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Is It lee BER oh, or LEE-buh-row?

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Black and white photo of a volleyball team with the libero in color.
Baylor Bears Volleyball (

Yeah! How the heck is it pronounced? Well, that depends on where you're from... mostly. But, for the record: it's Italian. And the correct pronunciation, in Italian, would be the former. But either pronunciation is acceptable.

If you feel intimidated by this seemingly simple position then you are not alone. Rookie and seasoned officials alike get flustered dealing with the libero.

What's so confusing about the libero? She runs on and off the court whenever the heck she wants. She doesn't look like the rest of the team. Sometimes she serves... sometimes she doesn't. She sets, passes, hits..., and digs. And she apparently has carte blanche to go wherever she damn well pleases. The libero is to volleyball as the queen is to chess: infinite amount of spaces in any direction... Simple enough right?

Well, sit back, grab your blue light blocking reading glasses, pop some butterless unsalted popping corn, and enjoy this little trip down Libero Lane on our fancy Radio Flyer tricycle with the training wheels. We're gonna break down this queen of battle into some more manageable bites so it's a little easier to digest.


Photo Credit: Emerald taken from

A Little History Lesson

The libero is a relatively new position in volleyabll. First use was in the 1998 FIVB World Championships ( It was quickly adopted by the three governing bodies of volleyball in the United Sates; USAV, NCAA, NFHS. "Libero" means "free" in Italian. The libero is the passenger on a plane with an unlit seatbelt sign; free to move about the cabi... ur, court (I owe no royalties for the use of that phrase). However, she isn't without limitations, but we will attack that minutia later. "The addition of the libero to volleyball is credited with increasing the length of rallies."( Basically, the libero position has made volleyball more exciting.

Photo: elinedesignservices (unedited)

Who is the Libero?

The libero is a special player occupying one of the positions in the back row (position 1, 5, and 6 in the photo to the right), and by rule, the libero must also wear a contrasting jersey color.


The libero is a back-row player who is a defensive specialist. Only one libero may be designated per set. 6.4.2

Plain language: There can be only one...libero... or none. But not more than one.

The "How, Where, and When"

Getting on, playing actions, and getting off the court is also special for this special someone. The R2 sends the libero on the court after checking the lineup. Check the lineup like you would normally do, then authorize the libero to enter (NFHS 10.4.2a)(Signal 16). Remember, it's a replacement, not a substitution.


A libero replacement shall take place between the attack line and the endline in front of that team's bench;

The libero is allowed one replacement per dead ball prior to the beckon for serve through the LIBERO REPLACEMENT ZONE. Remember: it is an unnecessary delay if the libero executes an incorrect replacement prior to the beckon for service (NFHS 10.4.PEN 1).

You should only see the libero exchange take place in one of four situations (NFHS 10.4.2):

  1. start of the match

  2. end of a rally

  3. dead ball prior to whistle

  4. after a time-out

Now here is where we run into a sticky wicket. The libero is allowed to go directly to the server position if she is up next in the serving order (NFHS 10.4.1c; 10.4.5a/b). In essence, it is a double replacement, and it can make you scratch your head the first couple times you see it. Maybe this step by step will help: the yellow arrow is the libero, the in-coming player (ICP) is the blue arrow, and the red arrow is the out-going player (OGP).

  1. LIBERO rotates from 5 to 4

  2. ICP REPLACES LIBERO at position 4

  3. the OGP rotates from 2 to 1

  4. LIBERO REPLACES the OGP at position 1

  5. OGP leaves the court

  6. LIBERO serves

There it is. A double replacement. Whew. Wait... don't forget, she is only allowed to serve in one position in the order. Okay. Now that's it.

What Can She Do?

There she is in all her glory. The libero made it on the court legally, looking sharp, ultra-focused, wearing her fancy contrasting color with non-duplicated number, playing in the right position, following all the rules. So let's talk about what she IS and IS NOT allowed to do while she's out there (NFHS 9.5.6).

A libero may:

  • make the first, second, or third, team contact

  • pass (forearm, overhead, set, or dig)

  • attack (as defined as an action that directs the ball to the opponents court)

remember: the liber is NOT allowed to execute an attack hit IF the ball is ENTIRELY above the height of the net (see below)

A libero may NOT:

  • complete any attack hit (first, second, or third team contact) when the ball is entirely above the height of the net (Signal 7)

  • overhead pass from on or in front of the attack line resulting in a completed attack when the ball is entirely above the height of the net (Signal 7) (think of the libero as an extension of the attacher in this situation)

  • block (attempt or completed) (Signal 8)

  • rotate to the front row (Signal 1)

Now I know what you're saying. "But in your example above, the liber rotates to the front row, but just now you said that the liber can't rotate to the front row. Which is it? Well, officiate in the spirit of the game. Don't get bogged down in the minutia. Technically, the rotation happens when a team wins the side-out, so that would mean that the libero ALWAYS rotates to the front row when playing in the back left position. But then she runs off. Is that a penalty?

So, there's the libero basics. Clear as mud? Thought so. Questions? A lot I bet. There are lots of videos and such on the internet if you need a little more help. Check out this 6:00min video from NCAA Digital, NCAA Digital: College Volleyball Libero Explained. What do you want to talk about?

See you on the court!


Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "libero". Encyclopedia Britannica, 30 Mar. 2023,

Volleyball Rules Book 2023-2024, NFHS,

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