What is a “Dig” in Volleyball? And How is it Executed

Volleyball, a fast-paced and exhilarating sport, demands players to be proficient in both offensive and defensive skills. While smashing powerful spikes and executing well-coordinated attacks are thrilling, the art of defense is equally vital for achieving success on the court. One of the most crucial defensive maneuvers in volleyball is the “dig.” In this article, we will explore what a dig is, why it’s essential, and how to execute it effectively to keep the game alive.

The Basics of Volleyball Defense

Before diving into the specifics of the dig, let’s briefly discuss the role of defense in volleyball. Defense is the cornerstone of any successful team, preventing the opposing side from scoring points by skillfully preventing the ball from touching the ground within their own court. A well-organized defensive setup can challenge even the most powerful attacks and create opportunities for counterattacks.

Understanding Defensive Positions on the Court

In volleyball, defensive players are divided into six positions on the court: three players in the front row and three in the back row. The players’ positioning is essential as it determines their areas of responsibility and coverage during a rally. Proper positioning enables defenders to react swiftly to incoming attacks and set up effective blocks and digs.

Importance of Anticipation and Reaction Time in Defense

Effective defense in volleyball relies heavily on a player’s ability to anticipate the opponent’s moves and react quickly. This requires excellent court awareness, reading the attacker’s body language, and predicting the trajectory of the ball. The faster a player can process information and react, the more successful they will be in making crucial digs.

What is a “Dig” in Volleyball?

A dig is a defensive technique employed to keep the ball from touching the ground after an opponent’s attack. When an attacker spikes or sends the ball over the net, the defenders use the dig to pop the ball up and direct it back to their teammates for a set or an attack. The dig serves as the first line of defense against powerful spikes and sneaky tip shots, making it an indispensable skill in the sport.

The Significance of the Dig

The significance of the dig lies in its ability to transition the game from defense to offense seamlessly. A successful dig not only saves the point but also allows the team to mount a counterattack immediately. Without the dig, the opposing team’s offense could overpower the defense, resulting in lost points and momentum for the defensive side.

How the Dig Differs from Other Defensive Techniques

While the dig is a common defensive technique, it differs from other skills like blocking and receiving. Blocking involves stopping the attack at the net by reaching over and blocking the ball back to the attacker’s side. Receiving, on the other hand, focuses on passing the serve to set up an attack. In contrast, the dig is performed when the ball is already in play and aimed at the defenders’ court, requiring quick reflexes and precision.

Key Elements of a Successful Dig

To execute a successful dig, players must master several key elements:

  1. Body Positioning and Footwork: Proper body positioning and footwork allow defenders to quickly move and adjust to the ball’s trajectory, ensuring they are in the best possible position to make the dig.
  2. Reading the Opponent’s Attack: Anticipating the opponent’s attack is crucial for effective defense. Reading the attacker’s approach and body position can give defenders a valuable split-second advantage in preparing for the dig.
  3. Timing and Decision-Making: Determining the right moment to initiate the dig is essential. Players must make quick decisions based on the speed and trajectory of the incoming ball.
  4. Proper Use of Arms and Hands: The forearm passing technique, commonly known as a “bump,” is the primary method used for digging. The player’s arms should form a platform, and the ball should make contact with the forearms, slightly above the wrists, for better control.

Executing the Dig: Step-by-Step Guide

To execute a successful dig, players should follow these steps:

  1. Preparing for the Incoming Attack: As soon as the opposing team’s attacker winds up for the hit, defenders must get ready for the potential dig by assuming a proper defensive stance.
  2. Correcting Defensive Stance and Ready Position: Players should bend their knees slightly and keep their weight balanced on the balls of their feet. Their arms should be outstretched and ready to react.
  3. Reacting to Different Types of Attacks: Defenders need to adjust their dig technique based on the type of attack coming their way. For spikes, they must focus on absorbing the power of the ball to control the direction of the dig. For tips and rolls, they should be prepared for a softer touch to send the ball upwards.
  4. Performing the Dig Using Forearm Passing Technique: As the ball approaches, defenders should move their forearms together to create a solid platform. The platform should be angled upward, allowing the ball to bounce off and go in the desired direction.

