If you have ever watched a volleyball game, there is a huge chance that you have noticed one thing. A guy who plays for a certain team, but he’s wearing a different jersey color. Who is this guy and what he does? Today I will explain to you everything about the libero position in volleyball.
The libero in volleyball is a player who is in charge of only defending and receiving the ball. He’s wearing a different jersey color because he’s got slightly different rules than the other players.
What does libero do?
A libero is a player who can play only in the defense. When the other team is attacking, he’s in charge of saving the ball. We will never see him in the attack line. He’s a very useful player though. His role is also to receive a served ball and I think he’s got to be one of the best players in his team in this element because liberos receive a ball quite often. When a libero sees that his teammates have problems receiving the ball, he needs to cover a bigger part of the court.
What’s interesting is that libero is a relatively new position. It was invented in 1998 by Ruben Acosta- the president of FIVB. He believed that adding a libero can make volleyball more attractive, especially men’s volleyball. Liberos appeared for the first time in the World Cup in Japan in 1998.
I think he was right and volleyball since then is more interesting, because there is way more actions going on and it’s great for the overall experience.
By the way. Can you block or spike a serve? Learn it in this article on my website!
Can libero serve?
Like I said before, a libero is a defensive player and his role is to prevent his team from losing points. By definition, he can’t even attempt to score a point. That’s why we will never see a libero who is serving.
However, in some leagues rules are different and liberos are allowed to serve. But I’d say in 97% of cases, liberos don’t serve. It applies to international games and almost all national leagues.
Can libero attack?
By definition, libero can’t attack the ball. Like FIVB says “He/she is restricted to perform as a back-row player and is not allowed to complete an attack hit from anywhere (including playing court and free zone) if at the moment of the contact the ball is entirely higher than the top of the net“.
However, even though liberos are not allowed to attack, serve, and block, they sometimes score points. But, how?
Let’s assume that your team has made a mistake setting a ball. You hit one, two…and third hit wasn’t successful and libero had to save the ball by passing it to the opposite team. The guys from another team also make a mistake and the ball directly hit by a libero is landing in their court. In that case, libero scores a point.
It’s legal, because the libero didn’t have an intent to score a point. His intent was just to deliver a ball. You should know that it is allowed, but it doesn’t happen often. As far as I remember I saw it maybe 3 times in my life and believe me, I watched thousands of volleyball games.
Can you touch the net in volleyball? You will find a surprising answer in this post.
Can a libero block?
FIVB says clearly in the rule 184.108.40.206 “He/she may not serve, block or attempt to block.” Even if the libero wants to block, he can’t because he’s playing in the defense which is a couple of good meters from the net.
Some nasty people say that liberos are useless in blocking, because they are short. Interesting theory, but that’s not always the case and in this article you will get to know that liberos aren’t that short.
Why libero has a different jersey color?
I think one of the most common question when it comes to liberos is why does one player in volleyball have a different color jersey? For sure not because he wants to be different or like some people say he’s the captain.
Ireneusz Mazur- one of the most famous volleyball coach in Europe explains why liberos look different than the rest of their team. “In order to make the identification easier. Referees, players and supporters know that the player in the different jersey color can’t attack, serve or block. Different jersey color catches the attention and indicates that this player has different specialization and all his irregular moves can be noticed better (…)”
Let’s assume that you’re a referee and you have to control the guy who can’t cross the third meter line and has completely different rules. What’s the best way to follow this player? Yeah, contrasting jersey makes it way easier to watch the libero.
One more thing worth mentioning is that liberos always have to wear contrasting color of the jerseys. If for example Italian team plays in blue jerseys, libero can’t wear the sky-blue jersey. He can wear for example, white or red jersey.
Is the libero the best player?
Some newbies in volleyball think that libero is the best player on the team and because of that, he is allowed to wear different jerseys. I have just explained the jersey part, so we know all about it, but is the libero usually the best player?
Libero is a defensive player, which can mean that he’s an expert in defensive. I think liberos should be the best when it comes to speed, agility, and saving balls. And I think most of the liberos are the best in that skills. But I wouldn’t say they’re the best players overall…
Liberos usually don’t do well at spiking and blocking, because they’re short. Also, for some of them, it’s hard to set the ball. I think liberos are usually only defense masters.
Why is libero always short?
One of my friends once told me that liberos are always players who wanted to be spikers, but they didn’t grow up enough. Well, I think it might make sense, but I think liberos shouldn’t be tall. Liberos are usually short, but it’s their advantage. When they’re shorter, their coordination is better, so they have a higher chance of defending the ball.
Take someone who is 6,5ft(2 meters) and someone who is 5,7ft(1.7 meter). Who’s got a better chance of making the dig? It’s obvious that the guy who is short, always should be defending the ball, because he’s the most cunning.
