What is a libero in volleyball (1)

Like many other sports, Volleyball involves different positions, and each plays a different role in the team. In volleyball, there are five precisely opposites, setter, outside hitter, middle blocker, and libero. However, in this blog post, we will cover one that involves mainly defense and passing: the position of the libero.

First of all, the libero in volleyball is the only position where a player wears a different jersey. Yet many people still don’t know the exact rules, so I still often get questions regarding the role of the libero. The role of the libero entered the volleyball game in 1998, and I am surprised that still many people don’t know about it.

As football/soccer has goalkeepers to protect the goal, volleyball has a libero, and it’s their role to keep the ball in the air and make sure it doesn’t hit the ground.

Why does the libero need to wear a different jersey?

Libero needs to wear a different jersey due to specific rules and limitations and must be visible to referees to make calls easier. We will go through this in detail for you to easily understand it.

The basic rules of the libero in volleyball

  • 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 the 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 the libero gets injured and must finish the volleyball game early, the team can substitute the libero with one of the regular players. However, the player must put on a marker shirt to be visible to the referee and teammates.
  • From 2021 the libero can be the team captain, which before was not possible.
Libero playing positions on the volleyball court

What does the libero do?


The libero in volleyball should be the best defensive player on the team. Scoring points after attractive defenses can lift the team mentally, consequently increasing the overall quality of the team’s performance. One of the key things the libero should constantly do is cheer other teammates between points to help them stay motivated continuously.

Most of the time, the libero changes one of the middle blockers on the team after they go out of the service rotation. Moreover, In most scenarios, the libero plays in position 5, and it’s usually left with more court area to defend. Of course, that depends on the opponent and team tactics, but that is typically the case.

Liberos should also know how to play other positions, due to how flexible the volleyball game is becoming.

For example, most of the spikes go towards zone 6, but the outside hitter doesn’t perform well defensively; Putting the libero to defend that zone can be the only solution to make as many defensive actions as possible.

Libero – Defence


Another crucial skill that every libero needs is passing the ball. Scoring a side-out point should be the volleyball team’s number one priority. For that, you need first a great pass so the teammates can perform a successful spike.

The task of the libero is to cover as much court as possible and help others with passing the serve. On the highest level that became normality, best liberos even make switches to completely take out the outside hitter, protect him and make sure that reception is on point.

Libero – Passing Helping Other Passers


Though not performed as many times as reception or defense, the libero in volleyball also has to know how to set the ball effectively. In the end, he is the first one who should try to set the ball to the teammates in case the setter touches the ball first. It’s important to remember the rule that limits the overhead set behind the 3m line to perform an action properly.

Libero – Setting Behind 3m Line

Great liberos are warriors on the volleyball court

For the liberos to succeed, they need to be warriors on the court to catch difficult powerful attacks and balls that bounce off the block. Quick reactions are essential for the libero. Furthermore, they need strong and explosive legs, so they need a specific gym program to improve volleyball reactions. As I already said, they need to keep the ball in the air at all costs.

That means constantly diving on the ground, sometimes jumping over the banners behind the court, on tribunes, and over the home team’s bench. The libero also has to be mentally strong, which is a necessity in volleyball. It can happen that they don’t touch the ball for a certain period while playing, so the focus must be on point all the time because when the ball goes toward them, they have to react as effectively as possible.

Despite wearing a different jersey, many fans still overlook the liberos from a performance standpoint of view in Volleyball.

One thing that liberos don’t do is score points. In many cases, people only see the worst moments that libero does. Of course, when there are attractive defenses in play, they are noticeable, but the games happen where they get almost no touches in that time liberos get zero credit, even if they had a good game. That’s why mental toughness plays such a crucial role.

THe libero needs to be vocal

The key to the volleyball team’s success is communication; in a word, the players need to be vocal, however, libero should be on top out of all!

What Great libero needs to do in volleyball?

  • Communicate with teammates, especially with those on the net ( Blockers)
  • Liberos needs to take all court on easy free balls.
  • Help the spikers call on how many opponents are in the block.
  • Being a leader in defense means positioning other players when they stand in the wrong place of the court.
  • Libero needs to help other passers take up more court.
  • Regularly calling “My ball” or “Mine” to keep the ball in the air and avoid unnecessary mistakes.

Does the libero have to be small?

By watching volleyball games, you probably noticed that liberos are overall smaller than other players. Smaller players are usually more explosive and faster, so putting them in the libero position would make the most sense. But is it?

Yeah, in a sense, the libero needs to be explosive and fast but to play on the highest level of volleyball, you need to have long arms and a long first step, so being small in that case doesn’t help that much. The ideal height for a libero in men’s volleyball is 185cm—however, there are some exceptions like Kyle Dagostino and Japanese liberos, which defy that rule.

Most Common injuries that liberos can get in volleyball

Injuries in Volleyball are not as common as in other sports. If they happen, they happen on the higher level of Volleyball. Where there are more jumps involved, more forces are put on joints, which can lead to unwanted injuries. On the other hand, Liberos don’t make any jumps, therefore making it a much safer position in terms of injuries. Don’t get me wrong; they can still happen, tho they are much less common. What liberos can expect is lots of bruises and scratches, which are highly annoying at the start but get better over time when they get used to it.

For volleyball beginners especially liberos, it’s highly advisable to wear the necessary protection to protect the joints against injuries and bruises. Knee pads are an essential piece of equipment, so your knees will be protected in the beginning when the technique of diving is not mastered yet. The same goes for volleyball shoes. In order to protect your ankles and feet you need good quality shoes!

Best volleyball shoes for the libero / Editor’s choice

Asics Netburner FF (MT3)



Why do liberos wear a different color?

The FIVB and other confederation rules strictly say that a Libero must wear different jerseys while in the game. The referees can easily recognize them due to the limitations they have to play. Some of those limitations are that they are not allowed to play in the front row of the court, cannot serve, and cannot set the ball inside the 3m line. Before, there was also a rule forbidding Libero from being a captain; however, that rule was changed recently.

Why is it called a Libero?

Libero in Italian means free. In short, it means free player. That is because Liberos can change freely, and any substitution with a back-row player doesn’t count as a substitution.

Why is the Libero not Allowed to serve?

The Libero is not allowed to serve due to the FIVB rulebook; however, they can serve in some leagues in the US. We think that rule they are not allowed to serve is logical because it becomes a big mess on the court with all the substitutions back and forth. The way FIVB made that rule is simpler to follow both for fans and for the referees.

What happens if a libero attacks?

They can attack but under certain circumstances. In the moment of the spike, their hand must be under the net’s height. That way, the spike is regular, even for a libero. For every attack that is above the net, a point will be given to an opponent team.

Why is the libero always the shortest player on the team?

It is not always the case; however, in most cases, it is. They are the shortest because their main job is to play defense and receive. Because of that, the liberos need to have fast reaction times and reach top speed in the shortest time possible. Being shorter can be beneficial in these cases. In our opinion, the perfect height for the Libero is 185cm for men, when for women 170cm


Now when someone asks you next time what libero’s position is, you know the answer! Detailed tips for every volleyball position, including libero, will be covered in our next everyday blog posts.

So what do you think about the libero in volleyball? Would you give it a try? Let us know in the comments section!

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