What is Digging in volleyball: Dig explained (AVOID Doing This!)

One of the most exciting and hard things to do in volleyball is keeping the ball in the air after the other team has attacked. This often requires a dig as the ball is often quite close to the ground at that point. This is an underhand pass that helps to control the ball. It slows down the ball and allows you to send it in the desired direction. Let’s take a look at how this is done.

Volleyball reception: all about that platform

A reception is stopping the ball and passing it to a team member. In volleyball, only a short touch is allowed so you can’t hold the ball in your hands. A dig is typically done by folding your hands together and swinging your arms. Let’s take a look at how Olympic medal winner Rachael Adams explains this:

This allows you to adjust the position of your hands at the last moment as it can be hard to predict where the ball will land. The ball can arrive very fast (for example the fastest serve reached speeds of more than 100 miles per hour) so you often don’t have a lot of time to dig. You have to keep looking at the ball and adjust your position as needed. The goal is to push the ball upwards and forwards. This will allow other players to keep the ball in play. A lot of players just push the ball forwards but this makes it hard to use this pass. You have to adjust your approach to the speed and direction of the ball.

If the ball is slightly outside your digging range, it is possible that you have to take a step before you touch the ball. This is called step and shoot. You are taking a step and at the same time you are using your platform to hit the ball. This is not ideal as you might miss the ball when you do this or you might not control it as well. Therefore it is better to get your body closer to where the ball will land.

If a dig is not enough to reach the ball, you might need to dive. This means sliding over the floor so that you get closer to the ball. Controlling the ball when you dive is not easy and members of your team will have to be attentive so that they can retrieve the ball. If a dive is not enough, you can consider a pancake. This is a dive while you are stretching out your arm. You are just going to use a fist to keep the ball in the air instead of your platform. If you have to do this often, it can mean that your position on the court is not correct. You can check with your coach if the strategy needs to be adjusted so that the players are more spread out over the court during the defense.

Let’s take a look at more advanced techniques to dig. These are needed if you want to control a ball after a spike as this bal has more power. Using these will allow you to change the angle of the ball so that you can pass in the desired direction.

If you want to dig well, your footwork has to be on point. Most defenders are standing on their toes so that they can change their direction rapidly. Furthermore, players are holding their platform ready so that they don’t waste time folding their hands. Digging is all about speed and if you are reacting too slow, the ball will drop on the court. You have to guess where the ball will land and move your feet as close as possible to this location. Let’s take a look at who is responsible for this during the match.

If you are really struggling to keep the ball in the air, it is possible to use a fist instead of folded hands. Just make sure that you don’t touch the ball too long or don’t miss the ball.

Libero: digger in chief

The libero is the main player that is going to dig as he or she is specialized in this. It has to be noted that all players have to be able to do this as the court is quite big and the libero can’t be everywhere. Given that players rotate over the court, they could be in a position where the ball lands. The libero can stand anywhere as long as it is in the second row (so farther away from the net). Digging requires a lot of practice to get the technique right. A lot of players don’t swing their platform in the right direction and it can be challenging to remain calm when the ball is flying towards you at great speed. Keeping the ball in the air is not enough, you also need to give a good pass.

The libero can substitute any player on the last row at any time. This can help out players that are not that agile or great at digging. There are also defensive specialists but their substitutions are limited so it is not possible to change the complete last row every time. It has to be noted that players in the first row don’t have to dig as often as most attacks go to the second row so that the net is not touched. It is still possible that the ball lands in the front row, for example after a tip.

Newer players often find it challenging to dive. You need to use the right technique so that you land on the floor quite soft and elegant. Some players push their knees on the floor and this can hurt. It is also important that you move forward instead of downwards if you want to get this right. It can take a while before you feel that you can do this but don’t give up.

It is not allowed to touch the ceiling with the ball. Therefore liberos have to make sure that they can slow the ball down instead of pushing it even harder. If the ball spins too hard, it can be hard for the setter to give a pass to the hitter. Therefore the first ball contact after an attack of the other team is essential and can make the difference between winning and losing. Players often get substituted if they don’t dig well as it is an essential part of the game.

Best digging drills

It is quite easy to work on your digging. You just need a ball. This is thrown in front of you and you need to keep it in the air by using the correct technique. You can start out by throwing the ball right in front of you. Eventually, you can start pushing it farther and farther away. This will make it more challenging. It is always better if someone else throws the ball for you as this makes it more unpredictable. If you have a net as well, you can ask that someone else serves so that you can simulate what happens during a match.

Another great way to improve your digging skills is to work on your reflexes. This can be done by using reflex training lights. These suddenly light up and you have to move in that direction as soon as possible. Not a lot of players are working on this and it can give you an edge over other players.

Digging can only be improved through practice. In high school, players don’t spike very hard and their serves are also not that powerful. In college, players start to add more force to a ball and the diggers need to step it up.

You can also improve your footwork. An agility ladder is a great tool for this as you need to rapidly change directions. You can use this every day as it is short drills. Cones can also be used to outline a circuit that you have to run around.

To conclude we can state that defense in volleyball requires a lot of technique. Digging is used to keep the ball in the air after the other team has attacked. Players use an underhand pass to control the ball and send it to a member of their team. This can be quite challenging to do as a volleyball court is quite big. Therefore, this requires a lot of practice and there are specific drills for this.