Monday, 22 Jul 2024

Defense is More Than Just Another Team System

Defense is a critical aspect of any team’s success in volleyball. It requires a deep understanding of different defensive systems and the ability to implement various strategies that complement the team’s style and strengths. However, it is not enough to simply model defense on a basic system. True defensive excellence requires a combination of technical skills, timing, and teamwork.

Choosing a Defense

When determining the best defense for a team, coaches must consider several factors:

  • Does the team have strong blockers?
  • Is the team more focused on offense or defense?
  • How agile is the setter?

Coaches should teach their players to be flexible and adapt to the chosen style of play, whether it’s rotational, perimeter, or hybrid. However, it is crucial to educate less experienced players about the defensive system they will be using. Many new players mistakenly believe that defense starts when the setter releases the ball or when a hitter attacks. In reality, defense involves reading the opponent’s moves and anticipating their next actions.

By developing their reading skills, players can anticipate offensive plays and position themselves accordingly. This allows the team to effectively respond to the opponent’s actions. Evaluating the quality of the pass is key to determining the offensive options available to the opponent. Reading the play also helps identify offensive tendencies, enabling players to anticipate and defend against specific attacks.

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In the Back

Back row defenders should also be mindful of their positioning in relation to the blockers. This helps determine if the block is sealed or has a gap. Playing around the block is a crucial skill for defenders. Visualizing and verbalizing defensive concepts can aid younger players in understanding their defensive responsibilities.

When the ball is set, back row players should transition and assume a lower, more aggressive position in preparation to read the hitters. As the attacker makes their move, defensive players need to be ready to dig and do whatever it takes to keep the ball in play. It is often encouraged for defenders to aim their digs high and towards the center of the court. However, with younger teams, it is important to balance this with avoiding overpasses and net violations.

Implementing the Defensive System

Before implementing a defensive system, coaches must ensure that players have a solid understanding of the principles of defense. The initial focus of training should be on passing and defense. These concepts should be introduced early in the season to give players time to develop precision and strength in their techniques.

Every team is unique, and a one-size-fits-all defensive strategy is unlikely to be effective. Coaches should tailor their defensive system to suit the individual strengths and abilities of their players. The underlying principles remain the same, but the framework may change.

Just like students learn to understand mathematical concepts rather than memorizing formulas, volleyball players need to grasp the underlying principles of defense to excel. Once players have a deep understanding of the defensive process, their performance will improve, leading to positive and rewarding outcomes for the team.

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Q: How do you choose the best defensive system for a volleyball team?

A: When selecting a defensive system, coaches should consider factors such as the team’s blocking abilities, offensive/defensive focus, and setter’s agility. The chosen system should align with the team’s strengths and style of play.

Q: What is the importance of reading in defense?

A: Reading is a crucial skill in defense as it allows players to anticipate the opponent’s next move. By accurately assessing the pass quality and observing offensive tendencies, players can position themselves effectively and respond to the opponent’s actions.

Q: How can back row defenders improve their positioning around the block?

A: Back row defenders should position themselves in the seam of the blockers or just outside of the block. This helps prevent openings in the defense that the opponent can exploit. Visualizing and verbalizing defensive concepts can aid in understanding the ideal positioning.


Defense plays a pivotal role in a volleyball team’s success. It requires a comprehensive understanding of different defensive systems, reading the opponent’s actions, and effectively positioning oneself on the court. Coaches must carefully choose a defensive system that aligns with the team’s strengths and style of play. By focusing on passing and defense during training, players can develop the necessary skills to excel defensively. Remember, a solid defense is built on understanding the principles and adapting to the specific needs of the team.