by Mina K. '19
Multiple times after my volleyball matches, my friends have asked me: “Why is there one person wearing a different colored jersey?” In volleyball, the player that wears a different color is called the “libero,” and has the responsibility of leading the team’s serve-receive and, like the goalie in soccer, the defense. They only play in the back row and are allowed an unlimited amount of substitutions for back-row players. The libero specializes in passing and digging, but also must be a skillful setter in the situation where the setter makes the first contact.
Successful liberos are aggressive, talkative, and supportive on the court. They are aggressive in that they have a “dig or die” mentality, often sacrificing their bodies for a successful dig or pass. To dig a hard ball well, liberos must take energy out of the ball, rather than swinging at the ball and putting energy into it. One way I do this is by aiming to contact the bottom of the ball, which sends the ball high and in the middle of the court. If I were to contact the side of the ball facing me, the ball would go flying over the net. If the ball is tipped short or not hit directly at me, I must sprawl for it by pivoting my knee outward and diving onto the floor, aiming for the bottom of the ball. It’s usually because of sprawls that liberos often develop painful bruises on their elbows, hips, knees, and hands. It’s just something we get used to. In emergency situations, liberos can “pancake” by diving and extending a hand toward the ball; the ball then bounces up off their hand rather than their forearms. It’s a move that’s rarely needed (most balls you can get by sprawling with your platform); nevertheless, it’s impressive. Liberos must lead by being effective communicators, not only in talking loudly with teammates about passing and setting responsibilities, but also by constantly motivating and encouraging their teammates.
After four years as a setter during 6th through 9th grade, this is my third year as a libero/defensive specialist, and I am confident that this is the position where I can contribute the most to the team given my extremely tall stature (5’6”). While at the beginning of my sophomore year I was intimidated by the pressure of leading the back-row and having volleyballs fly at my face, I have fallen in love with the libero position. I constantly work on developing the qualities above, so I can best support the team. I love the thrill of digging a ball that’s been hit ruthlessly at the floor, and I love the feeling when my teammates make a kill off of my passes. In conclusion, I think that liberos are crucial team members, but unfortunately, not many quite understand who they are or what they do. Now, if you’re ever at a Lakeside volleyball game and someone asks you why me or a fellow ‘bro is wearing a different colored jersey, you’ll know the answer!
Follow Lakeside volleyball on Twitter at @LakesideLionsVB.