5 Basic Rules Of Volleyball Communication In Defense

Volleyball Communication Skills For Backrow Players

5 Basic Rules of Volleyball Communication  (photo by Matt Van Winkle)5 Basic Rules of Volleyball Communication (photo by Matt Van Winkle)

The 5 basic rules of volleyball communication here all

involve common situations that players find or will find

themselves in while their team is on defense.

Team communication is an important part of this sport but their

are specific occasions during volleyball defense when

communication is absolutely essential.

In the photo below the Xavier blockers wearing the #6 and #9

jerseys are following one of the 5 basic rules of volleyball

communication in defense by indicating with their fingers and

at the same time shouting out to tell their teammates on

defense that there are three possible attackers in the front row

on the opposing team.

As I mentioned in a previous discussion about communicating

while on defense, you and your team should be 

communicating with each other, loudly about...

  • who the attackers are and what jersey numbers they have
  • where the attackers are on the opposing team
  • where the setter is

...before the referee blows the whistle to start play.

The picture below of the Illinois State Redbirds blockers shows

the player wearing the #2 jersey is following one of the 5 basic

rules of volleyball communication by holding up her two

fingers indicating to her teammates behind her that there are

two hitters in the front row that the setter could set the ball to.

It also means that if there are two hitters front row then the setter

is front row also and could be one of the players who could tip

the ball or hit the ball over as well.

So #2 is doing her job by communicating this important

information to her teammates so they won't be surprised by a

front row setter tipping the ball over the opposing team's block.

This is a great example of following one of the 5 basic rules of

volleyball communication in defense.

Speaking of setters who like to dump the ball over the net,

there's a particular setter you should look out for and tell your

teammates about if you see her playing on the other team.

Okay so who is this player and why should you be on the look

out for her?

Call Out The Hitter Tip

2nd of 5 Basic Rules Of Volleyball Communication on Defense

We just talked about the first of the 5 basic rules of volleyball

communication which was calling out the setter and talking to

your team about the possibility of her dumping the ball into

your court when she has rotated into one of the three front row

positions on offense. 

Here's the second one.

What about calling out the opposing team's hitter when they

appear to be tipping the volleyball?

The more games and matches and tournaments that a player

plays in, the more they will get used to watching the movement

of an opposing hitter's arm during their hitting motion so that

they can better anticipate what type of spike the hitter will

make and where that spike will probably go.

A crafty volleyball hitter will disguise the fact that they are going

to tip by executing the same arm movement they use when

they spike the ball.

The difference is that at the very last minute, at the highest point

in their spike jump, they will slow down their wrist movement to

tip the ball instead of spiking it.

As a volleyball player on defense you want to always, always

call out "tip!" to your teammates, when you see the hitter do


Make Pepper Challenging

3rd of 5 Basic Rules Of Volleyball Communication On Defense

To practice using the third rule of the 5 basic rules of volleyball

regarding the development of your communication skills, you

definitely need to learn to recognize early, the telltale signs of

when a volleyball player is going to tip the ball. 

Before practice or during your pregame pepper warmup drill,

with your partner make sure to mix up your "attack" so that you

hit five or six balls hard in a row, then you tip the ball followed

by three or four more hard hits, then another tip that's to the

side of your partner, then five or six hard hits, then a short ball to

the other side of your pepper partner.

By mixing up the attack in your pepper warm up drill, you

mimic or in other words you copy or you reenact the different

types of hits that you and your teammates will see or will have

to defend against in your next volleyball game.

It's counterproductive to get into a comfortable set-pass-hit

rhythm during your pepper, because the volleyball game

consists of different rhythms and unexpected spikes, and hits off

the block and digs made when players are off balance so

these are precisely the things pepper partners want to prepare

themselves for during their pepper warmup.

In a game, is the opposing team going to make it easy for you

to dig their balls by hitting right at you?

II doubt it.

They are going to do everything they can to keep the ball out

of your reach.

So if you want to improve your volleyball defense then you

should make pepper challenging for your partner, not easy.

Guess what? That means for you to keep the ball out of your

pepper each other's reach as well.

Both pepper players, should challenge each other so neither of

you knows what "attack" is going to come next .

Then when each of you do see the attack from your partner,

you should get in the habit of calling out what you see.

Is your partner tipping the ball? Call out "tip" as you go for the


This way

  • you are practicing how to read the spiker's arm
  • you are working on increasing your quick reflexes in defense
  • you are working to improve the reaction time to the ball

Ultimately, the faster you recognize when someone is going to

tip, the faster you can communicate this information to your


The Importance of Communication In The Volleyball Down Ball Defense

4th of 5 Basic Rules Of Volleyball Communication on Defense

Here's a scenario.

If a volleyball player is off the court and she is attempting to hit

a down ball from either the right side or left side of the court,

then the only way the volleyball can be hit back into the court

without touching the antenna is for the ball to travel at a cross

court angle.

Since there is no way the down ball attacker can hit the ball

down the line without hitting the antenna why stay at the net to

block the line?

There are two things players can be communicating to each

other at this point.

The outside blockers should call "down ball" so the front row

blockers can transition quickly off the net to run a play, instead

of staying at the net to block. 

The back row defense along with the blockers should be yelling

"cross court dig!" or "Watch the cross court hit!" or "Dig the

angleso the team's defense can shift a few steps to the right or

left depending on where the ball is coming from to quickly

defend the down ball hitter's cross court attack.

If a volleyball player concentrates on how the play is

developing  they will use one of the most important of the 5

basic rules of volleyball communication to call out what play is

going to happen before it happens.

Many times in club volleyball, high school volleyball and some

in college when this situation occurs one or two defenders are

left  defending a part of the court that the ball will never come


This is a waste of time, energy and manpower and ultimately

will cost your team valuable points.

One of the most important aspects of the 5 basic rules of

volleyball communication for volleyball players to memorize is

that by talking about what the opposing team's hitter is doing,

the whole team knows that it will be useless to have anybody

defending down the line and that they all need to shift the

block, if the team blocks down balls, but more importantly shifts

the diggers so they dig the cross court ball.

The Importance of Communication In The Volleyball

Free Ball Defense

5th of 5 Basic Rules Of Volleyball Communication on Defense

Consider this example.

Many times a volleyball player has to turn their back to the net

to play a ball whether they are running off the court or not.

If this is their third contact, the minute you see the player bend

their knees while they have their back turned you should yell

"free ball" because you know the ball is about to come over the


The sooner you do this, the sooner your team can transition

back into your volleyball team's free ball defense.

But if you wait until the player has already contacted the ball

AND its on its way over the net, that's too late and you have

wasted precious time that could have been used to ALREADY

be in your free ball passing position so you could have run a

faster offense and caught the opposing team off guard.

5 basic rules of volleyball:If This Player Digs It Up Its Going To Be  A Free Ball For The Opposing Team  photo by Michael E. JohnstonIf This Player Digs It Up Its Going To Be A Free Ball For The Opposing Team photo by Michael E. Johnston

While on defense, volleyball players need to learn to watch or

to "read" the spiking arm of the attacker for indications as to

how the hitter intends to hit the ball, where they intend to hit it,

how high or how low they intend to hit the ball and how hard or

how soft they plan to contact the ball.

If the player's arm is below their waist, then they couldn't

possibly be preparing to overhand spike the ball, so everyone

on your team should be seeing that the ball won't be hit and

that the player intends to underhand pass the ball over the net

so everybody should be calling out "free ball!" loudly.

This concludes my review of the 5 basic rules of volleyball

communication in defense.

If you can think of anymore rules, please include them in the

comment section.

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