Volleyball Terminology For Defensive Players To Learn Quickly

Defensive Terminology Elite Players Use in
Competition and Training

Volleyball terminology for defensive players (Photo Jaroslaw Popczyk)Volleyball terminology for defensive players (Photo Jaroslaw Popczyk)


The volleyball terminology for defensive players is an extensive list of funny terms and words borrowed from everyday language for normal people and turned into definitions for defensive playing actions on the court that mean something completely different to players, coaches and fans. 


Remember the goal of the team on defense is to keep the ball off their floor so, the players are set up to strategically cover areas at the net and areas in the back court to keep the opposing team from attacking to those areas. 

This is a basic explanation of volleyball defense


As you learn more about the game,  you'll learn more advanced defensive strategies like how to dig the seam of the block or how more advanced defensive options work, like playing team rotational defense. 

Discover specific volleyball terminology collegiate and professional athletes use regularly for defensive actions performed in competition. 


Volleyball Terminology: What's a libero?

A  libero in volleyball can be compared to a pinch hitter in baseball.

The libero is a defensive specialist given much court space to cover to dig up balls in the backrow. 

As an expert in serving, passing and backrow defense, the role calls for them to be the one back row player to enter games for a front row player, when that player has to go serve in the backrow without having to be "substituted" in.


Volleyball terminology: the liberoVolleyball terminology: the libero


The libero's  jersey is always a different color shirt color than her teammates  to make it easier for the ref and officials to differentiate her from her teammates since she only plays in the back row.


Volleyball Terms Used in Defense:
What's a pancake?


The "pancake" is volleyball terminology used in defense to describe what a player does as a last possible effort to keep the ball in play by keeping it from contacting the floor.



If the ball falls below the level of where she would normally form her platform, she can still drop to the floor and place her hand, with her palm down on that very spot on the ground so the ball contacts her hand and not the floor and bounces back up into the air.

This can be an effective method if you have completely extended yourself to get to a ball and the only option you have left is to put your hand out, on the floor, so the ball hits it, instead of the floor.

With a very flat hand well-placed under the ball on the floor, the ball will bounce straight up from your hand, as if it contacted the floor. 


Volleyball Terms Used in Defense:
What's a chicken wing?


In beach volleyball defense, this move is used by a player who uses a bent elbow to defend a hard hit spike that's aimed right at her head and shoulder area.

Usually she will chicken wing a ball because she doesn't have time to get both her arms out to form a platform.


As a quick deflective movement, a player will bend their elbow, so the arm looks like its in the shape of a chicken wing, and dig a fast approaching ball that's usually headed towards the digger's face. 

The chicken wing is a reactive movement and quite often is unplanned. 


 Volleyball Terms Used in Defense:
What is pepper?


Sure it's a spice!

But pepper in volleyball is a pre-game warm up practice drill used by teammates who partner up and perform all three basic volleyball defense and setting, passing and spiking skills in different combinations in order to do one or all of the following five things:



a. To improve ball control skills.

b. To improve serve receive volleyball technique.

c. To increase the amount of court area you cover.

d. To narrow your focus and concentration.

e. To quicken your reactions and reduce fear of the hard hit ball.


Some coaches use pepper as a conditioning drill or as a way for players to improve their reading ability and digging consistency and technique.


Volleyball Terminology Used in Defense: What's a roll?


A roll  is an acrobatic defensive technique that players use to collapse safely to the floor after they've been forced to leave their feet to dig a ball.


This volleyball dig video became so popular it was trending on Twitter!

Texas Girls high school volleyball player Autumn Finney  pulled off one of the greatest volleyball digging displays ever caught on tape.

Finney soars through the air and makes a fearlessly successful diving save.

This volleyball dig video became so popular it was trending on Twitter!




Related Links: 

Smart Tactics To Use To Control The Game

Effectively Use Your Block in Defense

Spike With Power Like The Pros

How To Dig Better

10 Floater Serve Tips

Strategies To Fix Overhand Serves

Setters Training Tips

Essential Communication Skills

Terms For Digging




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