Volleyball Defense

How To Defend Your Court Against An Opposing Attack

When playing volleyball defense, the ultimate goal of the defensive team 

is to keep the ball off their floor.

Covering the Court in Defense

A team in volleyball defense has blockers that take one area at the 

net while diggers plant themselves in the back court outside of the

area that the block takes.

The serving team (in white) is on defense. The team receiving the serve is in serve receive.  Once the serve crosses the net, the defensive team's three blockers wait at the net to try and stop the ball from coming into their court.

If the ball gets past the blockers, then the players in the back row play volleyball defense by digging the ball into the air to keep it off the ground.

If they do, the team has two more contacts, for a total of three, to get the ball to one of their hitters and attack the ball back over the net. 

When the blockers  take away a certain area of the court, the

diggers systematically cover the other parts of the court.

This way most of the open spaces on the court are covered in team 

defense, making it harder for the opposing team to hit the ball to 

an open space. 

This is a basic explanation of volleyball defense.

Individual volleyball defense skills like digging, communication with

your teammates and having an aggressive attitude are

important for a player to be good at, especially if you play all six

positions for your team during a match.

As players learn more about the game, then they learn more 

advanced defensive strategies like digging the seam of the 

block or playing more advanced defenses like rotational 


Advance Volleyball Defense

In advanced volleyball defense training coaches spend many 

hours on practice drills teaching things like

  • Where a player's base or starting position is in defense - 

A players base position in the back row is usually on or one step back

from the ten foot line. This will vary slightly depending on what type of

volleyball defense strategy the team is running and how fast they are

running it.

  • What steps to take before the spiker hits the ball -

Usually in the back court, digger's will do a series of adjustment steps to

better position themselves once they see where the setter has set the


A digger should follow this eye sequence "Ball-Setter-Ball-Hitter

or BSBH which means after the opposing team has passed the

ball, the digger should watch the setter to see who she plans to set to.

Then once she sets the ball, the defensive player's eyes should track or

watch the Ball as it travels to the Hitter.  Now the digger should shift her

gaze to the hitter, watching the hitter to get clues as  to where (in what

direction) she plans to hit.

All this eye sequencing (which the blocker does as well at the 

net) is done so that the front row blockers and the back row 

defensive diggers see the same action and they move 

according to the planned volleyball defensive strategy that was 

decided to use against this opponent.  

  • How many steps to take and in what direction 

If the opposing team's setter sets the middle then players on defense

usually have little to no time to take steps to position themselves on the


They have time to take one shuffle step usually outside of the 

shadow of their middle blocker or outside blocker and then they just 

get in a low defensive position ready to dig the ball coming from the 

middle attack. 

  • Where to place yourself on the court so you aren't playing defense behind the block - 

If the opposing setter sets the ball to either of their outside hitters then

diggers have more time to take 2-3 adjustment shuffle steps to position

themselves outside of the shadow of the blocker in front of them, so they

can see the ball the hitter is hitting.

And so they can better "read" the ball positioning and the

hitter's body/arm language which gives them clues as to where the ball

is about to be hit.

Following the volleyball defense strategy the coach has established for 

the team against this particular opponent, the digger will position 

themselves to dig cross court because their blockers are taking 

away the hitter's ability to hit down the line., 

Or, they are digging the line because their blockers are taking away, at

the net, the opposing hitter's ability to hit cross court. 

  • Learning how to dig a volleyball that's been hit at your feet 

This requires a digger to quickly sink their hips below the level of

the ball once the ball has been hit at them so they can position

their angled platform directly underneath the path of the

oncoming ball and control the ball up into the air.

  • Learning to dig a volleyball that's about to land two or three feet away from you.

This requires a digger to take one or two steps to get closer to the ball

before digging it.

Usually players will use a sprawl or extension technique so if they

need tohit the ground afterwards because they are off balance

after digging the ball, then they can do so and quickly get back

up unhurt and continue playing. 

  • Learning to dig and control a volleyball that you have to run and chase after - 

This will require a back court digger to learn a barrel roll or dive

technique which does not help them actually dig the ball it helps them

protect their body and finish landing on the ground in a safe and

protected manner AFTER they've run to dig a ball to keep it off the floor. 

  • Learning where to place yourself on the court for a free ball or a down ball in volleyball defense - 

Sometimes the opposing team will not spike a hard driven ball into the

defensive team's court.

They will give an easy ball or what's called a "free" ball over the net.

Because this type of ball isn't a fast hard driven attack it requires the 

defensive team to position themselves on their court in a different 

formation which resembles more of a serve receive formation than a 

defensive formation.

Many hours are spent in practice, or should be, identifying 

the difference between a free ball and how the team should position 

themselves and a spike and where the team should transition to be in the 


  • Learning different volleyball defense strategies like one of the following

The man-up or man-back defense or any of the perimeter

volleyball defensive systems like rotation defense.

All these things are a part of learning how to adopt your team's

volleyball defense strategies.


The attitude, girls need to play volleyball defense with can be

compared to the same aggressive attitude guys are taught to

have when learning how to play football. 

It all needs to start with an aggressive determined attitude.

An all out, "I'm never going to let this ball hit our court floor" attitude that

inspires players to go all out to recover balls in defense no matter

where they've been hit on the court. 

Defense is an attitude!
Watch Japan dig after dig, amazing volleyball defense! 

How To Play Volleyball: Where To Go From Here

Alright, alright, alright! Time to study something something. You still have those three options: 

  1. Let's learn more about Serve Receive
  2. Or you can choose the suggested reading on our Sitemap page    Learning How To Play (Sitemap)
  3. Or visit the pages in the How to Play Volleyball section in the drop down menu at the top of the page to get started. 

  1. Improve Your Volleyball
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  3. How To Play Volleyball
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