This complete guide will describe the volleyball position of a libero in-depth and give the whole perspective on all the skills necessary to master it, from a technical to a mentality/communication standpoint. As a professional volleyball libero, I will give the best advice from my everyday playing experience.
Let’s go through each segment slowly and implement it into your game in steps. It will take time to develop all those skills, and I assure you that it is impossible to learn everything in a day. As with everything, the learning curve will take time, but if you approach the training correctly, you should see the improvements faster.
In this article, I will describe the libero position for complete volleyball beginners and, after, describe fundamentals with some essential tactical advice for each skill segment.
1. What is a libero in Volleyball?
Like soccer has a goalkeeper who keeps the goal safe, Volleyball has a libero who is in charge of defense and reception. As a goalkeeper in soccer, Libero also wears a different color jersey from other players. The libero role was introduced into Volleyball in 1998, and it helped the game expand and gave the teams more tactical and playing variety.
Liberos wear different jerseys due to the specific rules that apply to them so that the referee can differentiate them easily from other players.
As I said main jobs of a libero are passing and defense, although they also need to know how to set the ball effectively. In case the setter defends the ball, the Libero should be the one to take responsibility for setting the ball. In some high school leagues, the Libero can serve as well.
Some libero rules so you will have a better perspective
- The primary role of the Libero in Volleyball is playing in the service reception and defense.
- According to the main rules, the Libero can play only in the back row positions and not perform an attack above the net’s height.
- A third rule you need to know is that if the Libero performs an overhead set inside the 3m line, the hitter cannot attack the ball; otherwise, the point will be assigned to the opponent.
- In Volleyball, there are six starters. However, the Libero is not one of them. The rules say that Libero can change any player in the back row that doesn’t serve, but only after the referee checks the starting lineup.
- The substitution of the Libero in Volleyball is not counted as the regular one. The Libero can change anytime but only between the point breaks and before the whistle for the service.
- If Libero gets injured and must finish the volleyball game early, the team can substitute Libero with one of the regular players. However, the player must wear a marker shirt to be visible to the referee and teammates.
- From 2021 the Libero can be the team captain, which was impossible before.
2. Reception guide for liberos
Reception in Volleyball is critical. Good reception will play a crucial role in successfully making a side-out point. It will make it easier for the setter to make precise and faster sets, which will ease the job of the hitters. In reception, there are always three players (well, almost always). Other players must be ready to receive the ball if the situation is not ideal. For example, the ball bounces short of the net.
A libero in the team should be the player who is in charge of the reception. Although it is easier said than done, due to managing five other players on the court, it is still crucial to communicate with everybody. The other two leading players in reception are outside hitters, one in the front and one in the back row. Let’s take a look at the positioning of a libero in reception in the picture down below:
Libero should always try to take more court in the reception to help outside hitters a bit. After the reception, they need to focus on the attack as well, so helping them can make spikes more effective.
How to communicate and take more reception?
The first thing when taking more court on the reception is to identify the server of the opponent team. If on the other side is a floating server, Libero can easily handle even half-court. But if on the other side is a jump server, that will be harder to achieve, and all three receivers should take the same percentage of the court.
The job of the Libero is to remember all the opponent’s servers and communicate that with other receivers. Suppose the Libero is prepared to take more court, maybe even completely cover the teammate in reception. In that case, they need to communicate that before the referee blows the whistle, not to make some stupid communicational mistakes, which in lower levels can happen quite a lot.
You can check the complete guide on how to take more court as a libero here.
How to position yourself toward the server?
Positioning the body, towards the server is very important. It makes it easier for passers to receive the seems between the players and gives more angles to receive.
The left rule and the right rule in the reception:
There is one unwritten rule in each team. If the server is serving from zone 1, all receivers should take their left seem. But if the server is serving from zone 5, all the players that are receiving should take the right side. That can change depending on the performance and how skillful the receivers are, especially Libero.
Have you ever heard of split step? A split step is one of the best methods to make the first step faster. It can help you immensely in reception or defense. A libero in Volleyball should use the split step to catch and dig the balls, which in theory, can be impossible to defend. I am not the fastest Libero in the world, not even the fastest player on the team, but by using split steps, my reactions can get 3x faster.
How to use it?
With a split step, it is essential to catch the right timing. Anticipation will play a crucial role in that. When the server hits the ball, you should already make the first step out of the split step. As a libero, you will be able to receive the short balls or on the sides much easier. You have to be always ahead of the server. Sometimes the balls can travel even over 120 km/h, which makes it extremely hard to react.
