The Volleyball Dig: What Is It, When To Do It and How To Dig A Ball

The volleyball dig or digging a volleyball up in defense means that you are able to keep an attacked ball by the opposing team off your court floor. 


To dig a volleyball or by digging a volleyball up in defense you are keeping a hard or softly attacked ball by an opposing team's hitter off of your volleyball 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. 


How Do You Hold Your Volleyball Hands, Wrists and Arms When You Dig A Ball?


How do you hold your volleyball hands, wrists and arms when you dig a ball?

Both arms are held together at the wrists so your arms form a flat surface, called a "platform" for the ball to bounce off of.

To volleyball dig both arms are held together at the wrists so your arms form a flat surface, called a To volleyball dig both arms are held together at the wrists so your arms form a flat surface, called a "platform" for the ball to bounce off of.

Your Wrists

To keep both wrists held together

  • a digger places closed fist inside the palm of the other hand and wraps the fingers around the closed fists so both thumbs are now together side by side. 


Your Elbows and Arms

This keeps the elbows and arms straight throughout the entire digging action.

  • You contact the ball on your platform above the wrists and below the inside of your elbows. 

This area on your arms in volleyball terminology is called your "platform" and its what you use to contact and control balls that are below your waist. 

You use your platform to contact the ball when you're



Your Hips

Just before you dig a ball 

  • you lower your hips so they are below the level 

of the oncoming ball and you present your platform in front of you blocking the path of the ball so its deflected up in the air towards the middle of your court close to your team's ten foot line. 


Volleyball Dig: Where Do You Need To Be On The Court In Order To Dig A Volleyball Up?

As a digger its your job to place yourself in the path of the oncoming ball that's been hit by an opposing team's hitter. (Ralph Arvesen)As a digger its your job to place yourself in the path of the oncoming ball that's been hit by an opposing team's hitter. (Ralph Arvesen)

Where do you position yourself on the court to dig a ball up? 


  • Depending on the defense that your team is playing this may mean that you stand in the shadow of your blockers or you have to place yourself in the seam of the block so if the hitter hits between the two blockers the digger will pick up that ball in the back court


The Volleyball Dig
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 together.  

You defend, or dig the volleyball 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.


Dig A Volleyball Using The Barrel Roll Digging and Defense Technique

For balls that are tipped to the middle of the court we teach the three step barrel roll technique to dig a volleyball.For balls that are tipped to the middle of the court we teach the three step barrel roll technique to dig a volleyball.

To dig a volleyball that's more than 2-3 steps away from you and low to the floor, you need to know 

  • how to play balls up on the move, then
  • complete your digging action and 
  • fall to the ground in a safe way that you get back up and keep playing without getting hurt. 

Dig volleyballs that are 3-4 feet away from you by using the barrel roll technique we teach in Vegas Volleyball Boot Camp classes. 



Many times during a match, as a digger you have to dig hard hit spikes by chasing a ball, taking several steps to get to a ball that was hit several feet from where you are positioned in defense. 

I teach players in Boot Camp classes that you can get to any ball that's on the court by taking 3 no more than 4 large fast steps to chase down a ball in defense.

We practice 2-3 ways to do this ..

For the balls hit or tipped close to you in defense we use the extension and pop up to drop our hips fast to beat the ball to the floor.

For balls spiked further away we teach the extension and one step to barrel roll to get to balls that go up over the block before they come down. 

For balls that are tipped to the middle of the court we teach the three step barrel roll technique to dig a volleyball.



Dig A Volleyball Using The Barrel Roll Technique 
What's a "roll"?

The roll  or barrel roll is one of the several acrobatic individual defense techniques you can use to collapse to the ground after finishing a volleyball dig that takes you off balance.

This technique helps you complete your defense action safely and  most importantly...allows the play to continue without the ball hitting the floor.


The "roll" is used as a way to

  • finish to the floor and
  • recover your footing after digging an attacked or deflected ball you had to leave your feet and hit the ground for

In practice, we like to teach different ways to fall to the floor when you have to dig a ball that's either close to you, a few feet a way from you or even further away.

