If you have been involved in volleyball in any way over the last few years you may have noticed a special position called Libero. The Libero has many responsibilities and roles that they take on as the prime defensive specialist on the team. In this article we will discuss those responsibilities and roles as well as other important information concerning the Libero position.
What Is A Libero?
The Libero position is the best passer and defensive player on the volleyball team. They are limited to only playing in the back row. Liberos wear a contrasting color jersey from their teammates so the referee can keep track of them. They can come in and out of the game without counting as a substitution. A team can only have 1 or 2 players listed as Libero on the lineup per match.
The Libero is a unique position that will be noticed right away because they will be wearing a different jersey than the rest of team. They are considered the best defensive player on the team and move quickly in and out of a match. The Libero usually replaces the middle hitter when they rotate to the back row, and they will never rotate to the front row.
When the team is receiving the ball, the Libero is in the game to add ball control and cover a lot more area on the court than the other players. They should be quick to read where the ball is going and faster at defense than the other teammates. They are there to give a smooth pass to the setter, so they can then set it up for the hitter to hit over.
History Of The Libero
The Libero position was first introduced in Italy in the late 80’s or early 90’s. The word Libero means “free” in Italian, which meant this player was free to move in and out of the court in the back row without it being a substitution. The Libero position was introduced to the United States in 1999.
When the Libero position became popular it was widely used at the international level and then brought to the NCAA in 2002. It then began to gain popularity in other levels of volleyball. Today it is used so often that even middle and high school players are trying out for Libero.
Around the same time as the Libero position was started, volleyball incorporated rally scoring. This means that when the volley stops, a team is going to get a point whether they served the ball or not. Today, all games are scored by rally score and most games go to 25 points, whereas in the past they went to 15 points. By adding the Libero position and rally scoring, this sped up the game, therefore making the game more interesting for spectators.
Rules Of The Libero
There are certain rules a player must follow when playing in the Libero position. If any of those rules are not followed, then the other team can be rewarded points. Below is a list of some of the rules a Libero must follow.
- Libero can’t start in a set. Because they substitute in for players, they are unable to be a starting player. When the lineup has been checked by a referee, they can then substitute for a player.
- Libero replacements are not counted as substitutions. They have unlimited substitutions but can only substitute after a completed rally.
- Libero must substitute in the Libero Replacement Zone. The Libero can only substitute with another player between the attack line and end line.
- Libero can serve. They can serve in one rotation position and can only serve in that position during that game. (International Liberos can not serve)
- Libero wears a different jersey color. Wearing a different color helps the referees keep track of the Libero since they don’t substitute like other players.
- Libero can jump and swing. They can attack the ball if they are behind the 10-foot line.
These are the main rules the Libero must follow while on the court. If you would like to know more of the rules for Libero, you can find them at USA Volleyball.
Responsibilities and Skills Of The Libero
The Libero has many responsibilities in the game of volleyball. They also need to posses many skills to carry out those responsibilities. In this section we will discuss what responsibilities and skills a Libero needs to be successful.
There are four responsibilities that Liberos do in a match that are very important to a team’s success.
- Serve Receive/Passing
- Cover situations
The Libero is often the strongest defensive player on the team that only plays in the back row. They are quick to get to the ball and they cover a lot of the back row. They are the player that is consistent with getting the ball up in the air to the setter. They should pass more than anyone else on the court and when the ball is between them and another player, they will generally take it.
Because a Libero is the strongest passer on the team, they will cover more area when their team is receiving a serve. They are usually on the court for every serve receive situation. No matter how hard the serve is or where it goes in the Liberos area, it is their responsibility to get the ball up to be set.
The Libero is also responsible for setting if the setter passes the ball on the first hit over. They are the back-up setter. The setter should pass the ball to the middle front of the court, so the Libero can get to it easier. A Libero should practice the skill of setting often. The better the Libero becomes at setting, the more consistent the sets will be for the hitters when the setter is unable to set.
The Libero is the player that is responsible for covering the court when hitters are hitting, or other players are passing. When a hitter goes up to hit the ball, the Libero should be behind the hitter in case it gets blocked by the other team. The Libero should also back up players that are passing the ball in case it drops or goes another way. They are constantly moving to where the ball is just in case they are needed to back up a play.
The Libero must be good at certain skills to succeed at their responsibilities at their position. Below is a list of those skills.
- Quickness: be quick to cover almost all the court at any given time
- Digging: can get to the ground to get to the ball when it is coming over straight down
- Passing: able to get the ball up to the setter smoothly to be set
- Consistency: is consistent with passing, setting, and covering the court
- Communication: be vocal to their team about where the ball is and when they are passing/setting the ball
- Aggressive: willing to go for the ball no matter what, even throw themselves on the floor for a ball
Drills For Liberos
A way for a Libero to get better at their position is to practice with drills. Below are some drills a Libero can use to improve. It is important for a Libero to keep practicing these consistently to become better at the position.
