The Volleyball Libero: The Backbone of the Team

Kate Kim, Writer

Liberos, also known as defensive specialists, have one of the most essential roles in a volleyball team. Liberos are responsible for receiving balls from one side of the court and safely passing the ball to the setter. The word libero means “free” in Italian and implies that the designated player has to defend by freely moving in the back row of the court. During this year’s KAIAC season, both the varsity girls’ and boys’ volleyball teams had successfully won multiple times due to the help of their liberos. 

On a volleyball team, there are two liberos: the main libero and the backup libero. As liberos are in charge of the back row on the court, they are usually the first player who receives the ball. Even though liberos often receive and bump pass the ball to the next player, they still have to be able to set in a game. Setting in volleyball is usually the second touch in the rally and refers to the overhead pass to the hitter. During games, liberos alternate with players in the back row when it is the opposing team’s turn to serve. In order for the referees and the opponents to identify the libero, they wear a different colored uniform to distinguish themselves from other players. 

Liberos are key players because they guide their teams for the duration of the game. Ashley Nam, the libero of the girls’ varsity team, says “Liberos are like the foundation of the team. In order to set up and actually attack, there needs to be a good pass which is what libero are there for.” Liberos have to be a player who can tell their teammates how the opponent may serve and how to adjust the team’s defense. This allows the team to receive the ball in a better position and continue the play. Talented liberos on a team are significant because one pass can determine a win. 

Becoming a libero is highly competitive as there are only one or two liberos in a team. Liberos must devote a great deal of effort and practice a significant amount before taking on the position. According to Nathan Choi, the libero of the boys’ varsity team, “Coaches look for good passing skills, hustle, and a positive attitude in a libero. Libero should be able to pass the ball well to the setter and start the attack. Also, being a libero needs a ‘never give up’ mindset to lead the team defense.”

Nathan Choi, the libero of the boys’ varsity team, reaches out to receive the ball during a warm-up.

The main challenge for liberos is the ability to deal with tough situations and play well under pressure. Ashley Nam also says, “Since liberos are viewed as the ‘best passer,’ there are some overwhelming moments as the pressure of perfectly passing and receiving the ball hit immensely. This happens especially in front of a huge crowd. Meeting the expectations of oneself like perfectly passing to the setter, makes it difficult as an individual.” If liberos miss a serve, their confidence might take a hit because of their important position. Therefore, staying resilient throughout the game is crucial for liberos. Another challenge for liberos is the physical pain they endure. In many situations, liberos have to sacrifice their body by diving or rolling on the floor. Nathan Choi mentioned that he has to endure many painful injuries and bruises.

The fall season for varsity volleyball has come to an end, with the varsity girls coming in 3rd and the varsity boys coming in 2nd at the KAIAC tournament. The bruises the liberos maintain demonstrate their efforts and contributions to their teams this season. Even though they have encountered physical pain and mental pressure, they have practiced hard to lead their teams to victory by controlling the ball well during game time. By representing the school and having a positive influence on the team, they allow students to be interested in the position of a libero and become role models for future athletes.