Volleyball Defense

How To Defend Your Court Against An Opposing Attack

How To Play 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.


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! 

Covering the Court in Defense

Remember the goal of the team on defense is to keep the ball off their


Volleyball team defense means blockers take one area at the

net while diggers plant themselves outside of the area that the

block takes.

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

diggers systematically cover the other parts of the court.

So 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. 

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


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 to 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 behind the block on defense - 

If the 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.

Fundamental Rules In Volleyball Defense

Talking and knowing what to say and when to say it on the court

is soimportant in this sport that I dedicated this section to explaining

my fundamental rules in volleyball defense communication.

volleyball defense: Villanova Volleyball Team Communicating In A HuddleVillanova Volleyball Team Communicating In A Huddle

When a team is on offense a setter needs to tell her hitters what

play they are going to run or what sets they are supposed to hit.

That's something just the hitters and the setter need to know.

But when a team is on defense the whole team needs to talk with the

front court players telling the back court players what opposing team

hitters are front row and what they think everybody should be looking

out for once the referee blows the whistle.

Click here to find out more about the situations in which

communication on the court, especially in defense, is most


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