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These Defensive Techniques Will Help You Be At The Right Place

Great defensive techniques are more about positioning than it is about fundamentals. When you are playing defense the right way, you will be where you need to be to make the right play.


This page is going to go over defensive techniques and strategies to make sure that you are ready to make the dig.

In order to understand this, let’s go back to the basics. My team plays a 5 1 offense. So, when we are playing defense, the back row will look like this:

Defensive Lineup for a 5 1 offense in volleyball

Your outside hitters and libero are usually your best passers. You want to put them in the places where the majority of hits are going to be. This makes it so that they are more likely to dig the ball and keep it in play. This will help improve your team’s defensive techniques.

In order to talk about where your players should be for this discussion on defensive techniques, let’s say that there is a set to the outside hitter of the other team. There are really only 3 major angles that they are going to take. I will number these 1-3 and explain each. Their angles would look like this with the top of the diagram being the volleyball net:

Outside Hitter Defense

Defensive Technique for Outside Hitter

Arrow #1 on this diagram shows the hitter hitting a hard angle. This will be the middle blocker, or the Libero the way we run our offense. The correct position is taking the angle Outside of the hands of the middle blocker. Once in the correct position, it is a matter of how far forward or back to move.

Arrow #2 shows the hitter hitting in the seam. The seam is any gap that exists between the two blockers. The outside hitter on the back row should slide into the gap between the blockers. It is his job to dig the hard blast. Also, the outside hitter must be prepared for the dink or the tip. This is when the hitter will just tip it over the blockers and it lands just behind them.

As it is easier for the back row to come forward than it is to move backwards, it is best to play back for the hard hit. If the person sees that the hitter slows down his arm during the swing, they should start to move forward to cover the tip.

Arrow #3 is when the hitter hits is down the line. Again, the defensive player (either the setter or the opposite hitter) should adjust to the block so that they can be in the path of the hit. This means, if all the player can see is the hands of the blockers, then they are in the wrong spot to dig the ball.

It is best for this person to stay as close to the line as possible. That way, if the ball is hit to their right side of the body, they can be pretty sure that the ball is going out of bounds and they don’t need to play it.

This is proper defensive technique and will help you to be in the right place. If the ball is set to the opposite hitter, the same steps listed above are done, but are opposite.

Middle Hit Defense

Defensive Techniques on the Middle Hitter

Here is a scenario where the set goes to the middle blocker. In a perfect world, all three blockers would get there, but if it is a quick attack, it probably won’t happen.

Let’s break this down with the hits again.

Arrow #1 is middle hitter hitting the ball to the angle. Since I play middle blocker, I know that when I hit the ball I usually hit like arrow #1 (since I am approaching from the left and my shoulder is pointing towards #1 very frequently) or arrow #2.

It is the job of the middle blocker on the back row (or Libero if you are playing with one) to find the seam in the block and take this angle. You must also watch for the tip.

Arrow #2 is when the middle hitter hits it down the middle. This usually happens on a quick attack when only one blocker is up, or no blockers if they are caught off guard.

Again, the outside hitter is there for the blast and must also watch the middle’s arm as he is swinging. If the arm swing slows down, they must come forward for the tip.

Arrow #3 is the least likely to happen. Simply because if the middle is approaching from the left side, they would have to completely pull their arm and body in the air to pull the ball in this direction. Don’t get me wrong, it happens…just not a lot.

The opposite hitter is going to have to take this ball and again is looking for seams in the block. If the ball comes through the block, it is going to come through the seam and that is the right place to be.

If the other team is doing a back row attack, the defensive lineup would be very similar to this one.

Summary of Defensive Techniques

* The back row positions are left back (middle blocker or libero), middle back (outside hitter), and right back (setter or opposite hitter)
* The back row players must find the seams
* Read the hitter’s shoulder to find the right angle as a blocker and as a back row player.
* If the hitter’s arm slows down during the swing, get ready for the tip

These really are the keys for defensive techniques. It is all about being in the right place at the right time. Use these tools and principles to play better team defense for volleyball.

Where to go next?

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