2 Player Pepper
The two players stand 10-15 feet apart. Player 1 tosses the ball to player 2. Player 2 passes the ball to player 1 then player 1 sets the ball to player 2. Player 2 hits the ball to player 1 who then needs to pass the ball up to player 2. This pattern continues. The object is to keep the ball going without dropping. This drill works on passing and setting the ball.
The Libero stands in the center of the court with hands on their knees. Another player on the baseline rolls multiple balls in random order and different directions. The Libero must try and touch each ball before it gets past them. This drill works on being quick to the ball and footwork.
Feel The Burn
Player 1 stands underneath the net while player 2 is on the 10-foot line. Player 2 tosses the ball to player 1 and they must pass it up to player 2 for one minute. They can not stand up and touch the net with their body. They must remain low while passing or the time starts over. This drill works on staying low and keeping a nice platform when passing.
The Libero practices the down line hit and cross court hit during this drill. A person/coach stands at the down line position on the same side of the net as the Libero and hits it at them to pass. Another person/coach stands cross court from the Libero and hits at them to pass it up. This drill helps Liberos practice passing up different hits and getting their arms at an angle to pass it to the setter.
Equipment For The Libero
Being a Libero in volleyball requires you to be always moving, so choosing equipment that is comfortable and allows you to move freely is important. In this section we will share our top picks for equipment of the Libero.
When looking for a good pair of volleyball shoes for the Libero position it is important they have comfort, flexibility, and durability. The Libero is always on the move so having a shoe that can fit all these requirements is essential.
- Heel cage enhances support and stability
- Foam midsole with Nike Zoom Air cushioning for lightweight responsiveness
- Durable rubber tread delivers excellent traction
The Nike Women’s Zoom Hyperace 2 volleyball shoes are very comfortable for a Libero because of the cushioning and arch support on the inside. They are lightweight making movement quicker for a Libero. The flexible material makes it easy for foot movement. These shoes are specifically designed for action on hard courts.
Many reviews of these shoes say they are more comfortable than regular Nikes. Many people said these shoes were the best volleyball shoes for their club player. There have been some complaints about the rubber not being durable and falling apart. My daughter has been wearing these shoes for three seasons and they have not fallen apart at all.
- Comfortable cushioning
- Great arch support
- Flexible material
- Designed for action on the court
- Heel cage enhances support and stability
- Durable rubber tread delivers excellent traction
- Foam midsole with Nike Zoom Air cushioning for lightweight responsiveness
The Nike Men’s Zoom Hyperace 2 volleyball Shoes are great for men Liberos. The durable rubber tread provides excellent traction while moving on the court. They don’t need much breaking in because they are ready right out of the box. On the upper part of each shoe is a cage for extra support around the feet.
Many of the reviews for these shoes said they are very comfortable and have great cushioning. They are also durable and made their feet feel snug and secure. Some say they are a little heavy but provides a solid grounded feel.
- Great cushioning
- Feel snug and secure
- Upper cage for extra support
Knee pads are an essential piece of equipment for the Libero position. Because they are on the floor digging and saving the ball quite often, they should have knee pads that protect at the same time being comfortable. Below is our top pick for knee pads for Liberos.
The Mizuno LR6 Knee Pads give a Libero just the right amount of coverage while providing a greater freedom of movement. These knee pads are specifically made to be worn below the kneecap to protect the knees from injuries. There is padding in high impact areas to absorb shock when digging or sliding for a volleyball.
Mizuno is a company that specializes in volleyball equipment, so it is no surprise that they have done a lot of research and testing to provide high quality knee pads to Liberos. Some customers in reviews say that wearing these knee pads seem like they don’t even have any on, yet they feel very protected by the design of the knee pads.
- High impact padding
- Freedom of movement
- Protects from injuries
- Great design
One of our other top picks for knee pads are the Nike Vapor Volleyball Knee Pads. These knee pads are made of breathable material and have a dual layer gel cushion for maximum protection. While they are extremely nice, they are a little more expensive.
Arm Sleeves and Elbow Pads
While some positions can get away with no sleeves or elbow pads, many Liberos prefer to have some extra protection for their arms. Below are our picks for Elbow Pads and Arm Sleeves for Liberos.
The Mizuno Arm Sleeves are our pick for best sleeves as they provide good protection while passing. These sleeves are lightweight and durable which is what you want in volleyball arm sleeves. These do not provide protection for your elbows, so if you are looking for elbow protection, just scroll down a bit to check out our pick for elbow pads.
