Why do volleyball players have different jerseys? Best answer

When you go to a volleyball game, the players wear different jerseys and jersey numbers. Why is that the case as both teams are on different sides of the net? Why is one player on the team wearing a different jersey than the rest? To answer this, we have to discuss how the game is played and also some recent rule changes as these have an effect on the colors of the jerseys as well. You often see red, blue, or green jerseys during volleyball games, so why use these different colors? Let’s discuss this in more detail.

Why is there one person on the team with a different-colored jersey? Why the libero wears a different color

This can be explained by the libero. A libero is a player that is able to substitute a defensive player on the team at any moment without notifying the referee. The name is derived from the Italian word libre which ‘free’ means. These players are free to go on and off the court when they want. They are specialized in defense and can replace any back-row player. Since there are some things that the libero is not allowed to do (for example he/she can not block the ball), it has to be easy to know which player is the libero.

This makes it easier for the referee to see that a certain player is a libero. In this way, the referee can monitor that the libero is not making an illegal move. In essence, the libero is a player who will give an assist to another player in offense and also catch the ball in defense. What was allowed to do by this player has evolved over the years and it is possible that it will change again in the future. The libero is present in a lot of competitive games, from NCAA to the Olympics. Therefore it is an important role that a lot of players want to take up.  The libero has to be really good at communicating with other players under pressure. Otherwise, that player will not be able to substitute the other player in time. 

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

Especially a lot of young libero players still make mistakes and therefore it is important to wear the jersey. Professional libero players often know what is expected from them but they can still make a mistake. To be sure, they still have to wear a jersey that has a different color. 

So when the players on the team wear a red shirt, the libero might wear a blue shirt (another color is possible as well). The goal is to make sure that the libero really stands out from the rest so that the referee can easily spot this player without having to check the nuances of colors. 

Liberos have only been introduced a few decades ago so the role on the court is still quite new. You also have middle blockers (defenders), spikers (attackers), and setters (these players give an assist) on the court. Liberos often substitute middle blockers when these are in the last row. Middle blockers are often taller players that are less agile while liberos are often smaller players that can move around easily.

You often see the teams wearing the same colors again in volleyball. Red, blue, green, white, and yellow. These colors are very distinctive and make it easy to see who is on what team. If they would be too similar, it would negate the benefit of wearing different jerseys.

Why red shirt in volleyball?

 As discussed before, a libero wears a different color than the rest of the team. Liberos often wear red at which is a contrasting color that makes them stand out from the rest. The team colors often depend on local preferences. If both teams have the same colors, there is one team that has to use their spare equipment to make sure that the colors are different. In NCAA competitions liberos also have to wear a number on their shirt. They are allowed to wear the same color of pants as the rest of the team.

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

In the Olympics, the color of the jersey depends on the country. Every country has specific colors in its flag. These are often represented in their jerseys as well. Brazil, for example, has green volleyball jerseys whereas the USA uses blue volleyball jerseys. The libero tries to wear an outfit that matches with this color. Next to jerseys, players also wear arm sleeves, socks, and shoes. Liberos often wear the same colors as the rest of the team for these accessories. This improves the esthetics of the team.

Red is also a popular color in general so it is no surprise that it shows up in volleyball as well. The red is not too bright so it is not fluorescent. Professional players also have their names and number stitched on the jersey. This is done in another contrasting color so that it is easy to read for the referee. If he/she has to give a yellow card to a player, it is easy to know to whom this has to be given based on the number on the jersey. 

The pants of players are most often in the same color as the jersey but this is not always the case. For example, some teams have red jerseys but black pants. This doesn’t happen that often but can add some personality to the outfits. You once again have the number of the player that is stitched or printed on the pants.

Why does everyone wear the same colors within a team?

The players on the same volleyball team have the same color of jersey with the exception of one player. The teams on each side of the net wear different outfits so that it is easy to distinguish between them. This makes it easier to see where you have to pass or smash. If you are running and diving, it is easy to get disoriented. To get a better point of reference, it is possible to look at the jerseys of the players.

This allows you to see where the players are on your team and where the other team is located. This might sound weird but it really helps you to make decisions when you are playing. You don’t have a lot of time to pass in volleyball so you have to make sure that the ball goes in the right direction. A quick glimpse can help you see where your team members are. This can also explain why the colors of the jerseys are quite bright. This makes it possible to see where everyone is in an instant. 

Photo by Josh Duke on Unsplash

Teams often require that everyone on the team wears the same shoes, socks, arm sleeves, and knee pads. This makes sure that everyone has the same colors from bottom to top and makes the team look more similar. This creates an effect of belonging together. It is also more aesthetically pleasing. If everyone can wear whatever color of shoe or socks, it would look like a mess and very disorganized.

Therefore a lot of teams have specific requirements when it comes to the color of equipment that a player can use during a game. Often this is not the case for training but teams are stricter when it comes to a competitive game. Some teams are less strict with this and don’t care as much but in general, you will see that this is a point that is discussed and players have to adhere to the team rules. The teams must follow the rules of NCAA (college volleyball organization) or NFHS (high school volleyball organization).

I have seen players that had to remove arm sleeves because they did not fit the requirements of the team. This might sound overbearing but once you start accepting one piece that has another color than required, it is hard to go back, and then everyone starts to break the rules. The referee typically will not comment on this but the coach of the team might not like this and ask that you remove the equipment. Some very strict coaches will even place you on the bench for this as they feel that you have broken the team rules and you should get a punishment for this. 

After several years and washes, the colors of the jerseys start to become dimmer. This is often the moment that teams buy new jerseys as it is important that the colors remain clear and not too washed off. 

To conclude, we can state that there are good reasons why there are multiple colors of jerseys on the volleyball field. The main reason is to make it easy to distinguish between teams and roles. The referee and the players have to be sure who is on their team and who isn’t. You also have to know who is allowed to perform certain actions and what players (for example the libero) are not. It also adds some personality to each team and some outfits are just magnificent.