How To Dig A Volleyball

Digging A Volleyball Using Hands, Arms, Chest and Head

How To Dig A Volleyball

To dig a volleyball or by digging a volleyball up in defense you are 

keeping an attacked ball by the opposing team off your court floor.

This keeps them from scoring a point, while at the same time you are

setting your team up to run an offensive counterattack against them so

your team can try to score a point. 

What does 'dig a volleyball' mean? 

To dig a volleyball means you contact and intercept the ball, while

your team is on defense by deflecting it up in the air with your arms held


You defend, or dig the ball to keep it off your team's court floor once it

crosses into your court after an attack hit by the opposing team, so

they don't score a point .

There are offensive ways to contact the ball and there are defensive

ways to contact the ball. 

The 'pass', the 'set', the 'serve' and the 'hit' describe offensive ways to

contact the ball. These are terms that describe ways you contact

the ball to set it up for an attack hit into the other team's court.

The "block" and "the dig" are defensive terms used to describe ways to

contact the ball. You 'block' or  'dig a volleyball' when you need

to defend your court from the other team's attack. 

When To Dig A Volleyball

In a rally, after a team serves, the serving team is on defense and the

team who is receiving the serve is on offense. 

The team on defense has three blockers in the front row who will

try and stop the opposing team's attack hit at the net by

blocking the ball before it comes over the net.

If the blockers can't block it then the three players on defense in the

back row, also called 'diggers' or 'defensive players', will use

their defensive skills to dig the ball up to keep it off the ground so

the opposing team can't score  a point. 

On defense, the block is the first line of defense for a team and the

dig is the second and last line of defense for a team to try and

keep an opposing team's attack hits from scoring points by keep

the ball off the floor. 

When your team blocks, you are defending your court at the net,

and if the ball gets by the block, then your back row players. also known

as 'diggers', defend your court by digging the ball up into the air so it

doesn't hit the floor.  

The minute your team digs a volleyball up and the ball stays on

your side your team changes or "transitions" from being a team on

defense to becoming a team on offense. 

Your team keeps the opposing team's attack off your floor, but you've

also set your team up to run an offensive attack sending the ball

into the opposing team's court.

Now its their  turn to try and block your team or dig a volleyball up that

you or your attackers send into their court to try and score a point. 

How To Dig A Volleyball

Ready Position

  • In the back row you should be in an athletic stance with knees slightly bent, leaning slightly forward so your shoulders are in front of your knees with hands and arms extended in front of you 3-4 inches in front of your knees 

  • To dig a volleyball, keep your hands apart so you can run, shuffle step or move quickly to the ball once you know where the ball is going to possibly land
  • Quickly clasp hands together using the same hand grip as you do when you fist placed inside the palm of the other hand, both thumbs side by side together then pointed towards the ground
  • During the dig keep thumbs pointed to the floor, which keeps your arms straight and creates a nice flat platform which you use to dig the ball up into the air
  • Before contacting the ball your hips have to be below the level of the oncoming ball.  This is what helps lift the ball up into the air and increases the chances of it staying on your side.  
  • When contacting the ball, do not swing your arms to meet the ball. The attack hit is hard enough and you don't need to add additional movement to get the ball up.

With practice reps and plenty of volleyball defensive drills you

will learn how to use your arms so they absorb the impact of

hard hit balls.

When you dig a volleyball on your club or varsity team, you'll need to be 

okay with digging and defending hard hitting attackers on the opposing


Funny Terms Used To Explain How To Dig A Volleyball

There's some really funny terminology used when talking about

certain defense movements or back court actions in the game.

Back in the day "old school" players thought up funny names

to describe how a player would dig a ball in certain situations.

Many of these volleyball vocabulary slang terms have

remained the same, unchanged and still standing like your favorite

Disney stories that're told over and over again passed on from one

player to the next.

You're going to want to check these out. These terms describe ways

to dig a volleyball with your face, dig with your chest, dig with

your shoulder or dig with the back of your hand. 

They are called....

  • the six to dig a ball with your chest 
  • the to dig a ball with your face
  • the to dig a ball that leaves a mark, pretty much anywhere
  • the chester...another way to dig a ball with your chest
  • the to dig a ball with the back of your hand

The Six Pack, The Facial, The Tattoo, The Chester and The Pancake

What do these terms used in everyday practices or competition have

in common?

Sure, it seems like these words should be used in the kitchen of a famous

international chef.  

But words like "pancake" "six pack" "facial" or "chester" are actually key

terms in volleyball used to describe ways a player can legally

dig a volleyball using body parts other than their hands. 

Players Who Dig Don't Always Use Their Hands

This terminology may sound pretty funny and as I mentioned

before a couple of the words are also food names like the


But these are commonly used  terms that you should familiarize

yourself with because everyone uses them regularly.

What does a six pack have to do with how you dig a volleyball?

The six pack is one of the more famous terms used to describe how

player can dig a ball without using their hands.

Some players learn about this word because they were told what it

meant by a teammate or a coach.

Others know about this word unfortunately, because they experienced

the "six pack" on the court firsthand.

Usually, when it happens it can be a memorable and quite often, an

embarassing situation.

