A volleyball setter coordinates the offense of his or her team during a match.
In addition to telling each spiker what to run during the rally, a large part of this is instructing them.
It is common for setters to use hand signals to instruct their teammates on what type of attack they intend to set for them following the conclusion of a point.
Players can quickly and inconspicuously convey information to one another using a different hand signal for each type of set.
A sample of what that play looks like will be provided along with each of the most common hand signals used by setters in this article.
It is important to note that the names and corresponding hand signals for each set/attack vary significantly from country to country, so if you are living somewhere other than the USA, these hand signals may be different.
Middle Attack Hand Signals
In the middle of the court, middle blockers usually run fast attacks: 1, Push 1, 3/Shoot, Back 1, Slide. In addition, there is the 2 ball, also known as the meter ball.
When one finger is held up, a “1” is indicated.
The middle blocker is set up close to the setter, which is a standard quick set.
Two fingers are held up to indicate a “2”.
In this case, the ball will be set high in the middle of the court to the front. Below is a picture of a meter ball, which is the lower/quicker version (shown below).
3 or Shoot
When you hold up 3 fingers or make a gun symbol with your index finger and thumb, that’s when you’re indicating a “3” or “shoot.”
This quick attack, also known as a “3” or “shoot”, is pushed over the left shoulder of the setter by more than an inch.
When holding up your pinky finger, you are indicating a “back 1”.
A “1” is identical to this, except that it runs behind the setter rather than in front of him.
In order to indicate a “push 1,” flex your index finger.
Quick set that is off-center (farther to the left than a typical 1).
By making a shaka sign, a “slide” is indicated.
When the MB attacks from the middle or left side of the court, he runs to the right side of the court. It is usually recommended to set the ball three to four feet above the net. In most cases, the attacker will jump off one leg and slide down.
B [Back Row Attack]
Drawing a line down the center of your right chest muscle indicates a “B.”.
The B attack should be on the court at the point where you would signal an A and a pipe.
Between positions 6 and 5, the “B” ball is a back row attack that takes place in between an “A” and a “pipe”. In addition, it’s a relatively rare attack.
C [Back Row Attack]
If you draw a line down the middle of your left chest muscle, you will have a “C.”.
On the court, you should draw a line between where you should signal a D and a pipe, which is where you should signal a C attack.
C balls are used in back row attacks between positions 6 and 1 – they’re right in between a “D” and a “pipe”. Furthermore, it’s an extremely rare attack.
Pipe [Back Row Attack]
If you draw a line down the middle of your chest, you will be able to identify a “pipe.”
In basketball, the “pipe” is an attack from the back row through the center of the court.
Left Side Attack Hand Signals
The left-hand side of the court usually has four types of sets: Go, Hut, 4, 32, or Rip. A ball like this is usually attacked by an outside hitter.
Making the gun symbol with your index and middle fingers and thumb indicates that you are ready to go.
The tempo outside of the attack is even faster in this “2nd step”.
If the setter is contacting the ball on the second step of their approach, the outside hitter should be on the second step of their approach.
When you make a slash across your chest, you indicate that you are in a “hut.”. Just a single slash is usually enough – I apologize for the excessive gif below.
Compared to the last set, this one has a faster tempo and a lower arching outside set.
The number “4” is indicated by holding up four fingers.
An attacker on the left side receives this traditional high ball set.
32 or Rip
Using your hand, make an arch to indicate a “32” or a “rip”.
The external high ball above positions 3 and 4 is called a “32” or a “rip”.
A [Back Row Attack]
In order to draw an “A,” you need to draw a line near your right shoulder over your upper chest.
Known as the “A” ball, it is an extremely rare back-row attack from the back/left side of the court (position 5). As opposed to a D, it’s the mirror image.
This guide will help you understand volleyball positions in detail.
Right Side Attack Hand Signals
We have the Back 2, 5, Red, and D on the right side of the court, which are back-row attacks. These plays are typically run by the opposing hitter.
When five fingers are held up, a “5” is indicated.
On the right side of the court, this is a fairly high ball.
Closed fists are used to indicate “red”.
The “red” is a version of the 5 that is faster and lower in tempo.
D [Back Row Attack]
A D is indicated by a line drawn over the left shoulder of your upper chest.
Usually, the opposite hitter runs a “D” attack from the right side of the back row.
You can indicate the “back 2” by holding your pinky and ring finger up.
It is a set directly behind the left-side setter to the right-side attacker. Position 3 and 2 are the correct places to set the ball.
Moreover, you can also read Volleyball Setter Drills
The BIC – Quick Back Row Attack
BICs are back-row quick attacks performed at a faster tempo or with a lower tempo than the previous back-row attacks.
When you make a fist and flash your thumb like you are lighting a lighter, you’re signaling a BIC.
