Originally published in the 2018 summer edition of VolleyballUSA magazine

Dustin Watten

U.S. Men’s National Team libero

In serve-receive and defense, I’m always looking for ways to slow down the game and give myself more time to react instead of responding to the force of the oncoming spike or serve. To be able to slow down the game, I’m constantly trying to find ways to be more efficient and to be as simple as possible with my preparation and movements leading up to my contact.

On defense, before the attacker contacts the ball, it’s important to have a strong foundation by having your arms out and away from your body. This allows you to save time; most defenders will put their arms together close to the body and then move away from the body toward the ball.

By having your arms already out, you’re able to cancel out the time previously spent on wasted movements, allowing you to get to the ball quicker and make the best touch possible.

Megan Courtney

U.S. Women’s National Team outside hitter/libero

Being a great defender means you’re putting yourself in the best possible position to make a play on the ball. That means you need to be stopped on or before contact of the opposing attacker and your body should be turned to face the hitter.

Jim Stone

Head Coach – U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team, former women’s head coach at Ohio State

I always thought the worse defenders were the players who were diving, rolling or throwing their bodies all over the court. In my eyes, the best defenders read the action and make one move to the ball. If the defender reads the action properly, they put themselves in a good court position to make a positive play on the ball.

Once defenders are in proper court position, they must make sure they’re balanced, their feet are on the ground, they’re facing in the direction of the attack and their platforms are out early.

With younger players, where the block doesn’t take away very much of the court, a special focus must be on moving efficiently to the ball. In this regard, players must perfect the shuffle step so they can get their body behind the ball.

Diane Flick-Williams

Head Coach – Western Washington University women’s volleyball

For defense, use your eyes to narrow your options and use your posture to increase your options. Your eyes should be taking in cues from the hitter (bent elbow, slow approach, shoulder direction, etc.) to narrow what their possible attacks can be. Your feet should be stopped on contact and your posture should be balanced so you can move in multiple directions to cover as many shots as possible.

Andy McGuire

All-American libero, volunteer assistant UC Santa Barbara men’s volleyball

A big key for me is being able to see the hitter. That makes it critical to position yourself on the outer edge of a double/triple block or fill in the seam to line up with the hitter. Having a clear sight of the hitter will give you a ton of information on what shot is coming.

Also, quickly determine where the hitter is facing? Are they coming in slow/under the ball to tip?

Too often players get stuck playing behind the block and don’t have any vision of the hitter. From there, it becomes a guessing game instead of reading and reacting.