I'd like to thank West Coast Beach Volleyball Club for the opportunity to write for them and share my insights into setting. A little background on me, I’ve been playing beach volleyball for 15 years and 6 years internationally representing England & Great Britain. I’ve won best setter on the UKBT the past 4 years. Ironically, I was one of the worst setters on tour when I started and only found my setting groove in the last 5 years.
I’ve gone full circle I suppose from being far below average to having my peers recognise my improvement. In this blog, I’ll be talking about preparation, footwork, ball contact, ball placement and what to do after you’ve set.
Before I talk about the technical aspects of setting, I think it's really important to have the right mindset (excuse the pun), especially when it comes to hand setting. You have to just be confident and not scared or have self-doubts on using your hands. USA Olympian Casey Patterson sums it up perfectly, “put the label on your back, I am a hand setter”. I would also encourage you all to watch this video by the Mckibben’s about setting mindset here.
Preparation is everything! from tracking the ball onto your partner's platform and making your first move towards the ball. Think slow to fast, you want to be meeting the ball at the optimum moment. Not being too late and rushing or too early and having the ball move because of the wind and being out of position. A good way of evaluating this is to think can I attack the 2nd ball? There's no chance if you're too late or early, if you can spike it then you're meeting the ball at the best time to set.
Now that you’ve nailed your preparation, it's all about the footwork! When getting to the ball you need to take big steps to get there and then take smaller steps to readjust you positioning before contacting the ball. Whichever leg is closest to the net be sure to have that in front to prevent oversetting and giving an accurate set. Learn more from this video by USA athlete Mark Burik here.
You're now rolling into the perfect setting position, how you contact the ball either utilises the preparation and footwork or wastes it. Bump setting or dig setting is all about relaxing those forearms and letting the legs do the work. Try to relax those forearms as much as possible having just enough tension to make your platform, the energy in the set comes from the legs, the perfect beach set is a whole-body movement when compared to its indoor counterpart.
Hand setting contact is very much the same. Relax those hands and think of them as hinges, the more you use the legs the more consistent your setting will become. Here is a great video highlighting the wrong contacts when setting, stay clear of these and you’ll be setting sweet nectar in no time.
Everything is looking good as you set the ball but what’s the right ball placement? it's subjective and can be something that you and your partner do differently from the rest. Kantor/Losiak of Poland do some incredible plays and then other teams set a more stable ‘up and down ball’. but the basic fundament is always present as a setter, make sure you're facing or in line with the post/Arial. Whether this is in system or out of system it's a great rule of thumb and starting point when your team is designing its own offensive style.
What to do after the set? The only thing to do as a setter now is cover the hitter when you're pushing through the set with your legs, you’ll naturally have forward momentum and as such will find yourself in the right position to cover. Sometimes this is hard when admiring your own set, but after following all these steps that should be your biggest problem when it comes to setting.
Lastly, it's about practice. Setting is a style and no two people set the same way much like a basketball jump shot or a tennis player forehand. They can be similar but never identical, so don’t over analyse your own style or others, just enjoy practising a new skill. I personally could never set when I started on the beach and was reluctant to try and handset. I took example from one of my favourite players on the world tour Casey Patterson, He talks about what makes him a great hand setter and talks about his insights.
Thank you for reading and I hope that it has been useful, if you have any questions on setting or would like to know more feel free to reach out, equally feel free to grab me at a UKBT event. Hopefully, I’ll be at the UKBT Edinburgh Grand Slam 2021.
Finally, a huge thanks to West Coast Beach Volleyball Club for giving me the opportunity to share on your blog. I hope all your members enjoy the beach and this blog.
To stay up to date with Mark you can check out his Instagram.