All About the Libero: Volleyball's Defensive Masters - The Imperial Point

All About the Libero: Volleyball’s Defensive Masters

All About the Libero: Volleyball’s Defensive Masters

What is a libero?

The libero is a volleyball team’s defensive specialist. Liberos are easily noticeable in their contrasting, customized volleyball jerseys that set them apart from the rest of the team. You won’t see these defenders on the front row, as they are not held to the same rotation rules as the rest of the team. Instead, liberos guard the court from the back half of the court, usually taking over the middle defender position. Liberos are responsible for setting up strong passes in serve receive plays so their teammates can then run a stronger offensive strategy.

What are the rules of playing in the libero position?

Since the libero position is intended to give the team more ball control and stronger defense, the libero makes the game more exciting for players and spectators alike by encouraging more engaging plays and more controlled defensive and offensive strategies.

The libero is a strictly defensive position, so liberos must play according to a specialized set of rules that promotes more engaging defensive strategy and prohibits them from making offensive plays, with a few very specific exceptions

Unlike other players on the court, liberos cannot:

  • Set an attacker from the front zone
  • Block or attempt to block a hit
  • Serve
  • Attack from any position when the ball is higher than the top of the net

Who are the top libero players in the sport?

Volleyball legend Stacy Sykora was the first libero for the U.S. National team after the libero position was officially created in 1998.

Some of the top liberos in NCAA history include:

  • Natalie Hagglund
  • Nicole Davis
  • Kayla Banwarth

What Makes a Great Libero?

The best liberos have strong dig skills, but they also need to be prepared to set the ball if the team’s setter is out of range or if the setter dug the ball on a defensive play. Liberos need fast reflexes, clear communication skills, speed, and agility on the court.

Liberos also need to be able to quickly get low while still keeping control for solid digs and sets, skills not naturally well-suited to taller players, who prefer playing on the front lines. Liberos are frequently shorter than offensive players for that very reason, and the libero position was partially created to give shorter volleyball players more authority on the court, particularly in elite leagues.

Why do liberos wear different volleyball jerseys?

Since Liberos have more freedom to roam the back line, cover various rotational positions on the court, and play by a modified set of rules, liberos wear contrasting jerseys from the rest of their team so the opposing team and game officials can better track their movements and plays.

Liberos have a tough job. While their physical game requires them to be a well-rounded athlete, liberos’ mental performance has to stay on point for them to successfully help their team win. Keep your liberos looking, feeling, and playing their best with comfortable, durable sublimated volleyball jerseys, just remember that libero jerseys must be compliant with the following rules to be considered legal on the court:

USA VOLLEYBALL (USAV)

  • Liberos must wear jerseys that clearly contrasts with the rest of the team’s jerseys
  • A jacket or bib can only be worn by the redesignated Libero. If a jacket or bib is worn by the redesignated Libero, the uniform number must still be visible.
  • Numbers shall be a contrasting color to the uniform top and meet all other specifications in USAV 4.3.3.1. Color combinations such as purple/black, navy/maroon, and white/light yellow are not legal.

View the complete USAV uniform policy for 2017-2019 here.

HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL (NFHS)

  • The libero must wear a solid-colored top that contrasts with the predominant color(s) of the teammates’ uniform top. Colors are considered predominate if they appear on approximately half of the uniform, including the sleeves.
  • Sleeves must be the same color as the body of the uniform top.
  • Piping/trim not exceeding 1” in total at its widest point may be placed along the seams and may include different colors than the uniform top.
  • Colors of lettering and collars can differ from the uniform top.
  • A single school name, mascot and/or player’s name may be placed on the body of the uniform top, but designs are not allowed. A single mascot reference and/or school name may be placed on the sleeve(s), not to exceed either 4” x 4” or 3” x 5”.


View a complete outline of the National Federation of High School (NFHS) volleyball jersey rules for the 2018-2019 season here.

Browse Imperial Point’s inventory of sublimated volleyball jerseys or customize volleyball jersey’s for the whole team with Imperial Point’s online uniform designer. Don’t forget to design a stellar alternate jersey for your liberos so they can defend their team in style.

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