Setter’s Story: A Volleyball Metaphor for Life

Our teenage daughter is a volleyball player. I take that back. She’s not just a player. This kid lives for volleyball. She’s in the gym for hours on end every week. She scours YouTube for videos that teach techniques or highlight amazing plays. She talks about footwork at the dinner table. I’m not bragging when I say that she’s good. I am bragging when I talk about the effort she puts into her sport, sacrificing downtime to practice and playing through an injury because her team relies on her. She will suck it up and play her best game every time she’s on that court. It’s not just a seasonal school sport for her, it’s a yearlong passion.

She is the setter for her team. Think of that as the quarterback or the point guard. Setters play both front and back rows and must be able to block, serve and play defense. It’s her job to set the ball up for the hitters to make those amazing smashes over the net. Setters are required to be all over the court; however, they don’t get the glory. The crowd erupts for the hitters. As with any team sport, the position that scores gets the attention, but it takes the whole team to make that happen.

So, when some boys at her school were making some chatter about which girl was the best player on the volleyball team, they commented that it was a hitter. They may not have been kind with their words or well-informed about each position as they debated the skill levels of the players. They’re teenagers, after all. Our daughter wasn’t particularly hurt by the noise. She has been a setter for years and realizes that the importance of her position isn’t always understood.  Her biggest concern was the issue of singling out one player. If the passer didn’t pass and she didn’t do her job as the setter, the hitter couldn’t have scored those points. She was more bothered by the fact that these fellas didn’t get the big picture. It seemed to her that they missed the whole point of training and playing as a team. They didn’t understand the level of commitment and drive required to make teams successful, but they were more than ready to choose a favorite player. It’s true, not all of the positions are glamorous. Not all of the players stand out during every game. But, a team is definitely not held up by one person or one position.

That led to a conversation that transferred to life. I’ve found myself in the setter position often. Haven’t you? Think about those times when you’ve worked tirelessly behind the scenes at your job, but a co-worker gets the credit. How about the fact that your kids might never notice that laundry is washed and folded every day until they need that specific shirt? How about this one- “I thought you always did that!” This one is my personal favorite, following a chore that became expected as opposed to respected. Let’s not forget about the group school projects when only one kid actually does the assignment, but five others also get the A.

I kind of equate the setter skills in life to those things that we do so well, no one really sees the effort. Yet, if we didn’t do them, everyone would notice. The hitter couldn’t score if we didn’t set that ball, right?

I’m thinking that the setter position of life requires a few specific beliefs for success.

That’s where motivation comes into play. You can’t be motivated by the cheer of the crowd. Your motivation must come from within, that deep desire to leave all that you have on that court. It can’t be about the score or the applause. It has to be about knowing that you gave it your all because you accept nothing less from yourself.

That’s where humbleness comes into play. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that you did something amazing. There’s everything wrong with letting the world think that you were the only one who could. Take ownership of your talents and share them, but don’t use them to make others feel unworthy.

IMG_5098That’s where tolerance comes into play. So what if people don’t see what you did behind the scenes. So what if another person gets recognized in your place. You know what you did. You know what motivated your efforts. No one can take that away. Smile at yourself in the mirror and maybe treat yourself to a double scoop ice cream cone. Let the attitudes of others be their problem. You be the example.

That’s where patience comes into play. There may be times when the efforts or skills of others don’t match yours. That’s fine. That’s what we call those teachable moments. Have patience and guide those around you. Share your skills and wisdom, but be patient enough to let them catch up at their own pace.

That’s where grace comes into play. Always lead with grace whether you’re the setter or the hitter in life. That’s how the real points are scored anyway.


  1. I love this.. As a former volleyball player I can understand the passion your daughter all the time. That dedication is important to achieve her goals on the team. Also is amazing that you support her.. Also I understand not everybody understand every position on the team unless you play. For me her position is most important but every position matter… About Your metaphor, is on point. Every position on a team work is to make everyone look good doing the correct and right stuff to make it happen. It also make me think about family. (mom dad and baby in my case). Nice post…Good Luck to her…


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