Friday, 14 Jun 2024

Tips from the Pros

Originally published in the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 issues of Your Court magazine, the official magazine of USA Volleyball.

Defensive Agility

Dustin Watten, Former U.S. Men’s National Team libero

The importance of balance and simplicity in becoming a consistently great libero cannot be overstated. As I continue to play, I have come to realize that these two factors are key. During the summer, I focused on maintaining balance and keeping my arms independent while digging quicks and pipes.

When playing defense and receiving serves, our arms tend to gravitate towards our midline, even if the ball isn’t going in that direction. This can pose a problem if the ball is outside our body, as we lose time, balance, and control in trying to reach it. To combat this, I have been consciously moving both arms to the area where I anticipate the ball to be. By doing so, even if I don’t have enough time to connect both arms, I can salvage the play by using one arm to make a quick and precise save. Give it a try on your own!

The Transition Game

Jeff Jendryk, U.S. Men’s National Team middle blocker

The ability to excel in transition and adapt to less-than-ideal situations is what sets standout middle blockers apart on the court. One of the best feelings during a game is when an attacker manages to get past the block and our defenders make a great touch, allowing me to transition from blocking to an attacking position for my setter.

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To be successful in transition, there are three keys to keep in mind:

  • Work hard to get past the 10-foot line.
  • Be vocal and communicate with your setter to make sure they know where to find you.
  • Maintain an aggressive step close to the net.

Becoming great in transition takes hard work and repetition. Make it a habit, regardless of the circumstances.

Specialized vs. Multi-Sport Athlete?

Tayyiba Haneef-Park, three-time Olympian and a member of the USAV Board of Directors

The debate between specializing in one sport or being a multi-sport athlete has been ongoing and contentious. Personally, I participated in a variety of activities including soccer, track, basketball, and volleyball while growing up. I believe there is great value in cross-training, which influenced my college choice to find schools that allowed me to participate in both track and volleyball.

From my own experience, I found that being a multi-sport athlete resulted in fewer injuries, less emotional burnout, and more skill crossover compared to peers who specialized early on. The ability to take on different roles and responsibilities, both on and off the court, became essential in my professional playing years. Developing sport-specific skills, as well as mental and life skills, makes being a multi-sport athlete an easy choice for me.

Injuries and Recovery

Lauren Fendrick, 2016 beach Olympian

When dealing with injuries, it is crucial to pay attention to the professionals helping you recover, including medical staff and strength coaches. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their recommendations and the reasoning behind them.

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In addition, listen to your own body. Learn to interpret different sensations, whether it’s fatigue, muscle soreness, an actual injury, or something else entirely.

If rehab exercises or drills become monotonous, find ways to add nuance to them. Even if you’ve done the same movements a thousand times, there is always more to learn.


Q: How can I improve my defensive agility in volleyball?
A: Focus on maintaining balance and keeping your arms independent. Instead of defaulting to the midline, consciously move both arms to the anticipated area of the ball. This will help improve your reaction time, balance, and control.

Q: What are the key factors for excelling in transition play?
A: To excel in transition, work on getting past the 10-foot line, communicate with your setter to ensure they know where to find you, and maintain an aggressive step close to the net.

Q: Should I specialize in one sport or participate in multiple sports?
A: Being a multi-sport athlete offers several benefits, such as skill crossover, fewer injuries, and less emotional burnout. It also helps develop sport-specific and life skills, making it an easy choice for many athletes.

Q: How should I approach injuries and recovery in volleyball?
A: Pay attention to the advice and recommendations of medical staff and strength coaches. Ask questions to fully understand their suggestions. Additionally, listen to your body and learn to differentiate between different sensations. Finally, find ways to keep your rehab exercises interesting and nuanced to prevent boredom.


In this article, we have gathered valuable insights from professional volleyball players on various aspects of the game. Dustin Watten emphasizes the importance of balance and simplicity for libero players, while Jeff Jendryk shares tips on excelling in transition play. Tayyiba Haneef-Park advocates for being a multi-sport athlete, and Lauren Fendrick offers advice on dealing with injuries and recovery.

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By implementing the advice given by these pros, volleyball players can improve their skills, enhance their performance, and reduce the risk of injuries. Remember to prioritize balance, communication, and adaptability in your game.