shows that 00.00.033 milliseconds would have elapsed. If the setter allowed the ball to drop to a 1st Story set in the third frame, a total of 00.00.066 milliseconds would have elapsed.
The accompanying video clip to the time sequence photos above is presented at normal speed and then is slowed to 25% speed for your observation and analysis.
A similar photo analysis of a Jump 1 Set by Brazilian Setter Dani Lins is presented below and reveals similar results. The three frames were also captured from a video clip. The same methodology for the Go Set analysis and the same projected assumptions are used. The timer in the first frame shows a starting time of 00.00.000 milliseconds at 3rd Story. Contact with the ball for a 2nd Story set in the second frame shows that 00.00.033 milliseconds have elapsed. A 1st Story set in the third frame reveals an elapsed total time of 00.00.066 milliseconds.
Video Analysis of a Go Set Released at a 3rd Story Height versus a 1st Story Height
For the video analysis, an attempt is made to show, in real time and in slow motion, the effects of a 00.00.066 millisecond difference by comparing two similar sets from a 1st to a 3rd Story release differential. To accomplish this comparison, the video compares a Dani Lins Jump Go Set representing a 3rd Story release with a Standing Go Set representing a 1st Story release.
The comparative Go Set video clip for your analysis is shown below at normal speed and then is slowed to 25% speed. The Top Clip reflects a 1st Story set with the setter grounded while the Bottom Clip represents a 3rd Story set with the setter jump setting the ball. The video clip is synced to show the ball in both clips at the same 3rd Story height. In the Bottom Clip, the ball is in the setter’s hand prior to the release of the ball while the Top Clip shows the ball in the same location in relation to the net but is above the setter’s hand which would represent a 1st Story set.
I believe the best way to view the video for analysis purposes would be to watch it on a video player in which you could pause and frame advance the video. How much or how little motion occurs on the offensive and defensive side of the ball in 00.00.033 milliseconds or 00.00.066 milliseconds?
Movements within this time frame seem virtually imperceptible to the eye in real time if you observe the movements of both the offensive and defensive players in the video. Assuming that you believe the time differential is advantageous to the offense, the offense would need to begin their movements 0.033 milliseconds or 0.066 milliseconds sooner and assume that the defense would not be prepared to react and make a corresponding time adjustment.
For a further Critical Analysis of the differential impact of the 3rd Story release versus the 1st Story release, an overlay of the two videos is presented below. It may initially be a little confusing but you will eventually be able to see the difference in player movements utilizing a frame advance viewing.
Video Analysis of a 1 Set Released at a 3rd Story Height versus a 1st Story Height
The video below compares a Dani Lins Higher Jump 1 Set representing a 3rd Story release with a Lower Jump 1 Set representing a 1st Story release.
The comparative 1 Set video clip for your analysis is shown at normal speed and then is slowed to 30% speed. The Top Clip reflects a 1st Story set with the lower jump set while the Bottom Clip represents a 3rd Story set with the setter jump setting the ball at a higher contact point. The video clip is synced to show the ball in both clips at the same 3rd Story height. In the Bottom Clip, the ball is in the setter’s hand prior to the release of the ball while the Top Clip shows the ball at the same height in relation to the net but is above the setter’s hand which would represent the 1st Story set.
The 1 set overlay video clip is presented for a further analysis of the impact of setting from different stories. It is initially showed at normal speed and is slowed to 30% speed.
Observations and Conclusions of Hand Position and Setting Story
The main purpose of this article was to present the many combinations of hand, wrist and elbow positions of many International Setters and to analyze the effects of setting from different stories. The photographs also show an array of different Setting Stories. Are you able to discern any common characteristics among a majority of the setters?
Because the photographs show International Setters, are there different considerations to incorporate when training younger setters? Are there techniques which would enhance a young setter’s strength, power and consistency? Are there common characteristics among setters which prevent a more powerful set? In my years of observing and training setters, I believe there are technique components among some setters that inhibit their ability to push balls out to the antennas, set a fast tempo ball, and maintain consistency in locating their sets.
These possible inhibitors might include having the thumbs extended pointing upwards toward the ball as it is descending into the hands prior to the set being released for sets in front of the setter. This motion could possibly release the wrist prematurely and eliminate having a wrist release to generate additional velocity on the set ball if it is required. In some circumstances, extending the arms toward the ball with virtually no elbow bend before contacting the ball also may reduce the ability to generate additional power by extending the arms if it is necessary to do so. Another factor could be that the setter’s hands are too wide upon contact with the ball requiring the setter to set the ball with only their thumbs, index and middle fingers. The photographs below illustrate these scenarios described.
If the titles to the photos displayed above are somewhat confusing given the previous descriptions in the paragraph before the Photo Analysis, is because in my observations and experiences, there are setters that emulate these techniques PRIOR to contacting the ball for a set. The photos represent poses AFTER the hands begin to release the ball and the thumbs follow through upward after the ball leaves the setter’s hands.
To further illustrate this point, I present a Photo Sequence of Dani Lins from Brazil and Maja Ognjenovic from Serbia showing their techniques prior to receiving the ball, their ball in hand position, their initial movement to release the ball before it leaves the hands, and their follow through immediately after the ball is set.
The sequencing of the setting techniques used by Dani Lins and Maja Ognjenovic demonstrate how some setters may lose the benefits of the fingers, wrist and arms providing additional power and velocity to the ball. I would also opine that some setters with minimal initial finger contact with the ball may not be as consistent with their setting location.
Article 2 of the Critical Analysis of Setting Series will focus on the hand and body posture components of the Back Set.