If it does happen that you get "six packed" the term takes on a

whole different sometimes painful meaning.

In this case it means you faced a spiker on an opposing team who

spiked a ball that hit you hard in the face, in the chest or square in the

upper body leaving you stunned, surprised and often times with a

stinging bruise that occasionally leaves a mark.

Just for the record, what usually gets bruised the most on players that

get "six packed" are their egos.

If you play the game long enough, it will happen to you sooner or later.

A player can be 'six packed' while they are in serve receive waiting for a

server on the opposite team to jump serve a ball or while they are in

defense waiting for a spiker to hit the ball.

Check out the video for an example of...

The Six Pack, Sometimes You Just Don't See It Coming

One of the unofficial volleyball rules when someone is "six

packed" goes like this...

When it happens, its because the ball was served or spiked so hard and

so fast that if you were the defensive player trying to dig the

volleyballyou didn't have time to put your hands up to make a

defensive move to deflect or dig it, so the ball hit you ...hard..on some

upper part of your body.

According to the players who invented the phrase, when a hitter hits

the ball hard enough to catch a defensive player by surprise, hitting

them so hard they can't dig the volleyball up, the digger must

follow an old school volleyball tradition, which is to "pay" the spiker a

six pack of their favorite beverage.

Back in the day the "six pack" referred to a 'six pack of beer' and in many 

long running indoor and outdoor tournaments it still means the same


This tradition, both actual and symbolic is still deeply embedded

in American volleyball culture and is destined to stay a part of it

for a long time. 

Check out some of the videos to see what it means to get  "six packed"

when a player attempts to dig a volleyball. 

If it happened to you, trust me, you won't soon forget!

What does a "tattoo" have to do with
how you dig a volleyball?

Similar to a "six pack", a "tattoo" is another word that describes being

hit by a ball that was spiked so hard the digger didn't have time

to put their hands up before the ball hit them hard on some part

of their body.

In many cases, players will use the word "tattoo" to describe a real or

imaginary mark that the ball left on the digger's skin.

Players say "Wow! You got hit so hard that the words (Mikasa) on

the ball have been "tattooed" on your forehead, face or whatever part

of the body made contact with the ball. 

What does a "facial" have to do with how you dig a volleyball?

One of the terms used to describe taking a spike to the face, is a facial

which actually is a special kind of 'six pack'.

When I say "special" I'm joking but still, it is similar to a six pack,

because a facial describes what happens when a player digs a ball with

their face.

This Facial May Leave A Tattoo!

The difference between these two terms used in defense is

that with a "six pack" a player will get hit in the chest or upper body

area and since the ball made direct contact with their body without

them getting their hands up in time to dig or deflect it, they owe the

hitter a six pack of beer, soda or beverage of their choice.

With a "facial" , unlike the one you get when you pay

someone to apply a cleaning solution to your face, the one in volleyball

may sting a little, but then most players laugh it off, and keep playing.

In case, you thought there weren't enough terms used to

describe when a player gets nailed by a hard hit  another common term

used to describe this action is the "chester."

Can You Spot The Facial, The Chester and the Six Pack? Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

What does a chester have to do with how you dig a volleyball?

A chester belongs in the same category as a 'facial' or 'six pack.

Its in the list of vocabulary terms in defense used to describe what

happens when a player doesn't get their hands up in time to dig the


It describes what happens when a player gets nailed in the chest  by

a hard spike.

The thing about a chester  is that it isn't always whistled by the referee,

especially if the ref decides that even though the digger didn't used

their hands to contact the ball, the ball didn't come to a complete rest

while it was on their chest.

If the referee thinks that the 'chester' wasn't a ball that was 'lifted',

in other words a ball that comes to a complete stop when its on the

player's chest, then they'll allow play to continue.

In this case the referee interprets the action as the ball having bounced

off the player's chest which counts as one of the three contacts a team

gets when trying to get it back over the net.

So, to answer the question that I can hear you formulating in your

head, the answer is "yes" there are times that play will continue even

though a player contacted the ball with their chest instead of their


In each case, its up to the ref to determine whether play will continue

or not.

So the best thing you can do is keep playing, no matter what.

You should keep playing the ball until you hear the referee blow the

whistle indicating that the play has ended and that someone has

earned a point, otherwise...keep playing!

There Are Pancakes in Volleyball
But Not For Breakfast

A pancake is an emergency defensive technique used by indoor

players as a last ditch effort to dig a volleyball by keeping the

it off of the floor.

Here's how it works.

A player extends their hand flat on the floor, like a pancake, with their

palm down and fingers straight, in such a manner that when the ball hits

their hand, it pops back in the air without touching the court floor.

This action takes practice because it's a matter of

  • identifying where the ball is going to come down and
  • perfecting the ability of gauging the speed of the ball so the player can
  • perfectly time the correct placement of their hand in the right spot

If done correctly, the referee, will consider the "pancaked ball" as

one of the three contacts a team gets while on defense.

Official volleyball rules state that while doing the "pancake" no

part of the ball should make contact with the floor otherwise the

referee will whistle for play to stop and the ball will be awarded to the

opposing team.

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