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   I’ve been playing club volleyball for several years, and I’ve always been an opposite hitter.  But now my high school coach wants me...

   I’ve been playing club volleyball for several years, and I’ve always been an opposite hitter.  But now my high school coach wants me to be the setter. I’ve never been a setter, but he told me I’d be the best one we have. I would rather play outside hitter, because that’s what I’m best at. I just don’t feel confident as the setter. What should I tell the coach?

— H.T., Roseville

   Playing a team sport is always more complicated than playing an individual sport. In golf, in tennis, in chess, you’re basically on your own. You win, you lose, you draw — whatever. But it’s on you.

   A team sport, however, is a different story. You have to meld your talents and abilities in with the rest of the group — and of course the coach has to make it all work, one way or another.

   I’ve been around several high school volleyball teams that have struggled to find a setter, and what a coach often winds up doing is taking the most likely athlete on the team and inserting her into that crucial position. Apparently, that’s what’s happened to you.

   It is understandable that everyone wants to be good at what they’re doing. You’re comfortable as an opposite hitter, you know exactly which you need to do, and to a certain extent, there’s not a lot of pressure.

   Obviously, it’s different as a setter. Not only is it a completely different skill set than opposite hitter, it’s also very, very pressure-packed. The setter basically handles the ball on every play, and if she doesn’t do things well, not only will her team struggle, sometimes the other players will be upset with her too — even though they really shouldn’t be.

   Nonetheless, it never hurts to get out of your comfort zone. You’re in high school, which is a time to experiment, a time to start figuring out what you can do and what you can’t do. Who knows? You might turn out to be a very good setter and this may be your new position. Then again, maybe not — maybe you are best cast as an opposite hitter.

   But volleyball is a team sport. You are on a team. That means you need to do what’s best for its teens, not what’s best for you.

   So rather than indulge yourself in frustration at a position change you’re not really excited about, I’d suggest embracing the opportunity and see just how well you can do in this new situation. Throughout your life, you’re going to be asked to do things you don’t necessarily want to do, but people will still expect you to do the job well. This is a chance to learn how to deal with that kind of situation, and also a chance to help your team be the best team it can be.

   And again, you might find you really like being a setter, and that you’ll enjoy the game even more than you did before. You won’t know until you try.

Clay Kallam has served as an athletic director and as a coach of many sports at high schools throughout the Bay Area. To submit a question for Behind the Clipboard, email him at

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