A reader asked the following question related to where they should place their libero for defense.

Are there any statistical studies of the number of touches by position among defenders, particularly at the high school level? In other words, if the libero is the best defender and ball handler, then it makes sense that the coach would want to put her in position to handle as many balls as possible. I have my own opinion from watching games, but has anyone actually studied the number of balls handled by the left back vs. middle back position?

I don’t personally know of any broad statistical studies of where attacks go for high school players. Most of that sort of stuff I’ve seen was for a particular team. Think scouting report type stuff. I think this heat map probably is a good indication, though.

I think generally speaking the lower the level the more balls end up in the middle of the court. As attackers become more capable, you see the frequency of balls going away from the middle increase. I don’t have any figures to back that up, though. Maybe a reader does and will share them in the comments below.

General patterns aside, you have to consider your own defensive strategy here. If you tell your blockers to take line – thus funneling balls cross-court – then chances are more balls will go cross. If you block cross, then you expect more balls to go line. That factors into your positioning decision. The general information takes you only so far.

And there are other factors involved as well.

I should note that Gold Medal Squared shares heat maps that look very similar to the one above. They’ve found that it applies across basically all levels. As always, though, you should do your own study to help your defensive decision-making.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Assistant Volleyball Coach at Radford University, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His previous 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. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.