Volleyball is an action-packed game where the opposing teams do their best to not let the ball touch the ground. The rallies become intense with every setting as the ball goes whipping past the net, either blocked or bumped again.
There are six central positions in the team, the most debatable being the libero. While every other post has a set function, the libero is considered the defensive specialist.
This, in turn, requires the libero to specialize in reading the court, defensive digs, technical setting, serving and attacking. Not to mention passing and bump setting.
Terming a liberos job as a defense specialist is putting it lightly. There is tremendous pressure on the libero to deliver successfully in guiding the team to victory, dig by dig.
Electing the libero
The liberos position and status is a special designation in volleyball. Something akin to a pinch hitter in baseball. The primary role of a libero is to be the backbone of the back-row hitters.
A libero is not limited by the rules of rotation and can be freely substituted into the game. The selected libero is to remain in the game from start to finish. For situations where the primary libero might get hurt, a few organizations allow the option of a secondary libero.
However, the secondary libero can only be substituted if not present on the court at the time of the emergency.
Responsibility and expectations of a libero
You can easily make out the libero when on the court. The libero is expected to wear a contrasting jersey or uniform that makes him stand out. Any volleyball game will see the libero playing hard on the backcourt, sticking to the ground, and picking up the digs.
- At the start of the set, the libero replaces the middle blocker position but, during rotation, gets replaced out again. The libero is strictly supposed to be a back-row player and cannot rotate to the front row.
- In a volleyball match, you will notice that the libero is sometimes responsible for defense in larger portions of the court. There are situations where the libero can take up the gauntlet to set up an offensive play, albeit sparingly.
- Offensive play by a libero involves setting and passing the dig. Based on the position on the court, there are set standards of volleyball ball setting by a libero.
- Defensive play by a libero entails that the ball is kept in the air. This implies getting a hand on every attack the opposing team makes, and chasing the ball down even in tight corners.
The skills of being an attacker or a blocker are not top priorities for a libero. Further, the presence of a libero as a substitute enables the team to conserve energy and stamina throughout the set.
The attributes of a libero
The concept of height has never been an issue for liberos. Whether they are tall or not, they must merely possess the passion of being active on the court, aware at all times. A few other essential attributes that any team will benefit from in a libero are as follows.
- A libero must possess fine-tuned skills to be able to play in any position on the court.
- He must have a decent game-sense to get an accurate read on the flow of the game.
- Playing defensive digs and fending the floor is the most crucial aspect of being a libero.
- A libero should have decent passing and receiving skills to cover for targeted gameplays.
- Good setting skills with keen court observation skills allow a libero to set a perfect kill for his teammates.
Regulated playing actions of a libero
A libero certainly shares a great responsibility as a defensive specialist and the second life of defense. However, here are the limitations and allowances a libero faces when on the court.
- Under no circumstance can a libero act as a team captain.
- The libero is to be watched closely for substitutions and recorded on a set score sheet reserved for this purpose.
- The contrasting uniform of the libero must be visible at all times during the gameplay.
- The libero can only replace players in the back-row positions.
- Serving has always been a dicey area concerning liberos. While the FIVB does not grant permission to serve, the NCAA and USAV sanctioned events allow liberos to serve.
- The libero can neither attempt to block nor completely block any incoming kills. Going on defense in such situations by digging the ball is the only way forward.
- Even as a back-row player, the libero is limited to perform complete attack gameplay. He cannot attack the ball if it is above the net-level. This means that a libero can only reach for the ball while attacking and not jump to make contact.
- Players setting up the pass from a libero also face limitations in attacking. They may or may not complete attacks, depending on the position of the libero at the moment of the pass.
- A libero cannot set up an attack from the frontcourt.
- Passes from a libero can only be underhanded to be accepted from any position on the court.
- During the setting, the attack line determines how the libero can set for the hitter. If the libero is positioned behind the attack line, they can only make underhanded sets. If the libero is near or is touching the attacking line, he has to ensure definite foot positioning. The foot in contact with the line must be moved away before making contact with the ball. When the libero finds himself in front of the attack line, he can choose to put up underhanded or overhanded sets. In the case of an underhanded setting, the hitter will attack as usual. But in the case of an overhanded-set, the hitter must attack without approaching the ball from a stationary position.
Volleyball is a nuanced game, especially for liberos whose presence is debatable, according to the coaches. Gameplays are evolving through constant perfections in individual efforts, and the new rules are reflecting the libero as a one-man-force.
A libero may not be a starter for many teams but stays till the finish, ensuring multiple saves from tight spots. The consistency and quick handling demonstrated by a genuine libero on court is truly something to be appreciative of.