How to Set a Beach Volleyball

In theory, the set is a fairly simple maneuver. It’s an overhead motion in which a player quickly contacts the ball in order to set up the spike. This may sound simple enough, and it’s true that the motion itself is not complex, but the rules regarding the legality of the resulting set can complicate the matter. This guide is an overview of the important technical elements involved in setting.

Setting Posture

Setting posture refers to the ideal body position of a player immediately before setting the ball. Whenever possible you want to set from a balanced position (weight evenly distributed). Good balance will allow you to move in any direction more efficiently, and will also make it easier to simultaneously contact the ball with both hands. Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding setting posture:

  • The feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  • One foot should be slightly in front of the other.
  • Knees should be slightly bent.
  • Hands should be positioned directly over the forehead with the elbows pointing to the sides.

Establishing good posture habits early on will pay off as you continue to hone your setting skills. So do your best to exhibit flawless setting posture as you become more comfortable with the technique.

Hand Positioning

One of the keys to executing a legal set is keeping the ball on the fingertips. Proper hand positioning will help ensure that the ball never wanders. Here’s how to find your optimal hand position:

  • Bring your hands together to make a triangle with your fingers (the thumbs, index, and middle fingers should be touching their counterparts on the other hand).
  • Move your hands above your head and then rotate the wrists so the palms are facing up towards the sky (make sure the fingers are still touching when you move the hands).
  • Separate the hands slightly, so that the distance between the fingers is about the width of a volleyball.

Placing a ball in the hands is a good way to test whether or not your hand positioning is adequate. If your hands are too far apart the ball will slip through your finger tips.


Now that you’ve got the posture and hand positioning down, it’s time to focus on what to do when the ball actually gets to you.

As the ball approaches, begin to relax the hands slightly and allow the ball to fall into your hands. The amount of time your hands are actually in contact with the ball is tiny. So once the ball hits your finger tips, immediately extend your arms and wrists to push the ball upward. It is important to straighten your arms completely when releasing the ball, which is called your “follow through.”

Hot Tip: Superman

When you follow through after your set, you should look like Superman: Your hands will be pointed up toward the sky with the palms facing downward.


You’ve now got all the makings of a great setter: Superior setting posture? Check. Hand positioning? Check. As long as every pass comes right to you, you’re all set. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are slim to none. Setting requires a ton of movement; that’s why footwork is so important.

To get into position to set a pass that is off-target, run to the spot where the ball will land — no special technique is need, a good sprint will do. Make sure you get yourself in a balanced, athletic position before setting the ball. This is perhaps more difficult to execute than it sounds at game speed when you’re constantly running around, so you have to employ good footwork.

Set it Up!

Talented setters, like Misty May, make setting look like a piece of cake: They navigate the court with ease and seem to possess an uncanny ability to turn every shank into a perfect set. Unfortunately, setting isn’t always as easy as they make it look. In fact, setting is probably the most difficult of the fundamental skills to master, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Learning the art of setting takes a little bit of technique and a lot of practice. Follow the advice above, and you’ll be channeling Misty in no time flat.

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