There is nothing worse than rising to hit the ball and doing your best to take a good swing only to get the ball blocked back on your side. Scratch that, there is something worse -- when you get blocked and your teammates don't have your back.
Every time a teammate jumps to take a swing at the ball, the job of the other five people on the court is to cover that hitter. Covering a hitter is the act of strategically placing players around the hitter as she attacks the ball against the opponent's blockers. If the ball is blocked, her teammates make an attempt to cover her, or dig the ball off the block.
- Cover Tight to the Hitter
The formation for a textbook cover for an outside hitter is to have three players closely surrounding the hitter, one inside the hitter at the net (usually the middle blocker,) one inside the hitter around the ten foot line (usually the setter) and one on the sideline behind the hitter (usually the left back.) These three will try to get the ball that is blocked straight down and the ball that is soft blocked in the front part of the court.
- Cover the Deep Block
The ball can also be blocked deep into the court, so the other two players are placed in the court down the line (usually the middle back) and deep cross court (usually the right back or opposite.) These two players are expected to run down a deep ball in between them as they will have more time to get there. They may also have to set the second ball or run down a cover that the one of the three tight to the hitter makes if that person was unable to control it.
- Stop Once in Position
Make sure to be completely stopped when your hitter takes her swing even if you are not quite in position yet. You are much more likely to be able to move to the ball from a stop than from a run in the wrong direction.
- Keep Your Hands Out
A blocked ball can come back at any speed. If the hitter is blocked straight down, her teammates will have very little time to react, making it very difficult to get the ball up. The key to covering is to stay low in your ready position with your knees bent, your arms out and your head up. Keep your arms available so the ball can bounce off of you even if you haven't had time to react to it.
- Control the Ball
Many times the ball comes back easily and in this case it is important to control the dig and keep it on your side so that your team can get another chance to attack. If you don't keep the ball on your side, it can be an easy overpass kill for your opponent.