The Libero in Volleyball: A Defensive Specialist

Volleyball libero position
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A libero is a defensive specialist position in indoor volleyball. The position was added to the game of indoor volleyball in 1999 along with a set of special rules for play in order to foster more digs and rallies and to make the game more exciting overall.

The libero remains in the game at all times and is the only player who is not limited by the regular rules of rotation. The libero usually replaces the middle blocker position when that player rotates to the back row, but the libero never rotates to the front row.

Designating the Libero

The team choses the libero before a given match or tournament, and the player who is designated the libero must remain so for the entire match or tournament. If the libero is injured, he can be replaced by any player who was not on the court at the time of the injury, but that player then must remain the libero for the remainder of the match. Some organizations allow the designation of two liberos, but only one may be on the court at a time.

If the libero is disqualified in NCAA women's play, the team continues with no libero. 

What Does the Libero Do During a Play?

The libero is responsible for a great deal of the passing in serve-receive situations. Often the libero is responsible for a much greater part of the court than the other members of the team. The libero is in the game to add ball control, so her main responsibility is to pass the ball well so the team can run properly run the offense.

On defense, the libero needs to dig well, getting a hand on every ball she can in order to keep the play alive. Since the libero has no actual attack responsibilities, she must chase down every ball she can. She may also be responsible for setting if the ball is dug by the setter or out of the setter's range.

What Attributes Should a Libero Have?

There are several attributes that are important to the libero position. They include: 

  • Good passing ability 
  • Good digging ability 
  • Good ball handling skills
  • Quickness
  • Consistency

Characteristics of the Libero

Typically, the libero: 

  • Plays only in the back row
  • Can replace any one position in the back row (for instance, the libero can play back row for both middle blockers)
  • Wears a different color jersey than the rest of the team
  • Does not count as a substitution

What the Libero May Not Do

There are several things that the libero is not allowed to do throughout the course of a game or tournament. They include: 

  • Serve (with some exceptions)
  • Attack the ball above the height of the net
  • Block
  • Attempt to block
  • Set an attacker from the frontcourt

Although the libero is generally not allowed to serve, she may serve in certain events and under specific circumstances. Since the 2004 season, NCAA women's volleyball has allowed the libero to serve in one rotation in a set. USAV and ONE Volleyball have since followed suit, but FIVB, the international governing body, does not allow the libero to serve. NCAA men's volleyball follows FIVB rules.