What Is a Libero in Volleyball?

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Initially originated in the USA, today volleyball has turned out to be one of the most popular sports across the globe. With just six players on each side, the game marks a wholesome package of sportiness and emotions. While watching the game, you might have noticed a player wearing a different jersey from his teammates.

This guide shares the roundabout information on what is a libero in volleyball, which will help you understand the term better.

What Is a Libero in Volleyball?

A libero is a playing position in volleyball that holds specialization in defense. It’s a back-row player that can be replaced only by the player serving at the same position. Therefore, a libero can substitute in and out freely in the game. 

Know what is a libero in volleyball

That’s why they wear a stark contrasting jersey from their teammates so that they can be identified easily by the officials. The word libero comes from Italian which means, “free’. On a general note, a libero is the best passer in the team who specializes in serve receives.

When the Libero Position Started

The first time the world saw the libero position was during the 1998 FIVB World Championships. Liberos were later used and incorporated into USAV, NCAA, and NFHS rules. Some even allow two designated liberos on a roster. 

Liberos became used more frequently in games because they increase the length of rallies and are generally an outstanding passer. Liberos help make setters feel comfortable and increase the likelihood of making accurate and successful passes for the offense. 

Liberos aren’t allowed to complete an attack-hit from anywhere on the court or free zone IF the ball is completely above the top of the net when the libero makes contact. Liberos aren’t also allowed to block or attempt a block. Hence, you can say libero is an exclusive defensive specialist whose main role is to keep the ball alive and set the ball up for a better offensive play. 

Importance of a Libero

Liberos are a strategic role that coaches can use to the team’s advantage. Liberos are generally assigned to players who are excellent in passing. Add your setter to the mix and you have two excellent passers in your lineup for a better offense. 

Liberos are also good defenders and help keep the play alive like saving the ball and passing it to a better spot. Hence, the libero can be sometimes called the defensive anchor to your team and will be crucial for making defensive stops. 

Another role that liberos fall into is when the setter makes the first touch of the ball and cannot set-up for a better offense. The libero can act as the secondary setter and set the ball up for the offense. 

The Basics of Being a Libero

To summarize what I said above, these are the basics of  libero:

  • A specialized designated back row player primarily focused on defense
  • Only 1 or 2 liberos can be listed to a team for their lineup every match
  • Liberos generally are the best passers on their team
  • Liberos wear a clear contrasting color uniform compared to the rest of the team so that it is easier for officials to track them. 
  • You can choose not to use a libero in a game if you want to and focus more on an offensive lineup

Rule And Regulations For A Libero

  1. A libero can move in and out anytime while the game is on.
  2. He cannot play in the front row and spike the ball.
  3. A libero can only play in the back row by substituting one of the players playing there.
  4. A libero can neither block nor attack while playing.
  5. He can only serve to receive and use many digs to prevent the ball from touching the floor.
  6. There can be only libero per team in a tournament.
  7. A libero is prohibited from attacking the ball from a height above the net.
  8. In most international tournaments, a libero cannot be a game captain.
  9. To count libero replacements, a libero control sheet should be maintained.
  10. If the only libero falls off to play on the court, the coach of the respective team can make any replacement player as a ‘new libero’ for the match.
  11. A libero cannot start a match.
  12. A libero can be an exceptional substitute for a player if there is no other suitable player on the bench.
  13. A libero can play as a non-libero in later sets. But, they have to change their jersey and wear the same as their teammates.
  14. If a striped shirt is used as a libero jersey, it should not have the color by 25% the same as on the jersey of non-libero players. The color of the collar and sleeves can be ignored while determining the color of the jersey.

Specialized Role of a Libero

  1. If a libero gets injured:

If the libero gets injured while playing, he should be replaced with the player they replaced.

If the above cannot happen, then only another player from the bench can serve as a libero. Furthermore, an injured libero cannot re-enter the court.

  1. A coach can substitute 15 players per set per the rules, where a libero doesn’t count as an official substitution. Instead, a libero is used as a middle blocker for their team in rotation.
  2. A libero can seemingly substitute a front-row position while they are rotating from back to front. However, this can only happen when a front-row player also rotates.
  3. Apart from being the best passer on the team, the player needs to exhibit good vocal and leadership skills while hustling with the ball on the court.
  4. Also, if such a condition arises when a libero should attack, the player has to make sure that they are attacking behind from the 10-foot line, or else it will be a foul.
A volleyball player in libero position

For more detailed rules, check these guidelines by the officials who conduct the volleyball tournaments.

Here is a guide and a detailed video that will help you improve your serve receive and other libero tactics.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are Liberos Usually Short?

In volleyball, liberos are usually short because they don’t have to block and attack, unlike the front row players. Since the front row players have to attack, they are generally tall. Meanwhile, a short player is closer to the ground and thus, can defend the ball quickly. That’s why liberos are primarily short.

Can a Libero Be Game Captain for a Team?

In most international matches, a libero cannot be a game captain. But, in high school or state level tournaments, a libero can co-captain or serve as a game captain for his team.

Is It Possible to Have More Than One Libero in a Team in volleyball?

Yes, a team can have more than one libero. Usually, a coach fixes two liberos for his team so that just in case one gets injured other could play at his place.


In a paper, researchers claimed that a role of a libero is very similar to that of a goalkeeper. Their motor skills were pretty equal, including the ‘digs.’ The experiment focused on improving the gameplay of the liberos.

The vertex and reach tests were involved in checking the maximum vertical height when a player jumped.

Players who went under these tests and drills for two months showed improvement in their motor skills. However, the researchers acclaimed that the fruitfulness of the result majorly depended on the players’ skills.

The results wouldn’t have been a hit if the liberos weren’t a good performer. Therefore, it’s the sheer dedication and practice of a player that decides their gameplay. If you want to become a libero, then start working from today. Refer to this manual as a guide to outshine yourself as the most reliable player on your team.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.