Volleyball Positions: A Guide to Roles and Specializations

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Volleyball positions can be confusing with their various names, but fear not! In this article, we’ll explain the different volleyball positions, their names, and what each position entails.

Before we delve into specializations, it’s helpful to understand the base positions and their names. There are six players, thus six different base positions: “right-back,” “right-front,” “middle-front,” “left-front,” “left-back,” and “middle-back.” These positions are often denoted by numbers, as shown in the diagram below.

Image: Volleybal XL

Positions 2, 3, and 4 are located in front of the three-meter line, known as the “net” or the “frontcourt.” Positions 1, 5, and 6 are positioned behind the three-meter line, known as the “backcourt.” After each service, players rotate, meaning each player spends three rotations in the frontcourt and three rotations in the backcourt.

However, despite the base positions, players are only required to be in their specific position when the opponent serves. After that, players are free to move around the court. There is one restriction, though: backcourt players are not allowed to attack within the three-meter line. This means that the left-back player can move to the right-back position and vice versa.

Positioning Error?

During the service, it’s important to avoid positioning errors. If one of your teammates is not in the correct order when the server contacts the ball, your team commits a positioning error. For instance, as a middle-front player (position 3), you should be positioned between the left-front and right-front players (positions 4 and 2), and always in front of the middle-back player (position 6). If you are the left-back player (position 5), you should be positioned behind the left-front player (position 4) and to the left of the middle-back player (position 6). When your own team is serving, you can already be in your designated position.


Players come in different heights, speeds, and qualities. Each player has their own characteristics and strengths. Some players excel at attacking, while others are proficient in setting. Let’s explore the different specializations:

The Setter

We all know the rule that a team can touch the ball three times before sending it back over the net. First, there’s the defense, followed by the set, usually performed by the setter as the second touch, and then the spike. The setter receives the ball from the defense and skillfully sets it (using an overhead pass) to one of the attackers. The setter determines which attacker receives the set, aiming to make it difficult for the opponent by distributing the ball effectively. The setter controls the game.

After the service, the setter moves to the right side of the court. If the setter is in the frontcourt (e.g., right-front or middle-front), they will move to the right-front position. If the setter is in the backcourt (left-back or middle-back), they will assume the right-back position and act as a defender during a counterattack.

Opposite Hitter

The opposite hitter is often one of the best attackers in the team, especially in top-level play. Think of players like Nimir Abdelaziz, who was considered the most successful volleyball player in the world in 2021.

The opposite hitter is positioned opposite the setter in the court, hence the name “opposite.” So, when the setter is in the right-front position, the opposite hitter is in the left-back position. The opposite hitter is the player to whom the setter delivers the ball for an attacking hit.

Outside Hitters

Also known as “wing spikers” or “outside attackers,” outside hitters are typically the most versatile players in the team. They excel in both defense and offense. They receive the service, attack, and block. These two players are positioned opposite each other. One starts in the right-front position (position 2), and the other in the left-back position (position 5). After the service, the outside hitters move to the left side of the court.

Middle Blockers

Next, we have the middle blockers, known for their superior blocking skills and often being the tallest players in the team. The middle blockers’ task is to block the opposing team’s middle attacker while also assisting in blocking the outside hitters. As the name suggests, the middle blockers position themselves in the middle of the court after the service. They are not usually the best defenders, and that’s why teams sometimes utilize a libero (the player in the blue shirt in Men’s 1 team).


In volleyball, there’s a unique role for the libero. The libero can be substituted for any player in the back zone without it counting as a regular substitution. The libero is typically the team’s best defender and is often substituted for the middle blockers. However, a libero can also replace the opposite hitter, outside hitter, or setter, but only in the backcourt. The libero leaves the court when they need to rotate to the frontcourt.

Libero’s characteristics:

The libero can replace any player in the back zone. The libero can only act as a backcourt player. The libero is not allowed to serve or block. They can only attack if their hit does not go above the net. The ball must not fully cross over the net when the libero plays it to the other side. The number of substitutions for a libero is unlimited. However, at least one rally resulting in a point must be played before a libero is replaced. At the start of each set, the libero can replace a starting player only after the referee has verified the initial lineup.

And there you have it! These are all the positions and specializations in the volleyball court. If anything is unclear, if you spot a mistake, or if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at redactie@sovicos.nl.

Sources: NeVoBo, VolleybalXL, sportplezier.nl, sportloaded.