I have written before on the subject of where you place your libero in defense. There are a number of factors to the decision. In this post, however, I want to address something I came across with respect to back row attack.

I noticed a college team playing their libero in Position 6. While it may not be the most common choice, I’ve seen it plenty of times. I’ve done it myself at times. I was curious what drove the decision, though, so I asked. The answer I received was interesting.

The libero positioning choice was actually more of a back row attacker position choice. The coach in question wanted the attacker (the OH) in 5 to let them hit away from the opposing Middle Blocker in a potential gap in the block. On the surface, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea. There are a couple of issues with it, though.

First, there may not actually be a seam in the block there. That depends on the other team’s blocking system. If they are spread, then a seam is likely. Bunched? Not so much. Though it could still be that the attack goes against a smaller blocker and/or one who tends not to go up for the back row swing.

Second, if you want to attack that seam, why can’t you do it with a hitter in 6? There’s nothing saying the pipe set has to be straight in the middle of the court. Watch high level men’s volleyball (and women’s too) and you’ll see it set in different places. In fact, it could even be set to the right side of middle (as the attacker looks at the net). That means you have more flexibility in attack with the hitter in 6. You just have make sure your coverage does not interfere with the hitter.

Finally, how many players in 5 actually get far enough back from the attack (3m) line to get an aggressive approach? You can see it at the higher levels of player, but not so much lower down. The player in 5 is usually playing defense in a mid-court type of depth. In a rally it is hard for them to then transition several steps back.

Oh, and there’s one more thing to mention. If the libero is the designated 2nd-ball taker when the setter plays the first contact, it means they have farther to go to set (different if playing middle-middle). This is particularly true when they have deep positional responsibility, and even more so in a rotation type of system. The result is likely to be lower quality sets all the way around.

For the reasons above, I am not in favor of deciding to play the libero in 6 on this basis. You may do it for other reasons, but I wouldn’t for this one.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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