Shorter vs. Taller Middle Blockers
One of the toughest positions to fill is the middle blocker area. The middle blocker needs to be dominant, strong, and quick. So does the coach go with a middle who is six foot four inches, has long arms but can’t jump very well? Or go with a middle blocker who is five foot eleven, has good hops, and hustles?
This is almost like the story of David versus Goliath. No one expected little David to take down the larger and much stronger Goliath. But there is more to a player than being naturally tall. Just because a player may be taller does not mean they fill the position better than someone who is shorter. In the situation addressed above it would be smarter to go with the shorter middle blocker in the line up.
A critical role the middle blocker plays in the line up is blocking in the three main areas of the net; the middle, the left side, and the right side. The middle blocker must be able to more horizontally very quickly and with absolute control not to hit their fellow teammates. With the example above, the taller middle blocker cannot jump very well meaning they probably do not have the best footwork in the gym. The shorter middle blocker can jump meaning their footwork is fluid, which is crucial in moving horizontally.
Looking at the other side of the coin though, the taller blocker does not need to jump as high to get their hands above the net when blocking. This is helpful during the quicker offensive sets such as the quick, bick, huts, slides, and shoots. If the taller block can just throw their hands up in the air and wave them like they just don’t care, the probability of them getting at least a touch on the ball is much higher than those of the shorter blocker who must jump every time in order to get their hands above the net.
The other critical role the middle blocker has is they must be an offensive threat at the net as well. We know that the taller blocker cannot jump and the shorter one can. With that in mind this most likely means the shorter middle blocker is more coordinated and probably has better mechanics when it comes to attacking the ball. Something all shorter hitters have to learn because of their size is how to hit smarter rather than harder. Being shorter the hitter will not be able to attack straight down like most taller players can. Therefore, the shorter hitter will probably utilize more tips and placement hits than pounding the ball every time. This then confuses the defense because they will not know what kind of attack is coming next.
Of course the coach must think about the situation and the team they are playing when deciding who to play. With this situation we have established though, it is better to go with the shorter blocker because it is not the quantity but the quality that matters.