In football, it’s the quarterback. Everyone wants to be Peyton Manning; very few want to be Jeff Saturday, though the latter is arguably even more important.
In basketball, everyone wants to be the point guard these days. It’s hard to watch Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry play and not want to do the things they do, though both have been criticized for their lackluster defense.
Quarterbacks and point guards are both considered the leaders on the court in their respective sports. The ball is in their hands in every play of the game, so it’s important to have somebody with good decision-making and a good skillset.
In volleyball, the setter fills the position of team leader, but it’s a position that’s a lot less glamorous than the other sports.
The setter is the only player on a volleyball court that will touch the ball every single possession. One out of every three touches will be the setter. That’s a lot more contact with the ball than any other player gets.
The setter’s job, though, is to make the rest of the players look good. If a setter is playing well, it means the other players on the team are probably going to get a lot of the glory.
Think about it this way, in basketball everyone loves to see an alley-oop, but the majority of the time, the praise isn’t going to the player who passes the ball, rather to the player who dunks it. In volleyball, the praise doesn’t often go to the player who sets the hitter up, but to the player who gets the kill.
I’m not sure that any other sport demands the skill level that volleyball demands of a setter.
First, they have to have good enough vision to see how the players across the net are reacting before they set the ball, while also focusing on positioning themselves under the ball and where their hitters are.
They have to be able to block as well as any front row player as most setters will line up on the right side across from the opponents’ strongest hitters.
They have to be able to play defense as well as the back row players, while also setting from the back right position when they’re in the back row.
Several collegiate setters go on to have stellar professional beach volleyball careers due to the skill set demanded of the sport when only two players are present on the court.
I’ve personally never been a setter. I’ve always been attracted to the feeling of getting a big hit, and not so much to watching other players hit.
As a coach, though, it’s hard not to acknowledge the importance of having a setter who excels at each of the skills I listed. Sometimes, the most important position in a sport isn’t always the most praised.
Jacob Smith is a staff writer for The Democrat. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @wilsonnewsroom.