Depending on how far you go to dig a ball, will determine what kind of technique to use to contact the floor after contacting the ball.



The roll  is a method used by players who have to leave their base defensive position to run more than several feet to chase a ball to keep it from hitting the floor of the court.

The roll itself does not get the ball up, but once a player has 

  • outstretched their arm to dig the ball while at the same time
  • extending their whole body to its full length to reach and make contact with the ball, 

the momentum continues to move the body forward and that player needs a safe way to fall to the ground without getting hurt. 

The key to performing the roll without getting bruised continuously is to stay low to the ground and to play the ball as low to the ground as possible.

Watch unbelievable volleyball digs by 
this Texas girls high school volleyball player! 


Autumn Finney's defense was so spectacular 
she was featured on Sports Center!

In the video above libero Autumn Finney and her teammates used the roll to dig volleyballs that were

a) low to the ground and

b) far away from the net

in order to keep the ball from hitting the floor, while they worked to get the ball closer to and eventually over the net.

If you haven't seen the video, now is the time to look at it before continuing on reading this page, 



Dig A Volleyball With The Barrel Roll Without Bruising Your Knees


Another key to rolling correctly is being able to keep your knees from banging the floor.

That's why kneepads are usually a required part of a player's uniform.


Notice...in the videos above, none of the players fall to their knees!

When they contact the ground the players roll to the sides of their body...to their hip and to the side of their lower leg...turning to their side before making impact with the ground.  

That's how Autumn and her teammates were able to land safely on the court floor after reaching to dig a volleyball...and still continue playing...

Learning how to dig a volleyball that isn't hit right at you requires you to start in a low position and finish in a low position which keeps you only inches from the floor when you start and complete the roll.

We emphasize this alot in our Boot Camp class training and we use mats for our players to practice their rolling and barrel rolling technique on. 

The Volleyball Dig
When Do You Dig A Ball?


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. 


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. (Ralph Aversen)The volleyball dig is the second and last line of defense for a team to keep an opposing team's attack hits from scoring points by keep the ball off the floor. (Ralph Aversen)


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. 


The Volleyball Dig; 

You defend, or dig the volleyball once it crosses into your court after an attack hit by the opposing team, so they don't score a point.


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. 




Thanks for visiting. Be sure to check out more of my volleyball passing articles by clicking one of the links below! (April Chapple)Thanks for visiting. Be sure to check out more of my volleyball passing articles by clicking one of the links below! (April Chapple)

Do You Follow Me on Instagram?


Follow me on Instagram @coach_apchap to improve your game even faster!

I share alot of individual, partner and easy-to-do volleyball serving drills we do in class with my followers.

Many of these volleyball practice drills you can do at home by yourself or try at your next practice with your teammates.

If you're a B team or JV player trying to make varsity next year...your goal should be to complete 1000 reps a day of at least three of the basic skills on your own...volleyball passing, serving and setting should be at the top of the list. 


How To Play Volleyball: 
Where Do You Go Now?


Okay here's where you need to go now! There are three options: 

  1. Learn more about Digging and Defense by clicking the Related Links below. .
  2. Follow 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. 
  4. Before leaving this page Say "Hi" to Miss O.I Gotchu the Octopus wearing the #8 jersey below.  Miss O.I. is the libero for the All Beast VolleyBragSwag All Star team.

You might like these pages about the volleyball dig. 



  1. Improve Your Volleyball Performance with Vegas VB Coach April Chapple
  2.  ›
  3. Volleyball Basics: Six Essential Skills Varsity Players Have To Know
  4.  ›
  5. The Volleyball Dig: What Is It, When To Do It and How To Dig A Ball




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Learn how to perform one of the most important skills you need to know to gain more playing time on the court!MY PASSING EBOOK QUICKLY HELPS YOU IMPROVE YOUR PASSING SKILLS. Learn how to perform one of the most important skills you need to know to gain more playing time on the court!

  Coach April Chapple's Volleyball Passing Tips For Youth Volleyball Players


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