Positioning the arms and staying low:
Having the correct positions of the arms is also crucial in the reception. I am speaking about using forearms for reception here. Having the correct positions of the arms and shoulders will allow the Libero to make a precise pass and reduce the chance of the mistake. Check the position of the arms of the best Libero in Volleyball, Jani Kovačič.
The hands are together, and the angle of the arms is positioned towards the setter. The flexibility of the upper body is very important to make positioning the arms easier. And to keep them close! You can’t be a world-class libero if you can’t put both forearms together.
Stay low, but not too low. Why? This may sound controversial because many coaches swear on deep positions in reception or defense. See, I will say that the perfect position with legs would be with about 90 degrees angle; I figured out that you will get the most explosive first step with such an angle. You can watch Zatorski’s position in the video down below.
Also, consider what services the opponent is performing. If it jumps serves, stay lower than with float serve.
Reception using fingers
Be aware of when to receive it with a bagger and when with your fingers. Fingers will be very useful to use in case of float serve. It is easier to control the ball. You can even carry it a little bit more than with setting the ball. Also, double touch is never whistled when receiving using fingers.
Training tip for fingers reception:
- Use a medicine ball in the gym
- Spike in the wall and receive using the fingers
Different situations in the reception videos and description:
3. Defense Guide for liberos
The second most important task of a libero in Volleyball is defense. In most cases, Libero plays defense in zone 5. Tho, the position can also be played in zone 6. Depends on the tactics and where the opponent is spiking the most.
The liberos should position themselves according to the block. The block can be a single, double, and triple block. Playing defense in each situation is different. Libero should see the situation with the block and position the defense accordingly.
The difference when the blockers leave the line open:
When the line is open, the Libero has to go in that gap and cover the opened part of the volleyball court. ( that counts for parallel only) The Libero should always be positioned beside the block in a diagonal attack. In case of a closed line, a libero needs to be either one or two steps inside the court and in a higher position, to react faster on balls that bounce off the block.
It is essential that in the moment of the opponent’s spike, the Libero is in the standing position(not running). With a split step, the reaction can be much faster, so consider making a split step as well, but catch the right timing with time and practice that should come naturally.
Different ways that liberos defend the ball
This defense is usually done if the ball goes directly into the Libero’s arms. And if the ball is not too hard to defend, for example, if it bounces off the block high.
Dig with fingers:
Liberos need to be prepared even for the dig with the fingers. Sometimes the ball will be spiked toward the head of the player, and the only option in defense is using fingers.
Scoop dig is used only if the ball is fast when Libero doesn’t have time to connect the arms. The dig will not be precise as normal but can be highly effective in keeping the ball in the air.
Sometimes it can happen that liberos can’t decide with which technique they will play the ball. If it goes directly to the chest, just try to make something out of it. Although it is really hard to control the ball, it can be beneficial
If the Volleyball is traveling fast little bit offset from the Libero, it makes sense to try to defend the ball with one hand. If the spike is very powerful, using one hand can be the only option
Side dives must be used if the ball goes far on either side. Learning the technique for side diving is not easy, but every Libero in Volleyball should know how to make side dives. It can be done with one hand or two hands.
The front dive is the same as the side dive, although it is performed in front of the player. It also requires the proper technique and is not easy to master. The same as side-dive liberos can do it with one or two hands. That, of course, depends on the situation.
Pancake is probably one of the most fun and attractive ways of defending the ball. At least for me. It is done in the way that while diving, you put your hand on the floor and dig for the ball. ( I don’t have any idea how I would describe it…
If the ball bounces off the block, the only way to keep it alive is that Libero should be the first one who will run after it. After all, his reactions and speed should be the fastest on the team.
Collection of the training for libero defense and reaction:
How to improve reaction time in Volleyball?
Reaction times play a significant role for every Libero in Volleyball. Having faster reaction times helps them catch balls that are, in theory, impossible. But how to improve reaction times?
So as I said, making a split step could make the reactions faster, same with the angle of your legs. You should not be positioned too deep.
Explosivity in legs
The next thing is achieving top speed faster. The first three steps are crucial for liberos to catch the balls that bounce off the block. Having fast first three steps will help achieve top speed faster. That is something that can be improved by doing exercises in the gym—working on leg strength and explosivity.
Here are some exercises you can do to achieve more explosivity in the legs:
Faster reactions with arms:
Sometimes the ball goes at such a high speed that it is almost impossible to react in time. Anticipation and reaction in the arms will play a crucial role in that. To improve better anticipation of the spike, you will need to practice a lot of practice. Examine what the opponent spikers are doing, how high they spike, whether they are spiking mostly beside the block or over, and watch their hand. (For example, if they have their hand high, it will probably be tip or roll(short ball)) Those things can be predicted even before.
