Defensive specialist wears unique jersey and sub freely
By Erik Walsh
Monitor Staff Writer
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–While at a volleyball game, the casual volleyball fan may look on the floor and notice one player for each team does not look like the others – she wears a different jersey and makes frequent substitutions in and out of the game. This unique positional player is called the libero, (luh-bare-oh) and, for some, the pronunciation of the position may be as tough as understanding what exactly her role is on the court.
The libero is a relatively new position in volleyball. It was first introduced to international and club volleyball in 2002 and made its way to the high school scene in 2006. The libero is a back-row passing and defensive specialist that may enter and leave the game without counting as one of a high school team’s 18 substitutions per game. When substituting, the libero may only replace a player in the back-row position and can only be replaced by a player that she enters the game for.
This substitution freedom allows coaches to keep the shorter, more agile players in the back row (they are generally better at quickly getting to the floor to dig up a ball), while keeping taller players up front by the net to take advantage of their strong vertical game and block shots.
The libero must be designated on the lineup sheet, cannot serve, block, attack from anywhere or make contact with the ball while it is above the net – she is a defensive player relegated to the back row, specializing in setting up her teammates and making digs on low balls.
The libero must wear a uniform that is different than the others on the team to clearly identify the player. Even with the current uniform, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which is the governing body that writes the rules of competition for most high school sports and activities in the United States, deemed that the libero uniforms need more clarity to further differentiate the player from their teammates.
According to NFHS Director of Sports and Liaison to the Volleyball Rules Committee Becky Oakes, some uniforms were affecting the officials’ ability to identify the libero and determine legal playing action.
“The tradition is that volleyball is a sport with colorful uniforms. Because there has been increasing difficulty identifying the libero because of uniform design, the rules needed to make sure the libero was easily identified,” Oakes said in a news release.
The revised rule, going into effect in 2016, will require the libero to wear a uniform top that is immediately recognized from all angles as being in clear contrast to and distinct from the other members of the team with a solid-colored uniform top.