How do you become a good defensive specialist in volleyball? (Great Answer)

Every player has to defend and attack in volleyball. However, some players mainly focus on defense as this is their forte. The defensive specialist is such a player. A great defense is important and players that defend well are often allowed to play for a longer period of time.

Being a great defender also increases your chances of becoming a professional volleyball player. Therefore it is important to improve your defensive skills. In this post, we are going to discuss some techniques and drills that can help you with this.

What is a ds in volleyball?

A ds means a defensive specialist in volleyball. This term is often used on the rotation chart and score sheet to shorten the name. A defensive specialist is a player that is very good at defending. They often stand on the second row and can replace players that are not that good at digging (for example middle blockers).

Contrary to libero’s their substitution is counted against the limits that a team has to deal with. If the team is close to hitting the substitution limits, it is possible that they leave the defensive specialist on the bench.

Coaches often look at the statistics of a player to see how well they perform. If they have a lot of successful digs, they might become a defensive specialist. These players have to use special drills to get really great at this. We will discuss this in more detail below.

Defensive players can become a libero over time. Liberos can often play quite a lot as they can replace other players on the field at any moment. This is a unique role that a lot of players want to take up.

Being a defense specialist can be the first step towards becoming a libero as you use the same skills. A libero has to be more independent and show their own initiative. They have to read the game very well and understand the weaknesses and these of the other team.

Let’s take a look at a ds in action below:

Defensive specialists are often great at digging but some are quite good at blocking as well. Let’s go over these skills so that you can improve them.

Digging is spectacular

Digging is keeping the ball in the air after the other team has attacked. You might need to slide over the ground to be able to do this, this is called diving. You will need to improve your reflexes so that you can get started earlier (learn more about this here).

It is also necessary to work on the stability of your feet so that you can be more balanced and jump at the right moment. You will need hand-eye coordination and also ball control. Having the correct technique is also essential, as discussed in the following video:

How can you practice this? You can take a ball and throw it in front of yourself. You have to keep the ball in the air. You start by throwing the ball close by and pushing it further and further to make it more challenging.

Once you master this, you can ask a friend to throw the ball for you to make it more unpredictable where the ball will land. Once this works, you can practice this with multiple balls so that you have to react and move around very fast. This needs to be trained over and over again.

Once you master keeping the ball in the air, you can try to make sure that your pass arrives at the right speed and at the right angle at your team member. This is done by doing the same exercise as before but this time your friend that is throwing the ball has to be able to catch it as well.

Therefore you have to make sure that you pass it at the correct angle and speed to this person. Every team member has his or her own playing style so you will have to adjust your pass based on this. 

Digging is all about seeing how far you can go. Some players are nervous about flying too hard and hitting the ground. You can wear arm pads if you are afraid of this. These can help to dampen the impact and push you to try and catch balls that are quite far away.

It is only by trial and error that you can see what balls can be saved and which ones can’t. Volleyball is about having the will to win and diving and saving a very difficult ball can give a great feeling. Your team will be very proud of you if you can pull this off. Digging is a spectacular move and this can save your team a lot of points.  

Blocking can take your game to the next level

The other key defensive skill is blocking. This means that you jump just behind the net to keep the ball from going over it. You touch the ball and immediately send it back to the court of the opposing team. They might not expect this and you can easily score a point in this way if you are good at it. Timing your jump, jumping high enough, and being able to control the ball and send it with enough force in the right direction is essential if you want to pull off this move. 

You can start out by jumping behind the net and seeing how high you have to jump. There are several jumping techniques that can help you to fly higher. In general, it comes down to bending through your knees and having a strong start when you launch yourself. You can practice this over and over again so that you are sure that you get above the net with your hands.

Once you master this, it is time to do this with a ball. You can train this by asking another player on your team to throw the ball over the net. Then you have to try to hit the ball as soon as it comes over the net. After you feel comfortable with this, you can touch the ball and send it back to the other field of the court. You can experiment with different types of force.

A lot of force can surprise the opponent but also send the ball out of the court. A weak ball might be easier to defend to but it is easier to aim this inside the court. For these reasons, it is important that you work on the power that you use and also on your aim. 

The problem with blocking is that it can be easy for the opposing team to score a point if you do it wrong. You really need to get your timing right and be quite certain that you will be able to stop the ball. Sometimes multiple players work together to block the ball.

You will need to communicate well to make sure that you don’t run into each other when you do this. If you miss the ball when blocking, you have to turn around as soon as possible to see where the ball has gone. It is possible that it will come your way again quite soon so you have to be able to switch from defense to offense in an instant. 

To conclude, we can state that there are two main defensive skills in volleyball: digging and blocking. We discussed some techniques and drills that will help you to improve your defensive skills. Everyone on a volleyball team has to be able to attack and defend. Therefore it is important that you improve your defensive skills so that you are very valuable to your team.  

Not a lot of players are great at defense. This is why defensive specialists are very important in volleyball.

Improving your reflexes is also important. We have discussed how to do this here.