What is a libero in volleyball? How to be a libero.

In volleyball, the libero is a player who specializes in defensive skills instead of attacking skills. They are usually the smallest players on the court and they wear a different colored jersey from everyone else. Liberos often replace the middle blocker when they are in the back row as these players are smaller and more agile. The goal of a libero is to keep the ball in the air after the other team has attacked and to help keep the rally going.

Liberos spend most of their time on defense but occasionally will have to serve as a setter. They stay in the back row and can go in and out of the court as they please (another player has to leave). This doesn’t count as a substitution so you will see liberos going on and off the court quite frequently. As liberos cannot spike, they have to wear another colored jersey from everyone else which makes it easy for referees to identify what role this player has on the court.

What does the libero do in volleyball? Libero position explained.

Liberos are a quite recent addition to the game. They have to keep the ball in the air after the attack. Furthermore, they also have to pass the ball to a team member while doing this. Generally, fists or closed hands are used to do this. With the advent of jump serves, players were able to add more power to the ball. This made it harder to defend against serves. This is why a specialist was added. In high school games, players can’t spike or serve that hard so it is quite easy to defend. However, in college and professional games, players can spike and server very fast.

The fastest serve is about 80 miles per hour (the speed of a car). This means that liberos have to move very fast. In general, they try to anticipate where the ball will land so that they can use their arms (or platform) to keep the ball in the air. If this is not possible, they might have to slide over the court to do so. If this doesn’t work, they might have to pancake. This is sliding with your arm forward instead of with your platform. This makes it a lot harder to control the ball.

The following skills are required:

1/ Ball control. They have to be able to keep the ball in the air with only one touch.

2/ Passing. They have to make sure that the ball gets close to another player.

3/ Communicating: they have to confirm that they can get the ball or ask another player to assist.

4/ Reading the game: they have to guess where the ball will land. This will allow them to position themselves correctly.

Liberos have the following responsibilities:

1/ Digging or diving to receive the serve.

2/ They sometimes have to give an assist to another player if the setter is not able to do so.

3/ Motivate and inspire the team.

4/ Coordinate the defense. They communicate with other players to indicate who should get the ball.

The libero is different from the defensive specialist. While they have similar tasks, defensive specialists don’t have to take the further discussed limitations into account. They can play in the first row, serve, spike, and rotate. When a defensive specialist leaves the court, it is counted as a substitution. This is not the case with a libero.

This means that defensive specialists might have to sit on the bench as there are no substitutions left anymore. Players often start out as defensive specialists before they become a libero. Libero’s need to be very independent and this requires a lot of insight into the game. This can only gather with experience.

Let’s take a look at some spectacular saves by liberos:

If the other team can score a lot of spikes in a row, the coach might ask for a timeout to discuss this with the libero. It is also possible that the libero gets substituted to provide an answer to this.

Volleyball rules for libero

The libero has a different jersey because they have a specific role that has limitations and the referee has to be able to see when the player is in action to make sure that they don’t perform disallowed actions. For example, the libero is not allowed to jump while spiking and the referee has to be able to see this. This is required in college, high school, and also more advanced leagues. We will discuss this role in more detail below.

As a player, they cannot spike the ball and can only use an underhand set. They are not allowed to play in the front row. They have to wear a different colored uniform from the rest of their team. The libero is typically a smaller player that is more agile and very good at defense. Liberos stay in the back row and can go in and out of the court as they please (another player has to leave the court). This doesn’t count as a substitution so you will see the libero go on and off the court quite frequently.

Libero can only stand in the last row. They can replace any player in that row at any moment. Made with Canva

Since a libero is not allowed to stand in the front row, he or she can’t take part in the full rotation. They often replace the middle blocker and rotate between the positions in the back row. So liberos often rotate but only on the last part of the court. This means that they will never stand in the front row.

Libero in High school rules USALibero in College rules USALibero in Professional rules
LocationLast rowLast rowLast row
RotationOnly in the last rowOnly in the last rowOnly in the last row
Spiking allowed?YesYesNo
Serve allowed?YesYesNo
Libero rules and regulations

A libero is not allowed to spike and attack in most competitions. They sometimes function as a setter but are never going to attack. In high school and college volleyball in the USA, a libero is allowed to attack in certain situations but they are not allowed to jump when spiking.

In most international competitions liberos are not allowed to serve. In high school and college games in the USA, liberos are allowed to serve once in the rotation. As you can see, the libero has more options in college and high school games in the USA. The goal is to make the game more dynamic. International competitions want to make sure that liberos focus on defense instead of offense and so limit what they can do.

Each team can have 2 liberos but they are not allowed to play at the same time. Liberos can’t be on the court when the match starts and are therefore not allowed to be captains.

How to pronounce libero in volleyball

It can be challenging to pronounce this word as it is derived from Italian. It is derived from the word ‘libre’ which means free. This refers to the fact that the player is to move on the court at any moment. They have some freedoms that other players don’t have. Volleyball is very popular in Italy and the position originated there. Let’s try our best Italian accent and say lih-BEAR-oh. A lot of people have a different way of saying it as they have local accents. Let’s take a look at how Italians pronounce this word below:

Just listen to it a few times and try it for yourself. You will get the hang of it eventually. It is a word that is used in volleyball so it is important that you get it right. The first part of the word is often wrongly pronounced, leading to confusion. Make sure that you get the first two letters right and you are good to go.

To conclude, we can state that liberos are defensive players. They are great at digging and diving. This requires a lot of ball-handling skills and hand-eye coordination. Having to keep the ball in the air and pass it as well is a big feat. This is why liberos are often highly regarded in a team as it is a combination of skills that are hard to acquire. Players often train for several years before they can do this.