Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Five Tips For Better Backcourt Defense

Originally published in the 2018 summer edition of VolleyballUSA magazine


When it comes to backcourt defense in volleyball, there are several key strategies that can greatly improve your performance. In this article, we will explore five tips from top players and coaches in the sport. From positioning and body posture to efficient movement and reading the hitter, these tips will help you become a more effective defender and give yourself an advantage on the court.

Dustin Watten: U.S. Men’s National Team Libero

In serve-receive and defense, it’s crucial to slow down the game and give yourself more time to react. To achieve this, focus on being efficient and simplifying your movements. One key aspect is having your arms out and away from your body before the attacker contacts the ball. By eliminating wasted movements, you can reach the ball quicker and make better touches.

Megan Courtney: U.S. Women’s National Team Outside Hitter/Libero

Being a great defender means positioning yourself in the best possible way to make a play on the ball. Stop your movement before the attacker’s contact and ensure that your body is turned to face the hitter. This will give you the advantage of being in the right position to react quickly and effectively.

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Jim Stone: Head Coach – U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team, Former Women’s Head Coach at Ohio State

According to coach Jim Stone, the best defenders are those who read the action and make one move to the ball, rather than diving or throwing their bodies around. By properly reading the game, defenders can position themselves well and make positive plays on the ball. Younger players should focus on efficient movement, particularly perfecting the shuffle step to get their bodies behind the ball.

Diane Flick-Williams: Head Coach – Western Washington University Women’s Volleyball

When it comes to defense, your eyes and posture are key. Use your eyes to gather cues from the hitter, such as their elbow position, approach speed, and shoulder direction. This information narrows down their possible attacks. Meanwhile, ensure that your feet are stopped on contact and your posture is balanced, allowing you to move in multiple directions and cover various shots.

Andy McGuire: All-American Libero, Volunteer Assistant Coach at UC Santa Barbara Men’s Volleyball

For better defense, it’s crucial to position yourself in a way that allows you to see the hitter clearly. This may involve aligning yourself with the outer edge of the block or filling in the seam. Maintaining a clear sight of the hitter provides valuable information about the shot they are likely to take. Additionally, pay attention to the hitter’s positioning, speed, and whether they are attempting to tip the ball. By reading these cues, you can react accordingly instead of relying on guesswork.


Q: How can I improve my backcourt defense in volleyball?

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A: To improve your backcourt defense, focus on efficiency, positioning, and reading the game. Efficient movements and being well-positioned can give you more time to react to incoming spikes or serves. Reading the hitter’s cues, such as their approach and elbow position, helps you anticipate their potential attacks.

Q: What is the shuffle step, and how does it help in defense?

A: The shuffle step is an essential movement technique in volleyball defense. It allows you to get your body behind the ball efficiently, particularly when the block doesn’t cover a significant area of the court. Perfecting the shuffle step helps you move quickly and position yourself correctly to make plays on the ball.


In summary, improving your backcourt defense in volleyball requires a combination of efficient movement, proper positioning, and reading the game. By implementing tips from top players and coaches, such as having your arms out and reading the hitter’s cues, you can enhance your defensive skills and contribute to your team’s success. Incorporate these strategies into your training and elevate your performance on the court.

Remember, practice and repetition are key to mastering these defensive techniques. So, get out there, put in the work, and become a formidable force in the backcourt! For more volleyball tips and inspiration, visit