The libero was introduced into volleyball for two overlapping reasons: to lengthen rallies by improving the level of defence and to help Asian teams (whence much of the budget of FIVB originates) improve their world rankings. I wrote once before how the presence of the libero did indeed improve defence, but not directly.
The libero affected the game in another unintended way: by restricting the offence. Many old volleyball fans lament the passing of the front row combination attack (for reasons I don’t understand, but still). All of the other developments of the game have meant that width and speed have become the most important offensive concepts. Blockers are too big and too skilled and too well prepared to be successful by focusing the offence in a small area of the net.
If you watch the video from 1992 below, you will see that back all those years ago, teams were able to use the whole width of the net, at speed AND incorporate combination attacks. How were they able to do something that is ‘beyond’ the best teams now? Simply, they had more players. Before the libero was introduced, teams could incorporate five spikers into their offence. Now it is only four. Only four spikers, means less offensive possibilities. Which makes defence easier.
Therefore the libero improved defence even more in unintended ways.
Watch the video. It is fun.
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