Best Volleyball Position for Tall Players? (Solved)

best volleyball position for tall players

Height is definitely a great advantage in a sport like volleyball, it allows to execute almost all the required moves to help your team get the victory. However, being tall could be an even bigger advantage if the player chooses to play in the right position. Indeed …

The best volleyball position for tall players is the Middle Blocker. This is typically regarded as the first line of defence against the hits from the opposing team. The middle blocker needs to anticipate what the attackers from the other team are going to do, and then raise their arms to block their spikes.

In this article, I breakdown this position even more, But most importantly, I provide Useful & Actionable tips to help tall players make the most out of their height.

Why the middle blocker should be tall? (More about this position)

Tall volleyball players have an advantage when it comes to blocking the other team’s attacks. Because not only can they leap above the height of the net but they can also use the length of their arms to stretch out across the width of the net to cut down the angles and the space for the oppositions’ spike.

Although their action is primarily defensive, a middle blocker can be responsible for scoring a lot of points for their team if their blocks are successful and the ball falls back on the other side of the net.

Helpful Tip: Middle blockers obviously have to jump very frequently to stop the opposition attacks. To be able to do so with maximum protection, they need to tape their fingers to avoid finger injuries and they need quality volleyball shoes with solid grip and cushioning (Check this example) to have minimum impact on feet and knees after landing for vertical jumps.

Height though is not the only attribute needed to play in this position. A middle blocker also needs to:

  • Be aware of their surroundings at all times
  • Watch the movements and position of their opponents.
  • Make key decisions like when to time their jumps and also the angles to take with their blocks.
  • Pick up subtle hints such as looking at the shoulder position of an opponent and even looking into their eyes to detect where they are intending to hit the ball.
  • Communicate with their team mates, especially those in the back row who may have a better understanding about what is going on than those closer to the net.

A middle blocker should never be afraid to ask colleagues for their thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.

Is this also the case for women volleyball?

The same is true for women volleyball players, in that the tallest ladies on the team are generally deployed as Middle Blockers.

The average height of women is obviously lower than man, but the height of the net used is low as well, so, in comparative terms, the same principles apply. And the same skills and techniques that a male player needs to have to play Middle Blocker equally are attributable to female players.

This does not mean that tall players have to be pigeon-holed into being Middle Blockers. There are plenty of other positions on the court where they can play.

However, height can certainly be an advantage when setting, and outside hitters are almost always tall players.

It should also be noted that many youth coaches , especially for girls, try to put the emphasis away form height …

Indeed, they argue that technique is more important then physical attributes and they are keen that shorter players are not discouraged from taking up the sport.

Is being tall a disadvantage in volleyball?

While it is commonly held that being tall is a distinct advantage when it comes to volleyball, this is actually not 100% accurate. Height is never a deciding factor in determining whether somebody will be any good at the sport.

For example, shorter players often excel in the libero position because it involves a great deal of digging spikes and shots from the opposition and they have less far to stoop to retrieve the ball.

Equally some of the best setters over the years have been of average height only, and they have played in teams that have appeared in World Championships and the Olympics.

By the way, the setter is considered as the most critical volleyball position!

Height though may determine where somebody plays on a volleyball court. Tall players will normally appear in the front line where they can block spikes from the opposing team, or win points by hitting the ball over the net.

Shorter players gravitate to the back line where their role is mainly defensive, although, with only three contacts allowed before the ball has to go over the net, they are usually the first point of the attack. Playing in the back row means that the ability to jump very high is not a pre-requisite.

Being tall can be a disadvantage is when it comes to ball-handling skills. They may have less fast response times, and be less alert and able to respond than shorter teammates.

A shorter player can touch the ground and take the ball with a lot more ease than somebody taller, which also means they are likely to have much more control of the ball. This is vital when it comes to setting up an attack.

Best height for volleyball?

In professional volleyball, the average height for men players is between 1.85 metres to 2.10 metres (6 feet 1 inch to 6 feet 10 inches) tall. For women it ranges between 1.70 metre and 1.95 metres (5 feet 7 inches to 6 feet 5 inches) tall.

