A lot of people believe that volleyball players have to be tall. While there is some truth to this, short players can be very useful as well. Especially since the introduction of the defensive libero position, smaller players can add a lot of value to a volleyball team. These players are often more agile and can replace the (often taller) middle blockers when they are standing in the last row on the court. There are other positions in which the players can be smaller, as Debbie Green-Vargas illustrates.
Who is Debbie Green-Vargas?
A lot of shorter players doubt if they can become great volleyball players. This also comes back in a lot of books and movies about volleyball (such as Haikyuu). Every time one of my players talks about this, I tell the story of Debbie Green-Vargas and her great accomplishments.
They then realize that everyone can become a great volleyball player, you just have to use your strengths and work from there. Everyone has weak and strong points and you have to find a way to become the best version of yourself as Debbie did. You can’t change your height so you have to work with what you have.
Debbie was a great setter for Team USA during the Olympics and won a silver medal in 1984 in LA. This means that she had to give an assist to other players. She is 5 foot 3 and leveraged this to be more agile than other players. She has been recognized as one of the best volleyball players in the USA. Already from a young age, she showed her talent.
She was able to compensate for her length by perfecting the jump set. At the time this was something innovative and she was able to jump very high as she trained on this specifically. There are several ways that can help you to jump higher (from training with ankle weights to using a great jumping technique).
This allowed her to send the ball to the hitters with a lot of effects and gave them an advantage over players from another team. She won the Major League Volleyball (which is now disbanded) two times with her team from LA. Later on in life, she became a volleyball coach and motivates young people to pick up this sport.
She received a lot of personal awards as well, recognizing her great contributions to the sport. She became part of the volleyball Hall of Fame, which is an exceptional honor. Now she is retired and enjoys life with her family. Let’s get an overview of her life below:
How tall is the shortest professional volleyball player?
For men, the shortest player is Farhad Sharif with his 5 foot 4 he is slightly taller than Debby Green-Vargas. He is a libero player that accomplished a lot in Asian competitions. Volleyball is not a contact sport so if you can give great passes, you can add a lot of value to your team. Volleyball is a team sport and diversity can be a strength as everyone brings something to the table. If all the players on a team are tall but slow, a team is not going to win. It is better to have players with different strengths that can work together so that they can compensate each other weaknesses.
Matias Sanchez with his 5foot 6 is an Argentinian setter that plays in France. He already won a lot of tournaments in Argentina and was able to play in Brazil as well. Given his young age, he still has a lot of potentials to win more matches and tournaments. His playing style is quite aggressive and he is able to pass in a lot of unexpected directions, making it harder for the defenders to stop the ball.
For women, the shortest professional volleyball player that is currently active measures Suppattra Pairoij is 5 foot 2. She is a libero for the Thai national team and has played in Denmark and several Asian countries. She is a champion and is known for her great defensive digs. When a lot of players would have given up, she still dives to get the ball.
This is a very intense way of playing volleyball but it can pay off from time to time. I like her positive attitude and she motivates a lot of players to get started with this hobby. In Thailand becoming a professional volleyball player is a great career so a lot of people try to achieve this dream.
Let’s take a look at some of the smaller and taller professional volleyball players in the volleyball game:
To conclude, we can state that volleyball can be played by anyone, regardless of your size. Some positions (such as setter or libero) work better for smaller players as you need to be agile and run a lot. Other positions (such as a hitter or blocker) work better for taller players as you need to be able to jump over the net or at least quite high if you want to excel at these. So short people can play both in defense where the libero is very important.
The role of the libero is a quite recent addition to the game. This player has to dig and dive to keep the ball in the air after an attack. In offense, shorter players can be a setter. This means that they pass the ball to a hitter. All of these roles are important and you have to find a way to leverage your own strengths (as Debbie Green-Vargas did). There are a lot of examples of professional volleyball players that are rather short but became great successes anyway. Let them inspire you to achieve your dreams as well.