Dig looks like this.
Liberos don’t have to be tall. They don’t need to attack, they don’t need to jump high. They also don’t block. One of the shortest liberos is Farhad Zarif, (5ft=1.65m). This shortness lets him save the balls that are just above the ground.
More than 20 years ago, liberos didn’t exist and only tall players had a chance to be volleyball players. Now even short guys can play volleyball.
But don’t think liberos are dwarfs. In one game between Belogorie Belgorod and Zenit Kazan, the libero Alexander Bogomolov was 6,8ft (2.08m). Liberos look short compared to their tall teammates, but most of them are more than 6ft(1.8m), including Dan Lewis (1.89), Pawel Zatorski(1.83), or Jenia Grebennikov (1.88).
Can you have 2 liberos?
Of course, according to the FIVB rules, you can have 2 liberos. In rule 19.1.3 it says “The Libero on the court is the Acting Libero. If there is another Libero, he/she is the second Libero for the team”. But “Only one Libero may be on court at any time.”
I think that explains it all why you can’t see 2 liberos from the same team playing simultaneously. In FIVB, World and Official competitions for Seniors, if a team has more than 12 players recorded in the score sheet, TWO liberos are mandatory in the team list.
Would it even make sense to have 2 liberos at the same time? I wouldn’t say so. One libero is more than enough to help in defense. Another libero would have to substitute an offensive player, which means the team would have a lower possibility to score a point.
When one libero is playing, the other one is waiting to substitute him, but if the team plays well, there is no need to use two liberos interchangeably.
Can a libero be a captain?
As you’re reading this article, you probably think libero has a hard life. He can’t attack, block, and score points. But maybe he can be a captain?
Again, no. As I’m reading FIVB rules, it says that “One of the players, other than the Libero, is the team captain, who shall be indicated on the score sheet.”
But why is that?
At first, you might think it doesn’t make any sense because the libero is just a regular player. But if you think about it deeper, you might change your mind. In some rotations, the libero is out of the court. A captain is a person who needs to represent his team all the time, motivate his teammates, and talk to the referee.
So it sounds legit. It would be impractical for the libero to talk to the referee from the bench. The captain has to be on the court most of the time. That’s why in most cases receivers or setters are the captains.
Why is it called libero?
Receiver, setter, middle blocker, and…libero? Why such a strange name for a regular player. Is it because he’s wearing a different jersey?
Libero means “free” in Italian. Do you associate the “libero” word with something? Have you heard about liberty or liberalism? That’s what libero derives from. Libero is called libero, not because he can wear whatever jersey he wants, but because he can substitute any other player from his team.
Who is the best libero in the world?
There aren’t any official standings of the best liberos in the world, but careful volleyball fans should have some favorites.
I think the best libero right now in 2020 is Jenia Grebennikov- 30-years old French player, playing for Italian club Leo Shoes Modena. He’s standing most of the time in the right place and has superior defensive skills.
We shouldn’t forget about Polish Pawel Zatorski. He is currently playing for Zaksa Kedzierzyn-Kozle and with his national team won World Championship in 2018. He’s an expert in digs and overall he’s extremely solid.
One of the best liberos of all time is Brazilian Sergio Dutra Santos. Right now he’s 45, and he ended his career that was pretty impressive. He won lots of tournaments with Brazil, and he was one of the best on his team.
It’s also worth to mention Erik Shoji or Alexy Verbov. When it comes to female liberos, it’s safe to include Brenda Castillo (Dominican Republic) and Beatrice Parrocchiale (Italy).
This video shows the best liberos in the history.
What makes a good libero?
You are short, but you want to become a volleyball player? A libero position is definitely for you. But first, make sure you have those abilities only top-notch libero have!
He’s fast. I can often see liberos chasing the ball. If your team makes a mistake and the ball is hard to save, don’t think twice. You have to chase the ball whenever it’s possible. Liberos have to chase the ball a couple of times per match, so make sure you’re a fast guy. Sometimes he has to kick the ball. The Best volleyball kicks you can find in this article.
He’s helpful. Libero is rather a flexible player, and he can rule in defensive. But if he sees his teammate struggling in receiving a service, he should definitely help him. Look, if there is some nasty player from the opposite team who is constantly aiming at your friend, you should be eager to receive this ball and help your team.
He’s a good receiver. Liberos are often aimed by the servers. If your enemy sees that libero is not the best receiver, they are going to serve at him and make his life really hard. World-class libero just has to be a good receiver, it is one of the most important skills that make libero good.
Sometimes he must be a setter. Mistakes are part of the game. When there is some mistake in receiving the ball, a libero is a player who needs to set the ball. And I know from my own experience that setting the ball is not easy. But like every skill, it needs to be practiced and soon you will get better.
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