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Volleyball Defense: The Optimum Defense

Don’t get me wrong, these are all important discussions (and nobody loves discussing defensive minutiae more than me). But when push comes to shove, there are two words that form the foundation of volleyball defense: get low.

If you’re in the proper defensive position you’ll be able to cover a lot more court on your own. If everyone on your team is doing the same thing you’ll be well on your way to becoming that team that nobody likes to play because you dig everything.

A low defensive stance also puts you closer to the ground. Low to the ground = less distance to fall = fewer bruises. Bonus.

So, what does an optimum defensive position look like? Let’s break this down:

  1. Your weight is mostly on your toes so that you can move forward or to the side immediately.
  2. Knees should be bent and extended out over your toes.
  3. Shoulders are rounded and extended just over your knees. Remember knees over toes, shoulders over knees.
  4. You want all your weight forward because your defensive position will call for you to play near the perimeter of the court, meaning your movement will be into the court (i.e. forward) most of the time.

The side of the court that you’re on will determine which foot should be slightly in front. If you’re playing on the left side of the court, your left foot will be in front so that your hips are pointed into your court and toward the target area. Vice versa on the right side.

Important note: Your arms shouldn’t be together during your “ready” stance (this photo depicts how your arms should be as you pass the ball), but they should be out in front of your body and ready to snap together as soon as the ball comes your way.

The main reason you need your arms apart is that the ball could end up zooming toward your face or off to one side of your body instead of right toward your forearms. You may have noticed that hitters are very inconsiderate and tend not to hit the ball exactly where you’re standing. If your arms are already locked into position you’ll lose precious seconds unlocking them and trying to move them to where they need to be; by then it’s likely that the ball will have sped by you.

Another important note: You do have to stay low the whole rally, not just when the ball comes your way. I know this is hard to do, and even the best players get caught standing up every now and then, but your goal should be staying low from the instant the ball is served to the moment the ref blows his/her whistle to end the point. Practice your defensive movement all around the court while staying low. Do wall sits or other quad-strengthening exercises to help you stay low.

And keep in mind that volleyball defense is also a state of mind. Remember these two other key words: no fear.

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