What is the black or red shirt in volleyball? Easy explanation for what is going on.

Everyone on a volleyball team is wearing the same color shirt during a match. Both teams were different colors shirts so it is obvious who belongs to what team. If both teams have the same team colors, one of the teams has to switch and wear another color.

However, there is one player on each team that wears another colored jersey. This can be for example a red or black shirt. The goal is to make sure that this player stands out so that the referee can see that they are participating in the game. What is going on with this player? Let’s discuss this in this article. 

 What does the black or red jersey mean in volleyball?

Every player on the court has a specific role on the court. This allows everyone to use their specific skill. A setter provides an assist for the right-side hitter that scores points. The middle blocker defends by blocking the ball at the net. You also have the outside hitter that has to defend and attack. Finally, we have the libero.

This player has to wear a different colored jersey as he or she has to follow certain limitations. To make sure that the referee can follow who is allowed to do what, the libero has to wear another colored shirt. This is often red, white, or black to contrast with the other players on the team.  

The libero was only introduced in 2002 in the USA and started at the college level and slowly also was adopted in the high school and club programs. The following video explains this role further:

This role of the libero is quite complex. This player specializes in defense and stands in the last row from the net. They can get and off the court at any point during the game but can only replace players in the back row. This explains the word libero as it is Italian for free. They are often great at digging or receiving the ball after an attack on the other team.

Their main role is to keep the ball off the floor at all costs. You have to communicate with the other players and coordinate the defense. They have to lead by example and go for every ball. This requires a lot of dedication and energy as you have to jump around a lot.

This player can’t play on the front row as this is not allowed. Therefore they can’t block. Most of the time the libero is used in rotation with the middle blocker as the middle blocker is often a taller player that might be less agile. Libero’s have to dig often so this is a very intense position. A libero doesn’t play during the whole game as they often get switched out when the team rotates again. 

This position is very important as you help defend and build up the attack.    Not a lot of players want to be a libero as it is a very difficult job. They have to stay behind certain lines of the field if they don’t want to impact the setter.

Therefore you often see liberos jumping on one leg or holding back. There is a lot of pressure on this player as they might have to perform a lot of digs in a short period of time. If you miss one, the team might lose the game so you have to be able to deal with pressure when you are in this position. Not everyone will like this as they might disappoint other players in the team if they miss their interception. You will have to accept that you make mistakes and learn from them. 

Is it fun to be a libero?

In a team sport such as volleyball, everyone has to work together and this is why the whole team cheers when they score a point. This recognized the effort that everyone has put into this instead of just celebrating the hitter that scored the point. Especially when players start to get tired, it can rally the team when you celebrate together. 

Photo by Stephen Baker on Unsplash

Some players really want to enjoy the rush of scoring a point and the libero position is not for them as liberos are not able to do this given where they stand on the court. Beach volleyball only has two players on the field so there are no libero’s in this variation of volleyball. 

Libero’s often wear special knee pads as they have to dive and slide over the ground a lot. They might pick thicker knee pads that offer more protection but this depends on the preference of the player. 

To conclude, we can state that there is one player on every team that wears another colored jersey (often black, white, or red). This is worn by the libero, a specific defensive role in a volleyball team. The different color allows the referee to see that the libero is on the field and make sure that this player is following the rules.

Libero’s can’t do everything, for example, they are not allowed to play on the front row (close to the net). Therefore the referee has to be able to check this easily. Another color makes sure that the referee can see what is going on and report a foul if the libero does something that is not allowed by this role.

The libero is a quite new function but it is recognized by a lot of competitions such as the Olympics and NCAA championships. At first, this role can seem quite confusing but after a while, you will see how it works. They often replace a taller player for a more agile player that can defend better. The libero has to pass to other members on the team and can’t block. 

You have to be a special player to become a libero as you have to deal with a lot of pressure. You have to run and jump a lot and it is very intense to do so.