Perimeter and Rotational Defenses For Volleyball

The previous article “Playing Defense in Youth Volleyball – What You Need to Know” outlined for a youth volleyball team the basics of defensive positioning. That article and this one assume that you are playing with six players on the court. To further expand on volleyball defense, 2 very sound and frequently used defensive strategies will now be discussed. It should be noted that each begins with the players transitioning from offense to “base defense”. Base defense has three players at the net with the middle blocker directly in the middle and the 2 out side blockers on either side about 8 feet from the middle blocker. The back row players form a triangle with the middle back player as the top of the triangle, in the middle of the court, 2 or 3 feet from the back line, and the two other players, 2 to 3 feet from the side lines and 2 to 3 feet behind the attack line.

From these positions, the players observe their opponents as they execute their offense and react to the direction of the attack. In a perimeter defense, the primary goal is to dig the hard attack hits of your opponent. When the opponent’s setter sets the ball to your left (as you face the net), left front and front middle move to block the attack at the net. The right front, or offside blocker, shuffles back from the net to about the attack line and 8 to 10 feet in from the right side line. This allows the offside blocker to protect against dinks and roll shots. As the front row is moving to defense against an attack from their left side, the back row is moving as well. The left back takes a step or two backwards and closer to the left side line. The middle back moves a step or two to their right and moves closer to the base line. and the right back takes 3 or 4 steps back along the right side line. At this point, the defense has protected the “perimeter” of the court; line shots are able to be dug and cross court hits are dug by the middle and right back players. The movement of players if the opponent’s attack is coming from your right side is just the opposite of what has been described. Middle front and right front players move together to block, the offside (left front player) moves back off the net and toward the middle of the court. The back row has the right back defender moving back and onto the right side line. The middle back player slides to their left and remains on the back line. The left back player moves backwards and onto the left side line. The perimeter defense is very effective when playing against hard hitting opponents.

One of the areas the perimeter defense has some difficulty defending is the roll shot and dink shot over top of the blocker, or similar shots to mid-court just beyond the attack line. Younger teams are usually not strong enough to effectively spike the ball with consistency, power, and accuracy. Many teams lacking the strength and skill level will attempt to hit downballs, dinks or roll shots. A better defense that provides more coverage and protection for these types of attacks is called the “rotational” defense. As in the perimeter defense, the rotational defense starts with the players in their “base” defensive positions. When the team sees the set from the opponents, they start to move into their defensive positions. The front row players react similarly with the middle and outside players forming the block. The “offside” front row player drops off the net behind the 10 foot line and 2 or 3 feet from the side line. The back row player that is directly in front or the opponent attacking, moves up inside the ten foot line between the two blockers. The middle back defender moves toward the side line the attack is coming from, and positions themselves 3 to 5 feet from the base line. The opposite back defender positions themselves diagonally from the attacker, for reference purposes, this player is in the diagonal corner a couple of feet in from the side line and base line.

When properly executed, you will see 6 players moving as one, almost in a dance. It’s great to watch, and solid defense can really frustrate your opponents.