This BIC signal is made while the setter makes the normal back row play signal (A, B, C, D, pipe) to indicate a faster tempo.
The BIC pipe looks like this:
There is no better example of a BIC pipe than this play from Lucas Saatkamp.
Because back-row attacks are executed quickly, the BIC concept doesn’t really exist at a high level.
A BIC pipe would therefore simply be called a pipe by top volleyballers.
It’s nice to know what these different hand signals mean, even if you can’t distinguish between back-row attack tempos, so you’re not surprised when you see them in practice.
Combination Play Hand Signals
Sometimes, setters run combination plays, which are unorthodox attacks run around a condensed area of the court by attackers.
A combo play usually involves both the center and one of the wing attackers attacking from the center of the court, but usually the outside hits from the left, opposite from the right, and the middle from the center.
To confuse opposition blockers, the idea is to confuse them.
A Double-Quick Combo Attack
When you hold up your index and pinky fingers, you are indicating a “double-quick” combo.
It is fairly self-explanatory what a “double quick” combination play involves.
It is a play during which the middle blocker and opposite hitter are playing, the MB hitting a one and the opposite hitting a “back one”.
The X-Combo Attack
When you cross your index and middle fingers over each other, you indicate an “X” combo play.
It involves the middle blocker and one of the wing spikers. The ‘X’ combo is also called a tandem attack. In general, the middle spiker runs a quick, while the wing spiker usually runs a 2, Back 2, or 32.
It gets its name from the two attacking players crossing paths almost like an X in their approaches.
What does 2 fingers mean in volleyball?
A player pointing down behind their backs is usually making a blocking hand signal, which means they intend to block their opponent across the court.
Two fingers (peace sign) refer to meter ball attacks (also called twos) which are relatively low, medium-tempo attacks through the center of the court.
Setters who hold up both their ring and pinky fingers are indicting a “back 2”, which is the same as a 2, but behind them and to the right of the court, between positions 3 and 2.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Confusion and miscommunication can result from inconsistent or unclear signals.
Overcomplicating advanced signals can result in errors, even if they are effective. The importance of striking a balance between complexity and simplicity cannot be overstated.
Not Every Setter Uses These Hand Signals!
For each of the above sets, we have completely different names and hand signals in the United States, where I grew up playing volleyball.
In the Netherlands and other European countries, the hand signals are also very different.
The hand signals in each country seem to differ from region to region within the country.
I’ve mentioned above that the signals I’ve discussed should be fairly common in the US.
What are the ways in which setters communicate with spikers?
Since setters don’t want the opposition to know their strategy, they use hand signals.
A verbal communication would let the other team know what kind of attack the team is running, allowing the blockers to respond accordingly.
How Come Volleyball Players Hold Fingers Behind Their Backs?
During points, setters use hand signals to signal their opponents either behind their backs or by shielding the signal with their shirts.
Setters will even shield themselves with a teammate so that the opposing spikers can’t see these hand signals.
Additional Hand Signals In Volleyball
The setter is not the only player who uses hand signals behind his back on the indoor volleyball court.
The open and closed fists of middle blockers indicate whether they are reading or committing to block the opponent’s middle.
As they cross court or block the line, wing spikers hold up one or two fingers behind their backs to signal the libero and other defenders.
In beach volleyball, this is also a common practice.
Hand signals can also be used in both disciplines to communicate where the ball should be served to the server.
You can also read Volleyball Setter Workouts
What does the fist mean in volleyball?
In this case, the setter is telling their opposite hitter to run a “red” by making the closed fist.
Also known as a blocking hand signal, the closed fist indicates that the player will not commit a block against the opponent.
In other words, depending on the set, they’ll hang back and read the block before moving forward.
How can I learn setter hand signals?
Practicing setter hand signals is key to learning them. Make sure your team develops clear, concise signals and practices them regularly during training sessions.
Are setter hand signals the same in all levels of volleyball?
In advanced volleyball programs, advanced setter signals and combinations may be used to gain a strategic advantage.
Can opponents decipher setter hand signals?
In predictable hand signals, opponents may be able to decipher the setter’s intentions. For this reason, it’s important to keep signals discrete and occasionally use fake signals.
What if a player doesn’t understand the setter’s signals?
The key to success is communication. To ensure everyone is on the same page, players should communicate with their setter if they don’t understand the setter’s signals.
How can I improve my setter hand signal communication as a team?
As a team, setter hand signals should be improved through trust, practice, and nonverbal cues. For effective communication on the court, it is vital to build a strong team dynamic.
Volleyball is a sport in which every second counts and setter hand signals are imperative. Team secret languages enable teams to coordinate, strategize, and outmaneuver their opponents.
Team play can be elevated to new heights if setter hand signals are perfected, trust and communication are fostered, and trust and communication are improved.