Conventional thinking among many volleyball coaches is to make tall players middle blockers, especially at the high school and club level. In this video, Ken Murczek challenges that premise, noting that if you have a tall player who can hit well, it may be best to put him/her on the left side.
"I've heard coaches say, 'She's my best attacker, so I want her close to the setter when she comes to the net,'" Murczek says. "I would argue, 'How much does your team pass the ball to the net to be able to set that player?' If she's my tallest kid and she hits it the best, I would put her on the left because if the ball is passed (off the net), she's still in the offense. The middle isn't."
A key attribute for middle blockers, Murczek says, is having good lateral quickness. This might be as important or even more important than height – assuming the player is big enough to get hands over the net.
"If a (shorter player) is really quick side to side, I might look at her playing in the middle as opposed to one of the taller ones," Murczek says. "The taller player may have no ability to close a block, so you're not doing yourself any favors."
For a deeper dive into this topic, check out this panel discussion on the keys to identifying players for each position featuring John Dunning, Russ Rose, Cathy George, Jen Greeny and Jim Stone.