Volleyball Defensive Specialist:
9 Things Diggers Do To Play Killer Defense

Digging volleyballs made easy!

Volleyball defense training (Michael E Johnston)Volleyball defensive specialist training (Michael E Johnston)

The job description for the defensive specialist is slightly different  than for

the libero. 

The rules for the defensive specialist in volleyball allow them to

perform offensive duties if they are needed by the team. 

Seven Things The Defensive Specialist Can Do That A Libero Can't 

Unlike the libero, the defensive specialist in volleyball can:

  • rotate in and play in the front row if needed
  • jump, hit and attack from in front of the ten foot line
  • jump and block in the front row
  • can go in and be substituted for another teammate in either the front or back row 
  • each team has a total of 12 substitutions they can make during a came. The libber substitutions do not count as any of these 12 but every time a D/S is substituted in, it counts as one of the 12 allowed
  • when subbing into the game, the D/S enters the court only from the substitution zone which is inside the ten foot line
  • a team can have their volleyball defense specialist and a libber on the court at the same time during a match

Click here to learn everything about the libero position

In advanced volleyball defense training I teach 9 essential

skills that players spend many hours in practice learning...

Defense Specialist Training: Base Position

  • 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 1 - 3 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 or run down a tip

coming from the middle attack. 

Defensive Specialist Training:
Where To Be in the  Backcourt 

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

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. 

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

Defensive Specialist Training:
Digging Balls Hit At You

  • 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.

Defensive Training:
Digging Balls Hit A Few Feet From You

  • 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. 

Defense Specialist Training:
Digging Balls You Have To Run and Chase After

  • 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. 

Volleyball Defense Training: Court Placement For Digging Free Balls vs Down Balls 

  • 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 


Volleyball Defense Training:
Learn Advance Defensive Strategies

  • 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.

Volleyball Positions: Where Do You Go From Here?

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