Using Offensive Systems to Develop Players

Jason reading is notes before a match

Jason Trepannier, Ontario Volleyball Association, Technical Director, Jason grew up in Ottawa where he began playing volleyball. He went to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and graduated in 1999 with a degree in Economics. He was a member of Team Canada from 1999 to 2000, (bronze medallist at the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg) and played for various Professional Clubs in Europe from 1999 to 2006. Prior to holding his current position as the Technical Director, Jason worked as the OVA’s Performance Enhancement Program’s Head Coach.

By Jason Trepanier   

I was recently at a volleyball conference and watched a presentation on the relatively unheard of 6-3 offensive system. As the session went on I started to realize that it wasn’t being presented as the offensive system that would win you the next tournament, but rather, as a system that would give your young players what they needed, a broad skill set. This was because the 6-3 isn’t an overly specialized system; everyone plays multiple positions on the court and learns to use a wide variety of techniques. I thought this line of thinking would make our National Team coaches happy because they’re always looking for players who are great at a couple of things and good at everything else.

As the presentation went on, I wondered whether or not there is a sensible progression of offensive systems that a school or club could use as their athletes get older, a progression that would maximize not only the number of players the club would be able to place in college or university, but also the number of matches their 18U or senior teams could win. There probably isn’t an exact formula, but from an athlete development perspective, there would certainly be some systems that would be better than others at each level. To give you an idea of what I mean, I’ve described a few offensive systems below with their advantages, disadvantages, and a recommendation for the age group with which they’d work best, all from an athlete development point of view.

6-6 (6 hitters and 6 setters)

How it works: Whoever happens to be in a certain position, usually 2,3 or 1, is the setter. Everyone else plays whatever position they happen to be standing in. If you’re in 4, you play leftside, if you’re in 6, you play middle back.

Advantages: Everyone’s exposed to the skills, movements and challenges associated with all the positions. Doing this enables all your players to develop wide variety of skills and abilities. Whoever coaches the team the following year would be inheriting a team of versatile players with a solid base.

Disadvantages: Your team’s level of play will suffer in the short term.

Recommended age group: Middle school/14U and younger.

6-3 (6 hitters and 3 setters)

How it works: 3 setters are on the court but not lined up beside each other. When one of the setters reaches position 2 and 3 or 1 and 6 (depending on the coaches preference) they become the designated setter. Other than that, everyone else plays wherever they happen to be. 

Advantages: Again, everyone is exposed to a variety of positions and develops a well rounded skill set. By having your best 3 players to set, the quality of your team’s second contact would be better than that of a 6-6 and you’d be making sure your club had lots of players with setting experience in the years to come.

Disadvantages: Like the 6-6 system, your team may not perform to its potential at the next tournament, but the players will certainly benefit in the long run.

Recommended age group: Junior High School/15U and younger

4-2 (4 hitters and 2 setters)

How it works: 2 setters are lined up opposite each other. Whichever one happens to be in the front row becomes the setter. The other players generally play wherever they happen to be.

Advantages: The setters never have to penetrate, which makes it easier on them, and they are always able to put the ball over on two if they get into trouble. Your attackers should get some good sets with your best 2 setters playing every ball. 

Disadvantages: Your team will only 2 hitters in the front row at any one time.

Recommended age group: Junior High School/15U and younger

6-2 (6 hitters and 2 setters)

How it works: 2 setters are lined up opposite each other. Whichever setter is in the back row becomes the setter for that rally. The other players can switch into specialized positions if you prefer, meaning middles switch into 3 when they are in the front row or leftsides into 4 etc…

Advantages: There are always 3 hitters in the front row and your hitters should get some great sets with your best 2 setters getting every second contact. As a club, you’re also making sure that you are developing multiple setters while at the same time allowing them to work on their attacking abilities.

Disadvantages: Not the best system for developing young athletes because it requires  less than an optimal amount of specialization.

Recommended age group: Senior High School/16U and up

5-1 (5 hitters and 1 setter)

How it works: 1 setter sets all the time. Everyone else specializes in their designated positions.

Advantages: The specific positions you assign each player can take advantage of what they do best (or their best skill/ability). Your best setter can play every second ball while your best outside hitters can attack from the outside as often as you want.

Disadvantages: You need a good back row attacker because your setter will be in the front row for 3 rotations during which you’ll only have 2 front row hitters. Young players won’t reach their long term potential in the sport as the specialized system won’t allow them to develop a well rounded skill set. Also, if used too early, your club likely won’t produce enough quality setters to be competitive year after year.

Recommended age group: Senior High School/17U and up.

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3 Responses to Using Offensive Systems to Develop Players

  1. Chris Smeaton says:

    Very nice article.

  2. Chris Smeaton says:

    Nice article.

  3. Nancy says:

    Thanks for the share!
    Nancy.R

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

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