Volleyball rotations aren’t as well understood as they could be or should be. That’s the opinion of Tod Mattox, longtime head coach of the varsity girls’ team at The Bishop’s School in San Diego.
“Coaches often don’t do a good job of teaching players the concept behind where to go,” Mattox says. “Players know where to stand, but they don’t necessarily know why.”
In this video, Oregon State coach Mark Barnard answers the why question, offering a quick whiteboard tutorial on how players can determine their positioning in a specific rotation.
Teaching volleyball rotations by position
As you’ll see in the video, drawing each position on a whiteboard is a good starting point when teaching rotation rules. This gives players a clear mental picture of where they should be relative to their teammates, whether they are serving or in serve-receive formation.
When the ball is served, players must be standing in the correct rotational position. Here’s how it breaks down for each of the six player positions:
Front row players
- Left front – Must be in front of left back (LB) and between middle front (MF) and the sideline.
- Middle front – Must be in front of middle back (MB) and between left front (LF) and right front (RF).
- Right front – Must be in front of right back (RB) and between MF and the right sideline.
Back row players
- Right back – Must be behind right front (RF) and between MB and the sideline.
- Middle back – Must be behind MF and between RB and LB.
- Left back – Must be behind LF and between MB and the sideline.
Once the ball is served, players are allowed to move freely, ideally to base.
When do players rotate?
All six players on the serve-receive team will rotate in a clockwise direction when they win a point. For example, if a player is in MB, she will move to the left to LB. In turn, LB will move to LF, and so on.
The serving team does not rotate.
Does the server need to pay attention to rotation?
The server, who is in RB, is not in the rotation because he/she is technically not on the court. So servers are allowed to serve from anywhere behind the end-line without worrying about their position relative to the other players on the court – specifically, the MB, who is on their left in the rotation.
On the receive team, all rotation rules apply, so the RB must be to the right of the MB.
Effective serve-receive patterns
Within the confines of the rotation rules, coaches need to choose serve-receive patterns that play to their team’s strengths. In this video, former Ohio State coach Jim Stone teaches three basic patterns: “W,” “U” and “Line.”
Reviewing rotation rules
As Mattox says, coaches often don’t do a good enough job explaining volleyball rotation rules. To ensure that your players fully understand their positioning on the court and the team’s rotational order, spend a few extra minutes every week reviewing the basics. The less players have to think about rotation when playing volleyball, the more they can focus on important stuff like hitting and passing.
If you liked this video, check out these other tips from Mark Barnard: