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Volleyball Rotations

What are Volleyball Rotations and Why are They Crucial to Winning

When it comes to volleyball rotations, which is a relatively new concept, coordination between the players has a crucial role to play in deciding the fate of the team.
Abhijit Naik
Last Updated: Apr 20, 2018
Introduction of the rotation system in volleyball has made the sport faster and more interesting. Going by the basics of this system, each player has to play from each of the positions on the court at some or the other point during the game. Volleyball positions can be grouped into two categories: player positions, such as middle back and left front, and specialist positions, such as setter and blocker.
Volleyball Positions
The 6 players in each volleyball team are divided into two rows of 3 players each. The front row consists of the left front, middle front, and right front, while the back row consists of the left back, middle back, and right back. Besides these, there are some specialist positions, which are taken by players specializing in a particular aspect of the game. According to the new rules, the players have to start form their respective court positions, however, they can move to their specialist position upon completion of the serve. In volleyball, rotation is basically in the clockwise direction, wherein each player moves to the next spot every time the team wins a serve. Every player, except the libero, is supposed to rotate and play on each court position during the game.
Basic Volleyball Rotations
Basically, the team can start the game with players in any position, however, they need to ensure that the positions are maintained as the game progresses. This means that a particular player will remain in the same position corresponding to the other players, on his either side, throughout the game. The players have to execute rotation each time they break the opponent's serve.
The rotation will be executed by each player in the front row moving one spot towards his right, and each player in the back row moving one spot towards his left. For instance, the player at the left front position will move to the middle front position, and the player in the left back position will move to the left front position. The same thing will be carried out by other players, each moving to the next spot. This will also ensure that the ball will always be served by the player in the right back position. One case of exception in to this rule is the libero, who doesn't have to be an active part of the team rotation. The libero continues being in the back row with the primary responsibility of digging and supplying the ball.
Player Positions on Court

Player Positions When the Game Begins

P1 P2 P3
P6 P5 P4

Rotation after First Serve Break

P6 P1 P2
P5 P4 P3

Rotation after Second Serve Break

P5 P6 P1
P4 P3 P2

Subsequent Rotations in Same Clockwise Format 
Though it is compulsory for the players to switch to their respective positions before the ball is served, they can move to their specialist positions as soon as the serve is executed. Ideally, rotation is executed in such a manner that a specialist setter, outside hitter, and a middle blocker are in the front row of the court at any point of time in the game. For this, the teams may either opt for a 6 - 2 formation, wherein two specialist setters set the ball―one for each row, or 5 - 1 formation, wherein a single setter sets the ball by moving over to his specialist position on the court after the serve is executed.
Foul: Overlapping
If the player is standing in the wrong position, or if players switch position before the ball is served, then it will be considered 'overlap', which will earn a point for the opposition. The best method to avoid the confusion is to mark the fellow player standing right opposite to your position. In the above diagram, player 1 and player 4 will be always standing opposite to each other. If player 1 is the middle front position, player 4 will be the middle back, and if player 1 will be in the left front position, player 4 will be the right back. Following this method will ensure that the players are not caught overlapping each others position. Other than this, each player can keep a track of the two players on his either side.
It is important to understand the basics of volleyball in order to master the game. Though the rules on rotation may make it seem a bit complicated initially, practicing the formations will help you master them with immense ease.