Hey Jude – Defense

Defense is the least technical, most attitude-related aspect of volleyball. If you REALLY want to keep the ball from hitting the floor, and you’re not afraid to put your body in front of a heavy hit, you have the attitude that will let you be good at defense. If you have that attitude, I have a tip or two that can make your defense more effective. If you don’t have that attitude, get it.

Stance – There are three requirements for your defensive stance. You must be low, wide, and ready to move (weight forward).

a. Low – Your knees must be bent and you should be able to touch the floor with your hand from your defensive stance.

b. Wide – Your feet should be well wider than shoulder width apart. I can’t give you a precise measurement, but if your feet are too wide or too narrow, you won’t be able to move.

c. Ready to move – Maybe 1% of all the balls in a game come to you about knee height in the center of your body (perfect digging spot). YOU must move if you want to dig the other 99%. To be able to move when you are low and wide, you must have your weight forward…to do this:

1. Take your low wide position.
2. Make sure your shoulders are ahead of your knees.
3. Make sure your knees are ahead of your toes.
4. Get off your, um, chair, and do this now.

Your stance is not comfy, it hurts your thighs to hold it, because it is difficult to balance when your weight is forward.

d. Hands – Your hands should be in a neutral position, between the spot where you dig balls underhand, and the your face, which you may need to protect with your hands. When you take your defensive stance, your forearms should be parallel with the ground.

Timing – I told you to be so low, wide and forward that your thighs burn. I bet you’re thinking “How can I play like that?”. Well, you only take the defensive stance for a second or less, but getting into that stance, and doing it at the right time, will make have a direct impact on your success.

When you play defense, you do all your positioning (on the court) as early as possible. When the hitter is 1 second from contacting the ball, no matter where you are on the court (in position or not), take your defensive stance. You must be at your lowest BEFORE the hitter contacts the ball.

Playing the ball – The stance and attitude are much more important than what you do technically to put the ball in the air. However, I do have one important point to bring up. Unlike passing, where the stiffness of your platform or the tension in your wrists and fingers control the ball, defense is a relaxed skill. If a ball is hit hard at you and you ball up your fists and swing your arms at the ball, it’ll hit the roof or the wall on the opposite side of the gym. Make movement of your lower body your focus, and when you are in position to dig the ball, let the ball bounce off you.

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