When you watch a volleyball match, you can’t help but look at the libero. Anyone who is new to the sport is likely to ask, “Why is that guy wearing a different jersey?” A common answer is, “He’s the libero.”
The libero’s job, on the other hand, is still not clear.
Some teams have the libero play defense as well. But before we get to that, it’s important to talk about the job’s rules.
The rules of the libero
Both men’s and women’s volleyball require the libero to play in the back row, and only the same player can replace them. Every set, a coach can only choose one libero.
Most teams use the libero as a back-up player. Usually, the libero comes in just before the first serve and takes the place of a starter.
This player is the only one who can play libero. During a game, it’s usually the job of one official to keep track of when the liberos are being switched out.
If the ball is above the net, the libero can’t “finish an attack hit.” The libero also can’t set the ball up with an overhead pass in front of the attack line (10-foot line) and have his or her teammates attack it from above the net.
How is ‘libero’ pronounced?
The answer will depend on who you ask. During media days, Big Ten volleyball players were asked informally which pronunciation they liked better: “li-BEAR-o” or “LEE-beh-ro.” “LEE-beh-ro” is closer to how the word is said in Italy.
The role of the libero
If those two rules weren’t there, the position would probably be used in a very different way.
The libero is often the best defender on the team and is used as a secondary defensive specialist because the rules don’t allow him or her to hit or set the ball
This makes the libero’s defensive duties more important. The libero position has no hard and fast rules, and coaches are not required to use a defensive specialist.
Why do teams use a libero in the first place?
A coach can only make 15 changes during a game, according to NCAA rules. If a batter doesn’t play all six rotations, the coach will often replace him with a defender who just moved to the front row, and vice versa. There is a limit of 15 subs, but libero subs are not counted.
Most of the time, the libero takes part in the rotation of middle blockers. When the first middle player moves to the back row, the other middle player will come in as the libero. Here are two examples that show how these replacements can be used.
How is a libero used in a match?
Serena Gray and Tori Gorrell, who are middle blockers for Penn State, played in a real game in 2019. Before the first serve, defensive specialist libero Kendall White took over for Gorrell.
Gray served, and Gorrell came in for White because she is the only player who can play libero. The next time around, White came back into the lineup and took Gray’s spot. This meant that Gray would have to replace White.
Gray took Gorrell’s place at the service line without a formal replacement, and White served. That means that the next time Gray serves, Gorrell will replace White. How is that even possible?
What really happened was that two liberos switched places. Based on the rules we’ve already talked about, Gray was the only player who could replace the libero, so White took her place. Gorrell then took White’s place, so Gorrell was the only player who could have taken White’s place.