Volleyball Defense – How Do You Do That?

Good defense depends on the ability of blockers and backcourt defense to work together. The defensive players’ work starts when the ball crosses the net into the opponent’s territory; defense not only means saving the ball but also tracking it even when it is on the opposite side of the court. To defend the ball, they must understand their opponents’ attack strategy correctly. Otherwise, the opponents will score without any difficulty. A team that does not have good defenders will not be able to bear its rivals’ attacks and will fall apart quickly. Great defense strategies are the key to success.

Volleyball Defense Positions

Before a match begins, the players must know and understand the four defense positions in Volleyball. The defenders (Libero and Defense Specialist) have to be in a pre-defined Starting Position before the opponent’s first contact with the ball. The next position is the Read Position; the defenders have to focus on what is happening to the ball. The rival team may return the ball right after receiving the serve (overpass) or hit the ball after the second contact (setter dump/setter attack).

Sometimes setters feign hitting the ball and tip the ball instead; this paves the way for the Adjust Position (third position). The defenders must adjust their movements accordingly; they should be able to deduce which direction the ball will move in once it crosses the net. The last position is the Emergency Position which requires the players to pursue the ball after their teammate accidentally hits the ball wrong or when a block goes astray.

Volleyball Defense Systems

The Perimeter Defense is a popular system that requires three players to start playing from the perimeter/court lines. The wing players (left and right back) defend near the sidelines, and the middle back player defends near the end line. Rotation Defense is the most common and popular defense system in which the players move (rotate) according to how the play develops.

For example, if it looks like the rival team’s outside hitter is going to smash the ball, the right-side front players block the ball, and a setter stands behind them to either hit or tip it. Or the setter may tip the ball to the middle-back player who covers the area behind him. The left-back player is responsible for protecting/defending the rest of the area. The Man up or Red Defense is another well-known strategy in which a back player moves up to support the front three players to protect the middle of the court from attacks.

How to defend against the various types of attacks?

An Overpass is most likely to land just beyond the net; that is why there are three front players. The next possible place for the ball to go is the middle of the court, so two players cover the area while only one player defends the backcourt, as it is unlikely that an overpass will reach the end court. If the opponents do not make an overpass, the team needs to focus on defending the Setter Dump.

Some setters are sneaky and move as if to pass the ball to a hitter but hit the ball over the net when the blockers least expect it. Therefore, the defense should be diligent when ‘reading’ a rival setter and not fall for his tricks. At times, the opponents pass the ball over the net if an attack is not possible (free ball); this does not mean the team should celebrate. They should identify a free ball before it is hit across the net so as to use it to their advantage. Otherwise, a Free Ball Kill may happen (an easy pass over the net scores a point).

Finally, the players must know how to strategically defend against an Attack (the opponent’s third contact with the ball). Practicing different digging techniques and blocks will ensure the players are ready for any attack/hitting technique. A block that completely stops an attack is an offensive strategy, while a block that aims to make defending the ball easier is a defensive or soft block.

Traditional/regular digs are done by digging the ball between one’s shoulders and knees with the hands extended forward. The Diving Dig requires the players to dive to dig the ball. Players must dive or roll only when it is necessary. Otherwise, they may not be able to return to their position quickly to defend an opponent’s shot. A diving dig can be done with one or both hands. When a hitter’s spike is too powerful, and the ball heads straight for the defender’s face, using Overhand Dig is recommended; this technique is similar to the tomahawk pass.

Tips for Playing Good Defense

The Volleyball players must be on the balls of their feet to facilitate swift movements and lean their bodies forward so they can easily block, set, or dig the ball. The defensive players must be properly positioned before the ball crosses the net to their side. No matter how skilled a team’s members are, if they do not analyze the opponents’ attack quickly, they will not be able to save the ball. Scrambling to save the ball never ends well. The defenders must also position their hands properly according to the technique they decide to implement.

The players should always follow the ball with their eyes. Some players wonder if they are in the right spot while defending. If the defenders can cover the area expected to be covered by them, they are in the correct position. They should check whether they can reach the ball in time to save it instead of focusing on one spot. It is better for the players to start from the perimeter as it is more difficult to move away from the center of the court than towards it.

The players should never operate on the assumption that a fellow teammate has the ball; they should move to support the player/act as a backup in case they fumble or are not able to reach the Volleyball. A common mistake most beginners make is diving for the ball only to find it out of their reach; staying low when moving makes it easier to run and dive for the ball at the right moment. The defenders should shift their weight to their toes rather than stay on their heels before resisting an opponent’s attack.

Another critical thing to note is where the rival team players tend to attack; most hitters prefer to hit the ball cross-court, but that does not mean they always will. What most beginners struggle with is finding the right attitude and mentality to defend. As this is not something that can be taught, the players must focus on improving their concentration, discipline, and perseverance; this will positively affect their attitude and mindset.

Good defense presents a higher chance of winning a Volleyball match, but that alone does not ensure victory. Volleyball is a team sport, so all the players (hitters, setters, and defenders) should work together harmoniously to become a formidable team. Unlike in other team sports, an individual player does not get credit or recognition in Volleyball for a well-played match. The reason is most players are versatile and can play in different positions as the situation requires (something not commonly seen in other team sports). The entire team shines or crashes and burns in proportion to the effort they put in.