This is an average range only – there are many players much taller than this.

Being on the low end of that average (or even lower) should be no impediment to be able to play and enjoy the sport.

Indeed, excellent coaching can often compensate for a lack of inches. Being able to leap high is not just something that comes with being tall. There are techniques that have to be learned to maximise elevation.

Helpful Tip: Whether you are tall or not, you probably should practice your vertical jump to enhance your blocking & spiking abilities. You can drill this at home by utilizing this vertical jump trainer. It will definitely help you jump higher and strengthen your legs as well.

And there is also evidence to suggest that playing volleyball makes people taller anyway in the long run, so, even if somebody is below average height to begin with, they may be able to grow an inch or two over time.

Can tall players play as liberoes?

Tall players do not typically play as liberoes! Generally, Libero is a position reserved for shorter players

There are specific reasons why this is a rarity. Indeed, it is a waste of the physical advantage that a tall player possesses.

A libero is a purely defensive player and he always stays in the back court, meaning that they are not expected to go near the net unless there is a momentum that caries them there. In such an instance, being tall can actually be a drawback.

There is also the fact that, liberoes do not serve (except in certain women’s competitions). Since a powerful serve can be a very effective weapon and some of the most powerful servers are tall players, opting to deploy one as a libero is not a wise choice tactically.

A libero will be required to a lot of running and retrieving during a game, which means that the role tends to suit those of a smaller, more agile physique. That is not to say that tall players are not fast around the court, but frequent changes of direction can be more difficult for them.

Finally, I think you should learn the right way to choose a volleyball position!

Any recommended drills for taller players?

Footwork is key to being a good middle blocker and, as this role is often occupied by the tallest player in the team, there are specific drills to practice this.

There are three basic movements:

  • The hop-step
  • The shuffle step
  • And the swing step.

The hop step is the quickest step to use and covers the shortest distance along the net. It is essentially a short sideways jump using one foot at a time. Practice this leading with one foot and then the other, to ensure that a player is equally adept on both wings.

A shuffle step, by contrast, involves picking up the outside foot in the direction they are moving towards. That means that, if they are moving right, then they pick up their right foot first and vice versa if they are moving left.

The swing step is a more advanced drill and involves crossing over – moving to the right, a player crosses over with their left foot, and then applies the reverse movement when going to the left.

Examples of tall successful volleyball players …

Dmitriy Muserskiy is a Russian volleyball player of Ukrainian descent. He stands at 7 feet 2 inches tall (218 cm) and is renowned both as a middle blocker and opposite.

With the national team he won the FivB World League and the World Cup, and gold at the London Olympics  2012, as well as a host of other medals, Individually he has been honoured as the best server, the best blocker, and the best middle blocker in the World League.

Just one inch shorter than him is the Pole Bartlomiej Lemanski. One of the best middle blockers in European volleyball, he won a bronze medal at the Under-19 World Championship in 2013, and has played for the full Polish national team since 2017, and won a silver medal at the World Cup in 2019.

How their height has helped them?

Their height has helped these volleyball players to get above the net both to spike and block the ball. Taller players naturally have a higher reach, are able to get above the net both quicker and more easily, and it also gives them better court coverage.

Of course, it is not the sole determining factor for players like Muserskiy and Lemanski. They must have a level of innate ability as well, and they would have practised long and hard to get to the top.

However, there can be no denying that their physical attributes have helped keep them at the elite level of the sport.

Final Thoughts …

Taking advantage of your physical attributes (like height) in a high agility and high pace sport like volleyball is definitely key to success!

However, this should never be in detriment of the skills you should keep building over time as well as your shape and conditioning.

Make your height work for you without relying on it!

Those who solely rely on the gifts God gave them will always come up short, but those who utilize those gifts to build up skills, techniques and game IQ will come up on top.

Finally, if you love challenges and really want to challenge yourself, then I invite you learn about probably the hardest volleyball position ou there!

Carissa Harmer

Carissa Harmer has over 6 years of volleyball experience between playing the sport at a semi-professional level, following the biggest volleyball teams & leagues out there as well as helping beginners to get started on the right path.

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