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


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


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 this.

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


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


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


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 angle"

so 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 to.

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 net.

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


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