Outside hitters have been voted over and over again, by players and coaches, as one of the most important players on the court. Good outside hitters will rarely leave the court and be more well-rounded as a player due to their skills in all aspects of the game.
Because these are important players, they are also one of the top recruited players and so to be a top recruit you have to not only be a great outside, but the best.
1) Create A Dominant Mentality
How do you become the best outside hitter around? You have to believe it. How do you believe it? You have to work harder than everyone else around you. You have to guarantee that you are putting more hours into practicing and working out than any other outside.
You have to be the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. In every drill, in every practice, in every game, and in every play you are giving one hundred percent of what you can give.
The coaches will see this as well as the teammates around you, who will be inspired to be more like you, which then will inspire you to do even more. If you believe it and you play like you're the best outside, then coaches will see that confidence and ability. There is a thin line between overconfident and humbleness, a great player is humble with their skills and always looking to improve.
2) Develop A Well-Rounded Skillset
As an outside hitter who has a chance to play six rotations, you have to be a well-rounded player to go beyond good to great. If you're great at attacking but weak at blocking or defense, work on your weaknesses to improve them so that you can be a more versatile player.
In order to be the best outside hitter you need to play all six rotations, which means you need to know how to play defense, how to read the block, how to cover, how to adjust, how to serve, and how to attack from the back row.
3) Increase Your Volleyball IQ
To be the best you need have skills in: blocking, attacking, serving, passing, defending, reading, and leading. This isn't a small feat and will take a lot of work, but it can be done.
Practice, practice, practice.
With all of this practice and work on really every single skill of volleyball (you're doing every skill besides setting!) your volleyball IQ should increase as you become more versatile and learn how the game is played. When other players are confused about weird plays or advanced opponents you will be ready and expect anything!
4) Master The Attack
One of the most important skills though, for an outside, is the attack. As an outside hitter you will be getting more balls set to you than any other player (these are the statistics and it is a rare team that doesn't set the outside the most). Because of this you are also the player who is most often getting the "bad sets," or the sets that come from passes that cannot set up a middle or opposite hitter.
To be the best outside hitter you need to be able to place the ball well: down the line, sharp cross court, deep cross court, off the block, in the campfire zone, and hit down the seam when the block is late or not there.
A big game changer in recent years in women's volleyball is hitting from the back row. If you can master this well, where the setter can actually set you up so that you're jumping right at the ten foot line and landing in front of it, then you can become an offensive force not only when you're front row, but when you're back row as well.
5) Obsess Over Your Passing
The surest way to get an outside hitter out of the game, onto the bench, is for the player to not be good at passing serve receive balls. If you're not good at serve receiving, and if you're especially not better at serve receiving than the other outside, you probably won't be the outside hitter playing all six rotations.
Continue to work on your passing and if you become great at it then you will rise above other outside hitters around you and continue to play!
Becoming a great outside hitter is a hard task in that there are so many elements to it. But there is simplicity in the idea that you just have to play volleyball, play it a ton, work on it a lot, go to every practice, camp, and open gym that you can, and eventually your time in the gym will pay off and you will become one of the best players!
Rebekah Morris is a contributing writer and former D-III volleyball player at Minnesota-Morris, with over a decade of experience at the club, high school, and collegiate levels. She currently serves as head coach at her former high school in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.