On December 17th, Stanford won the National Championship, 7th in their program's history. This game was full of numerous feats of athleticism and rallies that made this game really fun to watch. If you had a chance to watch any of the 2016 National Championship than you probably heard an announcer make a point to complement that player in the different colored jersey: the libero.
However you pronounce it, the libero is beginning to make waves and whether that is due to more specific training coming up from the amateur level or because the blockers are getting taller, the world is taking notice.
Now I can't get ahead of myself because only one libero was named to the 2016 AVCA Division I 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Team All-American, but eight liberos were named 2016 AVCA Division I Honorable Mention All-American.
Name School Year
- Justine Wong-Orantes University of Nebraska Sr (1st Team)
- Amanda Benson University of Oregon Sr (Honorable Mention)
- Brandi Donnelly University of Illinois Jr (HM)
- Ashley Dusek University of Kentucky Jr (HM)
- Morgan Heise SMU Sr (HM)
- Sasha Karelov Duke University Sr (HM)
- Caroline Knop University of Florida Jr (HM)
- Markie Schaedig Arkansas State University Sr (HM)
- Cassie Wait University of Kansas Sr (HM)
And one libero was named to the 2016 National Championship All-Tournament team:
- Morgan Hentz Stanford University Fr
Importance of the Libero
The Art of Coaching put out an article, The Toughest Position in Volleyball highlighting the libero position and the mental strain of this challenging position.
So what do we know about the libero:
- They are often one of the shortest players on the team
- They play 11 of the 12 possible rotations (considered serve receive and serving separate in each rotation)
- They have very little opportunity to make up for their mistakes by scoring points
- Their box score is simplified to a few numbers: digs, aces, reception errors, and assists
- They are often not offered collegiate scholarships their first few years
Not sounding so great? Well these are the changes I've seen regarding the conversation around liberos
- They will never give up on a play
- They have the ability to take away a point from another team and turn it into a point for your team
- They consistently make it easier for the setter to make good choices
- They know how to celebrate a team point
- They can change the momentum of the game with one play
What has caused this change?
I can't say for sure but I have a feeling it was many different factors including how coaches are viewing the game. Although we've always known that volleyball is a game of scoring runs and momentum shifts, there is also a flow to the game that can determine the lengths of these runs and how easy they are to stop.
What can a player do to become a stronger libero?
The absolute number one thing a player can do to become a better libero is get in the gym. Often. There is no substitute for experience and the more quality touches one is able to get, the more confidence they have and the stronger they are mentally. The formula is simple once you know it.
- Find a good trainer that can work with you to get and keep you in good physical condition
- Eat well, find a dietitian if you are having trouble with this
- Have knowledgeable conversations about the game
- Aim high with your goals
- Take advantage of opportunities to get extra practice
I am forever grateful to the numerous coaches that stayed after Silver State Volleyball Club practices to hit balls at me or serve balls at me or do "just a couple" before the lights got turned off. Strive, strive for perfection and then keep striving.