Inside the mind of the Libero, with Kayla Banwarth

     I spend a lot of time wondering how things work.  For that reason I really enjoy television shows like Mythbusters and How it's Made.  I feel this way about the sports I so enjoy watching too.  What is Carey Price looking at as Pavel Datsyuk is bearing down on him, when does Andrew McCutchen pick up the spin of a curve ball, how does Russell Wilson work through his progressions to find the open receiver?   This of course extends to athletes I actually have some access to.   

     The libero position is one of the most interesting in all of sports.  Like the DH in baseball, it focuses mostly on one really important skill.  The most successful coaches know matches swing on how well their teams perform in the "serve and pass".  Having a solid libero gives a good team the edge it needs to be great.  

     So how does the libero go about his/her business on the court?  That's what I set out to find.  Luckily for me I have been able to get some answers in the past from Team USA Libero Kayla Banwarth and when I sent her my idea she was quick to respond with these great insights and tips on how her position works.  Mythbusters meets volleyball greatness.  Here is a look inside the mind of the libero, with Kayla Banwarth!

How much of what you do is preparation, how much is just reaction and instinct? 

Preparation is a huge part of being a great volleyball player. We spend a lot of time scouting, watching video, and making a plan for how we want to defend our opponent. 

So let's go through this step by step...

The ball is in your teammates hand at the service line.  Do you know where the coaches want her to serve and how does that effect where you are on the court?

I know where the coaches want our servers to serve.  I wouldn't say that effects my position on the court...

The ball is passed and your opponents are in system.  What is your first read?  Any other cues after that?

The first read is whether or not the ball is over the net.  If it isn't, then you have to get your eyes on the setter as soon as you can.  The setter will tell you everything you need to know about where the ball is going.


The ball is set, outside.  In what order do you read the hitter?  What kind of adjustments are you making because of the position of your blockers?

After the ball is set, get your eyes on the hitter.  If there is a hole in the block, I'll fill the seam.  If the block is closed I'll stay where I am or take a step back.  If it is a triple block, I'll be very close to the end line.

The ball is off the block and you make a move and pass it in system to your setter.  How aware are you as to where she is going with the ball, or do  you have to pick up cues and read her as well?

Normally, I have a good feel as to where our setter is going to set the ball. I can just kind of go with the flow. But sometimes our setters can fake me out :)

Your opponent is serving.  How much film study and advanced scouting goes into learning each servers tendencies?  

We spend time watching film on each of the opponents servers. We know what kind of serve they are hitting, where they like to hit it, how fast it's crossing the net and how much movement is on the ball. 

You seemed totally dialed in at the qualifier in Lincoln!  What do you attribute to such a strong performance?  Why were things so clear for you?

In Lincoln we were on a mission. I think that's why everyone was so dialed in. After not qualifying at World Cup, we had a little chip on our shoulder and we were determined to send a message that we belong in the Olympics. 

As always I am so fortunate to have been able to pick the brain of many of these fine athletes.  I hope you find their insights as compelling and revealing as I do.  Thank you Kayla for participating again on our blog.  Best of luck on the road to Rio!