There are 4 main positions when it comes to volleyball (1 is broken down into 2 different spots): Setter, Wing Spiker (2 left sides and 1 right side is the standard), Middle Blocker, and Libero. Each of these positions plays a specific, key role in winning a volleyball match. Positions on the court are simple to follow, each position is opposite of its matching position (left sides are opposite of each other, middles are opposite of each other, and the right side is opposite of the setter). Each player must pay special attention to how they are lined up when waiting for a serve, specific cross-overs are illegal before the ball is in play. If this is called by a referee, it is considered an out of the rotation. Once someone serves, players on the court can go wherever they want and not worry about crossing other players.
Most teams include a captain and a Vice-captain; depending on the size of the team, the captain is usually a third-year while the Vice-captain is a third-year or second-year. The captain traditionally wears the number '1' on his jersey, however, this is not always the case. All captains have an underlined jersey number, though.
Setters orchestrate the attacks. They are the playmakers of the volleyball team and are analogous to point guards and quarterbacks. Their responsibilities are to run the team's attacks and build up potential scoring opportunities for the team. They aim for the second touch and their main responsibility is to place the ball in the air for the attackers to send into the opponents' court for a point.
They play both front row and back row; therefore they need to be able to both block (defending) and serve (attacking). They have to be able to operate with the spikers, manage the tempo of their team's side of the court, and choose the right attackers to set to. Setters need to be able to make quick and skillful evaluations, good communication skills and tactical accuracy and must be quick enough to move around the court.
Middle Blockers are also known as Middle Hitters.
For defending, middle blockers are near the net in the middle of the court, between the two outside blockers. They are primarily responsible for blocks, meaning they must attempt to stop equally fast plays from their opponents and be able to quickly set up a double block at the sides of the court.
For attacking, middle blockers perform very fast attacks that usually take place near the setter. They will usually hit quick sets or serve as decoys to confuse the opponents' blockers if their passes are good enough.
For a non-beginners play, every team will have two middle blockers.
Liberos are exclusively defensive positions. They are responsible for receiving an attack or serve and are usually the players on the court with the quickest reaction time and best passing skills. They also showcase impressive reading skills, meaning they can see/predict where the ball will go. A common misconception is that liberos are ambidextrous in life, when in fact they are usually only ambidextrous in volleyball. This gives them an edge when playing defense as they can receive hard to get balls from either side with equal success. Libero means 'free' in Italian because liberos have the ability to substitute for any other player on the court during each play. However, they can't be switched in/out with the player about to serve or be switched in/out during a rally. Once a libero is switched out, they must remain off the court for a point before returning to the court which is accomplished if they are switching for someone after they are done the serving. They are meant to switch out with those with the weakest receiving skills, this usually leads them to switch with the middle blockers as they are often extremely tall and have trouble receiving (though this is not always the case).
Liberos only play in the back row and are often the pillar of the defense. If a team is struggling with receiving, they will often try to find a way to change their formation in order to give the libero more court to cover or direct the ball to the libero to improve their chances of receiving the ball well. They have to wear a contrasting color compared with the rest of the team since the switch they make is considered an illegal substitution for other positions. For a libero, height doesn't matter since they aren't allowed to block, spike, or participate in mid-air combat as spikers can. This allows shorter players with strong passing and defensive skills to excel in the position and play an important role in the team's success. Due to the rules, they can't become captain either, though liberos often have the qualities of a captain. A libero can pass a ball to a spiker, but he or she must follow specific rules; otherwise, it's a penalty. The rule that is addressed most in the anime is the rule stating a libero can't make an overhand toss to a spiker if they step over the ten-foot line (in the anime liberos get around this by jumping over the line and tossing before they land).
Wing Spikers are the players who carry the serve receive responsibility along with the libero. They are usually the ones who attack with the ball, which the setter sets to the antenna at either the left or right side of the court, and usually scores the most points in the game. Spikers play both the front row and the back row.
Wing spikers are generally divided into two types:
- Left-Wing Spikers, also known as Left-side Hitters or Outside Hitters, attack from near the left antenna. The outside hitter is usually the most consistent hitter on the team and gets the most sets. Inaccurate first passes usually result in a set to the outside hitter rather than the middle or opposite. Since most sets to the outside are high, the outside hitter may take a longer approach, always starting from outside the court sideline. For a non-beginners play, there are again two outside hitters on every team in every match.