- Easy to pull on
- Helps decrease the sting on passes
- Fits most arm sizes
The Mizuno MZO elbow pads are lightweight and provide full elbow coverage with a breathable material. They are well-padded to enhance comfort when going for those important defensive plays. These elbow pads will be sure to give any Libero that extra support during those hard-to-get digs.
Just like the knee pads, these elbow pads are made by Mizuno which specializes in volleyball equipment. The pads provide full elbow coverage and mold to the arms allowing for free movement when making those important defensive plays.
- Provide extra support
- Full elbow coverage
- Breathable material
With the Libero position becoming more popular in volleyball, there are many players that have mastered this position. In this section, we will share some famous Liberos that play this unique position exceptionally well.
Jenia Grebennikov is known for being a team leader and making miraculous saves on the volleyball court as Libero. He has won many Best Libero awards including being named best Libero at the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Champions League. He is on the French Olympic team for the 2020 Tokoyo Olympics.
He was born in Rennes, France where he grew up on the volleyball court. His dad was a player and coach for the local team. He played under the guidance of his dad for the first decade of his career. He then played in Germany, Italy, and France during his career.
Brenda Castillo is a Libero from the Dominican Republic who has been awarded best Libero several times. Along with the best Libero awards, she has won the best receiver and digger awards. Her professional career started in 2007 and is still in progress today. She played in the 2012 Olympics where her team finished 5th and is also in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
She started playing club volleyball at the age of ten under her coach Valentin Arias Perez. He called her “chin chin” which means small portion in Spanish. In 2010, after showing up late many times to practice, she decided to become a Christian after a having a problem with alcohol. She knew making this choice would make things better for her and her family.
Erik Shoji is a Libero from the United States who has been called the fastest volleyball player. Some even have called him the Flash Libero for his unbelievable quickness. He was in the 2016 Olympics where his team won the bronze medal. He is also in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He has received many awards for best Libero, best digger, and best receiver.
Erik is from Honolulu, Hawaii where his dad coached 34 years of women’s volleyball at the University of Hawaii. Erik has his own coaching and consulting business that he runs over video chat even when he’s out of the country. His brother Kawika is also a volleyball player and is the setter on the 2020 Tokyo team
Justine Wong-Orantes is an amazing Libero from the United States. She won the best Libero and best digger awards in 2019. She has been a member of the U.S. National Team since 2016 and has played professionally in Germany since 2019. She is on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic team which she thought wasn’t going to happen.
In 2018, she was struggling and lost her starting spot on the national team. After two years of not giving up and working hard, she made it on the Olympic team. Her coach Karch Kiraly said, “she is making a huge mark on the Olympic team”.
Justine was born in Cypress, California where her parents played and coached. She started as a setter in high school but switched to playing Libero before college. The reason for the switch is because she was too short to play setter in college. She didn’t start playing Libero until her senior year, but then was offered a scholarship to the University of Nebraska to be a Libero.
Why does a Libero wear a different color of jersey?
The Libero wears a different color jersey so that the referee can keep track of them easier. It lets the referee know they can come in and out without substitution.
How do you pronounce Libero?
Can a Libero serve?
The Libero can serve in one rotation at the college, high school, middle school, and club levels. At the international level, they cannot serve.
Can a Libero start in a game?
Liberos cannot start in a game. A Libero substitution can occur at the start of the game after the referee has checked the lineup.
Can a Libero be captain?
USAV rules say that a Libero can be team captain or floor captain. FIVB rules say Libero cannot be captain.
How tall is a Libero?
A Libero can be any height. Typically, they are the shorter player on the team as they are quicker and closer to the ground to dig more balls.
Can a Libero hit?
A Libero can attack the ball if it is behind the 10-foot line. They can also overhand hit the ball from anywhere if the ball is not entirely above the net at the time of contact.
Who can a Libero replace?
The Libero can replace any player in the back row. Replacements involving the Libero are not counted and are unlimited.
Can a Libero set?
The Libero can set the ball. They are usually the back up setter on the court if the setter takes the first ball. If they set the ball on or in front of the 10-foot line the ball can not be hit if it is entirely above the net.
The Libero is one of the most important positions in volleyball. They are the defensive specialist that has great ball control to keep the team in the game. The next time you’re watching volleyball, find the Libero and notice all the different roles they perform.
If you are working towards becoming a Libero yourself, be sure to practice passing as much as possible. Get it to become second nature. Another tip to becoming a Libero is to watch others play the position. YouTube has many high level games you can watch.