Why Does the Center Wear a Different Jersey in Volleyball?


On a volleyball team, the player with a differently colored jersey is called the "libero," an Italian word meaning "free." This player is allowed to replace players, freely, without this being counted as a team substitution. The role of the libero is to keep the ball in play. Longer rallies make the game more exciting and enjoyable for spectators.


  • The libero, sometimes referred to as a defensive specialist, is a relatively new position in volleyball and is strategically used by coaches to add to a team's defense and to help the team maintain its offense. The libero can enter and leave a game many times, replacing players, but only players in the back row can be replaced. The position most often replaced is the center blocker.


  • The libero position was first introduced by the International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB) in 1996. In 1998, it was internationally recognized and in 2002, the NCAA rules were changed to include this new position.

Jersey Requirements

  • According to the International Federation of Volleyball rules, the jersey worn by the libero must be a contrasting color to the jerseys worn by the other team members. The difference in color distinguishes this player and his role from other players, making it clear to the officials when player replacements take place. The jersey must have a unique number, one that is not worn by any other team player.


  • The ideal libero must be quick, agile and play with consistency. This player must also have good ball-handling skills and good hands because she will be called upon to dig balls out and pass the ball with precision to keep the point alive. A libero must be able to play with aggression, doing whatever is necessary to give her team a chance to win.

Libero Rule Restrictions

  • According to the FIVB rules, the libero cannot be the team captain or the game captain. This player is not allowed to block or attempt to block during play. The libero replaces only players in the back row and can be replaced only by the player whom he replaced. If replaced, the libero must stay out of play for one rally before re-entering the game. If the acting libero is replaced by a "reserve" libero, the original player can not re-enter to play for the remainder of the match. In co-ed matches, a female libero is allowed to replace only a female player and a male libero can replace only a male player.


  • Photo Credit volleyball girl image by alice rawson from Fotolia.com
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