There are six basic player positions on the court. At any time, three players are front row,
and three are back row. This distinction defines their actions. There is no rule that prevents
any player from being in front of or behind the attack line before, during, or after play.
The players are lined up in serving order. Each row has a right, center, and left, as shown below.
No back row player may have a foot on the floor closer to the net than their corresponding front
row player. They have no front to back relationship with the other front row players. The
arrows show the relationships.
No center player (front or back) may have a foot on the floor closer to either sideline than their
matching left or right player. E.g., the center back may not be closer to the right sideline than
the right back, but may be closer to the right sideline than the right front.
How We Track -- Tricks of Our Trade
We typically don't use the basic positions to track the players, but we need to know them
to explain what is wrong. We will say something like, "11 you are the left front, you have to
be in front of 10." It is best when making an alignment call to freeze the players on the
court where they stand, and explain the problem loud enough that the coach can hear it.
Some coaches don't get alignment too well, and will realize what you are saying. Some players get
alignment and will help their teammates. Nothing is better than when one player says, "We're in
5" and her teammate says, "We're in 6", and an argument breaks out. Now everyone believes you.
Your job is then to get the players lined up right, and play resumed, as quickly as possible.
Often, her response will be "I'm the setter." Your response will be, "Yes, and you are the
left front too." And her response will be, "But, I'm the SETTER." To which your response
will be "Yes, but you are the left front too."
To track alignment, we usually start during warmup. We identify the setter (or setters if the team
is running a 6-2). We then get the starting lineup submitted by the coaches and find that person. If
there is one setter, find her, and then move up or down three spots. That person will be the "opposite".
If there are two setters, they will be three spots apart.
12 <----- We found out she is our setter during warmups
11 <----- Three spots down. She didn't set during warmups. She's "opposite."
If 11 set during warmups too and is on the lineup, we'd figure they are running a 6-2, and both of them will set. Often two or more people will set during warmups, but only one will set during the match. We find who it is by checking the lineup!
The chart below shows the relationship between the setter and her opposite. If one is front, the
other is back. If one is left, the other is right, if one is center, so is the other one.
So during the match, we are going to watch the setter. If she is left front, but the opposite is
center back, we know they are out of alignment. Then we use our officiating experience and vast
knowledge of the sport to figure out how. The green, white, and black lines show us what relationships
we have to look for.
A couple notes about calling alignment:
- The most common violation that rookies see is the setter leaving early, that is, being in
too far in front or outside a teammate (and in motion) at the moment of the serve. Most of the
time, this is a cheap, unnecessary call. Call the setter leaving early if she is leaving a lot
early, or if it is creating an obvious advantage. Do it early in the match. Don't make a cheap
call late in a set or match, unless it is aggregious.
- Coaches will try to put their best passers in the middle of the floor all the time. If they
do it without properly moving the other players to keep the required relationships, its cheating
and you have to stop it.
- Good officials call maybe half of the illegal alignments they see. Its knowing which ones to
call and when which mark you as a good official.
- If a coach intentionally moves players into illegal positions during play because they have been
shanking served balls, you absolutely have to call it. It is not only cheating, it can confuse the
players about what is legal and what is not.
- If you make the players get out of their formation at the start of the set when you check the
lineups, you have just told the coach that you don't understand their rotations, and they have free
reign to cheat. This is bad. If you cannot see the alignment without making the players move, you
have work to do.
- Even though we watch the setter and opposite, it is also true that the two middle blockers are
opposite, and governed by the chart above, and the two outsides are opposite and governed by the
chart above. So if one middle is left back and the other is center front, they are also out of
- When the right back is off the court serving, they do not count in the alignment at all.
Go On To Our Example.