Drills and Practices to Improve Digging Skills

Improving dig technique requires regular practice and dedication. Here are some drills and exercises that players can incorporate into their training routine:

  1. Digging Drills for Individuals: Players can work on their reaction time and digging skills by practicing against a wall. They can hit the ball against the wall and dig the rebounded ball back to the wall, simulating real-game situations.
  2. Partner-Based Digging Exercises: Working with a partner allows players to practice reacting to different attacks. One player can toss the ball over the net, while the other practices digging back accurately.
  3. Incorporating Digging into Team Practice Sessions: Coaches can set up scenarios in team practices that require defenders to make successful digs under pressure. These can include game-like situations with varying attack angles and speeds.

Digging Strategies for Different Positions

Different players have distinct roles and responsibilities in defense. Here’s how various positions contribute to the team’s overall digging strategy:

  1. Libero’s Role in Defensive Play: Liberos are defensive specialists who excel at digging and receiving. They have the freedom to replace any back-row player without counting as a substitution. Liberos play a pivotal role in maintaining a solid defense and facilitating successful transitions to offense.
  2. Defensive Responsibilities for Front-Row Players: While front-row players are primarily responsible for blocking at the net, they should still be prepared to execute digs if the opposing team tips the ball or attempts a roll shot.
  3. Defensive Tactics for Back-Row Players: Back-row players must be agile and swift in responding to the opposing team’s attacks. Their ability to dig accurately will determine the success of their team’s defensive efforts.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Even with consistent practice, players may encounter some common mistakes when attempting to dig. Here are ways to avoid them:

  1. Anticipating the Attack Incorrectly: To avoid misreading the attacker’s intentions, players should focus on the approaching ball rather than getting caught up in the attacker’s movements.
  2. Poor Body Positioning and Balance: Players should maintain a balanced and low stance to react quickly to the ball’s trajectory. Standing too upright or off-balance can result in missed digs.
  3. Incorrect Form During the Dig: Ensure that the platform created by the forearms is stable and parallel to the ground. Failing to maintain a firm platform may lead to the ball bouncing off in unexpected directions.
  4. Lack of Communication Among Players: Effective defense requires seamless communication between players. Clear and concise communication can prevent collisions and ensure that the right player takes responsibility for each ball.

Video Analysis of Expert Digs

To better understand the nuances of successful digs, aspiring players can watch professional volleyball matches and analyze how seasoned players execute the skill. Observing experts in action can provide valuable insights into their footwork, body positioning, and decision-making during critical moments.

Mental Aspects of Successful Digging

Volleyball is not just a physical sport but also a mental game. Players must develop the right mindset for effective defense:

  1. The Importance of Focus and Concentration: Defenders need to stay fully focused on the game, avoiding distractions and maintaining intense concentration to react quickly to the ball.
  2. Developing a Resilient Mindset for Defense: Players should not get discouraged by missed digs or powerful attacks. Resilience and a strong mentality are essential for bouncing back and maintaining a determined defensive effort.
  3. Building Confidence and Trust in One’s Abilities: Confidence in one’s skills and abilities is essential for making split-second decisions during a high-pressure match. Regular practice and consistent performance build confidence and trust in one’s capability to execute successful digs.


The “dig” in volleyball is a fundamental defensive move that can turn the tide of a game. Its significance lies in its ability to keep the ball in play and set up counterattacks. Mastering the dig requires a combination of physical skills, mental focus, and regular practice. Players must work on their body positioning, footwork, and timing while refining their forearm passing technique. By incorporating drills and exercises into their training routines, aspiring volleyball players can elevate their defensive skills and contribute significantly to their team’s success on the court. With dedication and determination, players can become proficient in the art of digging, making them indispensable assets to their teams and adding excitement to every volleyball match they play.

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