- Right-Wing Spikers, also known as Right-side Hitters or Opposite Hitters, carry the defensive workload for a volleyball team in the front row. Their primary responsibilities are to put up a well-formed block against the opponents' outside hitters and serve as a backup setter. Sets to the opposite usually go to the right side of the antennae. There are two types of Opposite Hitters that teams generally use; in ordinary high school formations, the Opposite Position is given to Defensive Specialists with an overall balance play, while in professional formations, the Opposite Position is given to spikers with an overall immense Offensive capabilities, they tend to not receive or block, just attack.
The Ace is responsible for spiking past the blockers with brute force. The qualities of aces are high mental strength and the ability to act accordingly when cornered, the most important ability is having confidence that they can score even when no one else has. The ace is also responsible for getting last point scores during long rallies where the ball doesn't hit the ground for an extended period of time.
Although an ace needs a huge amount of fighting power, being an ace doesn't really require great strength. Some aces have control rather than power and are capable of aiming in the weak spot of a blocker or making a feint spike to throw the blockers off to score.
The decoys are responsible for tricking the opposing blockers and defense. They fake a spike to throw the opponents off and stall them so another teammate can take a point for the team. Some decoys have a huge amount of fighting strength or pure talent to gain the opponent's attention; this makes opponents keep an eye on the decoy instead of the true spiker, tricking them in the process.
If by any chance the decoy becomes ineffective, no spiker is free and will mostly get blocked due to the blockers being able to anticipate the spiker.
The Pinch Servers are switched into the game to get an advantage over the opponents or at crucial times, usually near match point. They have to perform risky serves to gain points for the team. The serves usually have to be extremely powerful or unique, such as the "Jump Float Serve, or the underhand Ceiling Serve(Tokyo Spring Nationals).
Serve Controllers are pinch servers who have impressive control over their serves, adding rotation to the ball so that the receivers won't be able to receive the ball properly. Alternatively, they can also aim their serves (aiming in the middle of two people or aiming to the weakest receiver) or simply curve the ball to the open area of the court.
Power Servers are another type of pinch server that is capable of getting a service ace. Rather than relying on control, these servers rely on pure brute strength. They are capable of serves resembling spikes, as the power behind them increases their speed drastically. The ball will be so fast that the receiver will have a hard time trying to receive it. If the receiver does receive the ball, the ball will either come back to the serving team as a chance ball or it will bounce off the court.
At some levels where substitutions are unlimited, teams will make use of a Defensive Specialist in place of or in addition to a libero. This position does not have unique rules like the libero position; instead, these players are used to substitute out a poor back row defender using regular substitution rules. These players and liberos are often interchangeable with each other. Having both types of players allows a team to have improved defense as well as flexibility with the line-up. If the libero is having an off day, the defensive specialist and the libero can switch positions before a match starts in order to give the team a better chance of winning. A defensive specialist is often used if there is a particularly poor backcourt defender on the right side or left side and the team is already using a libero. Most often, the situation involves a team using the right side player with a big block who must be subbed out in the back row because they aren't able to effectively play defense.
Similarly, teams might use a Serving Specialist to sub out a poor server. Pinch servers are considered serving specialists. Some serving specialists are subbed in not because the person they are replacing is a poor server, but because it is a crucial moment in the game or the server being subbed in has a serve that will be more effective. This strategy is used near the end of games in order to extend the team's lead or to close the point gap. These servers have often mastered multiple types of serves in order to be more effective against different teams.
Coaches are the people in charge of the team. They make all the big decisions for the team, like submitting line-ups, calling time-outs, communicating with referees, etc. They are in charge of the training and building strategies for the team. Coaches are usually former players themselves, so they have experience with multiple aspects of the game. They are able to assess from the sideline and decide what changes need to be made, they then tell the player that needs to know or they tell the captain who then relays the message to whoever needs to know. They constantly coach the team by teaching them new methods and conducting frequent practice matches with both each other and other teams.
Managers are responsible for the well-being of the team. They record statistics of team-play, refill the players' water bottles, help with injuries, provide food occasionally, and cheer the players on. Managers attend official matches along with the team, but only one manager is allowed to be on the bench with the coach and advisor.
Advisors are responsible for the team overall. They do not coach or take care of the players' necessities, though some advisers help arrange practice matches or buy new uniforms for the teams. Advisers' jobs are to look after the team and make sure the team is active, communicate with the school and the players' teachers, etc. They may also be teachers themselves, so they also keep track of players' academic performances.