Outsides should start at least 10 feet off the net and at least one step outside the court. This is so that they can read and go straight to the ball without ever hesitating on their approach. Plus, they have the most distance that the ball must travel to them, therefore increasing the variability for the ball to end up inside/outside/ etc. Additionally, as outside attackers, you want to keep the ball in front of you as well as the court. Starting off the net and wide of the antenna can maximize your ability to see the court and attack the ball efficiently off a block/ through a seam/ etc. while also keeping the attacker in a safe attacking position. We have all seen too many hitters reach back over their body to attack a ball, and therefore, land on one foot snapping the ACL. And we love keeping players healthy by landing on 2 feet! Bottom line, how far PAST the attack line the hitter starts off the net depends on your personnel and your setter.
Regarding back row attacks, it depends on what speed you run your back row attack at. Rule of thumb is to have them start approx. 8 feet behind the attack line and then adjust the timing to the speed at which you’re running a back row attack. The faster the speed, the earlier the hitter leaves for their approach, and the more precise the setter-hitter connection must be.
Follow up question:
As far as the one step outside of court when approaching from outside is that the rule of thumb that you should stat just about one step wide o antenna. I seem to see most top hitters about 3 ft wide of antenna and 15-20 back. Would it bad to consistently approach from say 8-9 feet wide of antenna and maybe only 13 feet deep. In other words the top hitters seem to approach from about a 100 degree angle to the net vs 120-130 degrees to net. It's seems some wide is good like you say, but if too wide you are more limited on where you can hit with power such as down the line is almost removed as an option with power.
Follow up Answer:
We like our outsides to start AT LEAST a couple feet wide of the antenna, so they still can adjust to attack the line and come in for an inside set. Now, each hitter will be different and each hitter needs to track the ball comfortably where he/she can still adjust to the set. That said, there will be variability in where the attacker starts their approach from – i.e. the top athletes in the country are starting 15ft back because they can be dynamic for 15-20 feet. However, keep in mind that these are the top athletes in the country, and what fits their style of play may not fit everybody’s style. I agree with the point that if you are too wide, it limits your ability to attack the line for some attackers. Your challenge is to find where the hitters best starting position is – i.e. a balance between far enough off the net that they can still be dynamic to the ball and wide enough that they still can track the ball in front of them to hit line or cross.
Regarding the second question – totally understand what he means now! When the ball is OS from the back row, we tell our outsides to stay a bit wider than they normally would and at least a couple feet behind the end line. Because the angle is far different tracking a ball that comes over your head nearly from the back row, staying a few feet wider than normal will allow you to track the ball in front and explode to the ball. We emphasize getting wide for an out of system ball, and waiting even longer to start the approach. We also emphasize our back row out of system ball to be high and inside.
Marie E. Zidek
DePaul University Volleyball