Agility Drills With Minnesota Volleyball

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Hands down, liberos are the most agile players on a volleyball court. These defensive specialists, responsible for digging out their opponents' most vicious hits, depend on cat-like speed and reaction time. Liberos need to see, decide and move in a heart beat.

Minnesota Golden Gopher Paula Gentil owns NCAA all-time records for career digs per game (5.50) and digs in a single season (924). The first and only libero to earn first-team All-American honors, Gentil manufactured 637 digs during the 2005 season, breaking the team's all-time career record with 2,791.

Properly preparing the minds and bodies of Gopher liberos is the job of strength and conditioning coach Sara Wiley. "The need for agility and reaction is greater for liberos and is called upon more often than other positions on the floor," Wiley says. "To improve, players need to work on agility and reaction drills, individually and combined."

Wiley highlights five tennis ball drills that she uses with her athletes throughout the off-season. "We work on a few drills a couple days a week," she says. "You don't need to spend all day on these, so we just fit them between sets in the weight room or on court."

Wiley advises mastering regular drills before attempting advanced ones. "If you can't perform the regular drills well, don't move on to the fancy stuff," she says. "The advanced drills may sound cool, but you won't get anything out of them if you can't do the basic drills right."

Perform Wiley's exercises between other training routines that aren't too tiring. The key is to be able to react and move as quickly as possible. When you're fatigued from a previous drill, you won't benefit as much from these exercises.

Ball Drop and Sprint (Regular)

• Stand in defensive position
• Partner stands 10 feet away facing you and holding tennis ball in each hand at shoulder level
• Partner drops one ball
• Sprint toward partner; catch ball before second bounce
• Perform 3 sets of 3-5 reps
• Use walk back to start as rest

Ball Drop and Sprint (Advanced)

• Same as regular drill, but partner holds two tennis balls of different colors in one hand
• Partner identifies target color ball before drop, then drops both balls at once
• Sprint to appropriate ball; catch before second bounce
• Perform 3 sets of 3-5 reps
• Use walk back to start as rest

Ball Toss (Regular)

• Stand in defensive position
• Partner stands five feet in front of you with tennis ball
• Block or catch partner's throw before ball hits ground or legs
• Perform 3 sets of 5-8 reps

Standing Ball Drop (Regular)

• Stand two arm-lengths away from partner
• Keep arms outstretched with palms down
• Partner holds tennis ball directly below your hands
• After partner drops ball, catch it with one hand before it bounces
• Repeat with opposite hand
• Perform 3 sets of 5-8 reps

Kneeling Ball Catch (Advanced)

• Kneel on ground with eyes closed
• Partner stands arm-length away with two tennis balls of different colors
• Partner identifies target color ball, then says drop
• Open your eyes and catch appropriate ball before it bounces
• Perform 3 sets of 5-8 reps

Evolution Highlights of a Libero

April '98:
FIVB adopts use of libero in international games

Nov. '99:
Teams can add libero to roster for U.S. open competition

NCAA D-1 men's teams adopts use of liberos

U.S. indoor volleyball rules state that the libero is integral part of game

NCAA women's volleyball approves use of libero

Ryan Stuntz and Paula Gentil become first liberos awarded All-American status

Jan. '04:
NCAA women's volleyball endorses proposal allowing libero to serve

Jan. '05:
High school volleyball rules committee adopts use of libero

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