What is also crucial is having fast reactions in the arms. The best liberos in the world usually do specific exercises to gain faster reaction times. Those exercises are shown in the video down below.
4. A setting guide for Liberos in Volleyball
In the game of Volleyball, the setting is usually the main aspect that is performed by the setter. But in the game, the situation can happen that the setter cannot get to the ball effectively, so the other players have to be ready to take responsibility and set the ball. Usually, the teams have a tactic: if the setter defends the ball or gives a free ball, a libero is the one whose job is to set it. So as a libero, it is also necessary to have that skill.
There will come different situations and places where the setter or any other player will defend the ball. If the ball is far from the net, sets should be high enough and precise, which will make the job easier for the attacker to spike the ball. Using forearms for setting is also an option if the ball is too far.
Different situations that Libero needs to know and what options they have in the attack:
The ball is defended in the middle of the court
When the ball is defended in the middle of the court, it is ideal for a libero to perform a successful set in front or back attacker. Remember, liberos can set with fingers only if they stand behind the 3 m line.
The ball is defended inside the 3m line
If the ball is defended inside the 3m lines, Libero needs to either jump behind the line and set the ball with fingers(recommended only for more skilled liberos) or set it with a forearm pass. Also, the set can go to the front or back player in that situation.
The ball is defended far from the net:
If the Libero is skilled enough, they can still set the ball far from the net to both sides of the court, either front or back. But I recommend that you choose the attacker in front if it’s really hard and high defense. The attacker is in zone 2 or 1. (Opposite/Outside hitter)
The ball is defended toward zone 5
If the ball is defended towards zone 5, the easiest target for the set should be the outside hitter in zone 4. Libero in zone 5 can set the ball much more precisely to a shorter distance.
The ball is defended very far from the net, and it is impossible to set the perfect ball
For the balls that are defended very far from the net, I got really good advice from my coach in the Slovenian national team Slobodan Kovač: Those balls should always be set close to the net, doesn’t matter where. Three players on the net can push the ball to the other side of the court.
Balls should always be set close to the net, never too far, because it is hard to do anything with that set but only give a free ball to the opponent team.
How to improve the setting for liberos?
You must practice and make lots of repetitions to get better at setting the balls. Exercises should be similar to setter exercises, although the focus should be set from not the most ideal situations. Setting while in motion, setting far balls away from the net, setting with bump set, and so on.
5. How to get better at communication skills for a libero?
Communication skills will also play a significant role to not making unnecessary team mistakes. As I already mentioned being a libero takes the most responsibility in the team in defensive situations.
Communication skills will get better through more practice and time. We will go through some situations when the Libero should communicate and take responsibility for taking the ball.
When the opponent’s team is putting the easy ball over the net, the Libero should be the one who takes responsibility. To do that, they need to call mine and communicate to teammates that they will be the ones who will take the free ball.
The same applies to setting; if the setter defends the ball, even if the team tactics deregulate that the Libero is setting those balls, it should be communicated. Same in this situation would be best to call with a simple “my ball.” That way, it will get clear immediately who is setting the ball. Say it out loud!
Calling how many blockers are in the block of the opponent team
The crucial part of the game of Volleyball is also to let the attackers know how many opponents they have in the block. The Libero should be the main player who communicates that with the attacker by shouting either one, two, or three.
Calling without the block
If the opponent team is not in an ideal situation to perform an attack, nobody should jump in the block because those are the balls the defense has to take care of. The Libero needs to recognize the situation and call without the block. The players on the net need to listen because Libero should have the best perspective on the situation.
If the Libero recognize that the ball will go out on reception or defense, they need to call that as well. Those small responsibilities can make a difference in a game of Volleyball.
6. Cheering the teammates
Cheering the teammates after the amazing points is also necessary because it will allow everybody to lift the team’s overall performance. Energy in the court will be better. Have you ever seen liberos that are jumping in the player’s chest? That is the proper attitude of the liberos. (Don’t do that if you are too heavy as me, not to injure someone)
There you go! That was our full guide for a libero volleyball position that can help you improve and maybe one day even helps you to achieve your dream goal of becoming a professional. We went through the Libero’s position, its necessary aspects, and tasks and gave the most comprehensive tips from a professional point of view. We will include more volleyball tips in other posts, so don’t forget to share this content and our website because our mission is to spread volleyball advice and amazing volleyball content to everybody.