What is a blocker in volleyball? Explained for beginners.

Volleyball players each have their unique skills. Some players are great at attacking while others are great at defending. This results in different positions on the field. This means that each player has a role (for example pass to someone else or attack). There are six main roles in a volleyball team: setter, middle blocker, right side hitter, outside hitter, setter, and libero.  

In this post, we are going to focus on the middle blocker as their main function is to stop the attack of the other team before they can send the ball over the net. The other players on the front row (the setter and ride side hitter) can block as well but they have other functions so they don’t always do this so they can focus on the counterattack. It depends on team strategy if they are going to block or not. Some players are not able to jump high enough and prefer to focus on other positions.

Describe the characteristics for blocking in volleyball

You start out in a neutral position. Then you move sideways to get more energy. Then this force is used to jump. The goal is to stretch your arms and fingers over the net of the other team. You want to touch the ball with the palm of your hand. The goal is to push the ball back over the net and in the court of the other team. 

Let’s take a look at how gold-winning Olympic athlete for team USA Rachael Adams explains blocking in volleyball. Jumping in the right way and timing your block is essential. You also have to hold your hands over the net so that the ball doesn’t fall between you and the net. Holding your hands over the net is called penetrating the net. This can take years of practice to get it right. Often the taller people on the team take on this position because they can jump higher and reach over the net. Make sure that you don’t touch the net as this is a violation of the rules. 

Also, pay attention to how Rachael lands. She has to be able to participate again in the game immediately as she might miss the block. There is no time to think about how the block went as volleyball is very fast-paced and it is possible that she has to help in the attack again. 

Middle blockers spend a lot of time perfecting their timing and jump. They can make it a lot harder for attackers to score points. When blockers touch the ball, they should try to control it and send the ball back. When they touch the ball but can’t control it, the other team will often score a point as it is quite hard to retrieve the ball when this happens. The ball can go outside the court in this instance. Great blockers know when they should block and when they shouldn’t. They can lower their arms if they feel that their block won’t work.

What is a block in volleyball called? Volleyball terms explained

 You have multiple types of blocks in volleyball.

A double block is a block that two players perform together. This is often called closing the block or sealing the block as you make it a lot harder for the attacking team to push the ball over the net. A triple block is three players that block together. This can make it challenging for the opponent to get the ball over the net. If they do, however, it can be difficult to launch the counterattack as all three players on the front row have to land and change direction. 

Stuff blocks or roofs mean that the block was successful. The ball lands as hard on the floor as the attacker has sent it away. This makes it very hard to defend and in most instances, it allows the team that has successfully created the block to score a point. If the attacker gets the ball in his or her face when they hit a block, it is called ‘getting stuffed’. This can be quite painful and players avoid this at all costs. This is not the intention of the blocker but you can’t always control the direction of the ball when you block it.

As discussed, a blocker is not allowed to touch the net. This is challenging as you have to jump close to the net. When a player gets in the net, they often call it a tuna, flounder, or fish. The player then gets a net violation warning.

This can even happen to professional players as sometimes they miss their jump or timing and make the wrong decision to jump too early. Timing is essential when you want to block and a few seconds too early or too late can make the difference. Some players are not able to handle the pressure and make mistakes such as touching the net.  

Sometimes the ball is going back and forth. This is called a joust as two opposing players touch the ball above the net at the same time. This can look very spectacular as both players can use a lot of force and it is often unpredictable which way the ball will go. This makes playing volleyball exciting and a lot of fun. Players might find a joust quite annoying as this makes it hard to control the ball. 

How is a block used in volleyball

Blocking is a defensive play in volleyball. One, two, or three players can work together to make it harder for the other team to score. There is even a specific position on the court for players that specialize in this. These are called middle blockers.

These players have to stop the ball when the hitters are trying to push the ball over the net from the front row. It also puts pressure on the hitters as it can be quite intimidating to see a block right in front of your nose. Great blockers are able to change the direction of the ball or to add a special effect to it to evade the block.

Photo by Stephen Baker on Unsplash

In some instances, players will fake an attack to confuse the defenders and avoid a block. Professional players learn how to deal with blocks but it can still be a challenge. Some blockers are taller than 6ft 5′ and they can jump very high. This can be impressive to watch.

Blocking is not allowed when the other team is serving as the game is still restarting. The libero has to dive and retrieve the ball in these instances. The middle blocker would get assigned a penalty if he or she would jump in this instance as it is not allowed.

In offense, the middle blocker has to switch its function and they have to help the attack. In some instances, they have to pass or even attack themselves. Some blockers find this quite hard as they are used to defending. Players have to be able to do both and it requires a lot of training to be able to do so.

Blocking can be very spectacular if done successfully. This is mainly done by players that have more experience as you need to get a lot of things right to do this successfully. Let’s take a look at some very spectacular blocks in official matches:

Guess versus read blocking in volleyball

Guess blocking is just going to a place close to the net without looking at the attack. You are guessing where the ball will be. The advantage of this approach is that you have the ability to go to the net very fast. The disadvantage is that the chance that you are right is quite low. Read blocking on the other hand involves checking the attack of the other team and reading the game.

This allows you to predict where the ball will go. It is a slower approach but increases the chances that you will be able to block the ball. Both approaches require the same technique but in read blocking, you are waiting longer to get started. Most players use read blocking as it has a higher probability of success. If the team is attacking very fast, guess blocking can work but it has some risks. In some instances, the attacker uses the same spike over and over again and guess blocking is the best option.

Beginning players often use guess blocking as they are not able to read the game and anticipate where the ball is going to go. Just walking to the net and blocking where you guess it will go can be better as it allows them to focus on their technique without having to worry too much about the direction. Blocking is all about timing.

If you are guessing the direction and the timing, it can be quite difficult to stop the ball. For newer players blocking is very challenging so this is why they have to practice a lot. Hitters are also still learning the game in high school so this balances each other out.

Professional players will be able to block more often than high school students as they are better at reading the game and finding the right place to block the ball. Therefore professional players are almost never going to use guess blocking except if the other team is playing very fast or if there is a quick transition between attack and defense.

In beach volleyball players will also try to use read blocking over guess blocking.

To conclude we can state that blocking is a great defensive strategy in volleyball as you keep the ball on the other side of the court and give the other team no chance to score a point. This is very difficult to pull off but it can help you to score a lot of points as it is hard to defend against a block. There is a specific player on the field that is specialized in blocking.

This player spends a lot of time practicing this skill. You can also work together with other players on your team to set a double or even triple block. This can lead to spectacular situations as volleyball is a fast-paced sport and the ball can go back and forth very fast. A front-row middle blocker is a great position.