This year’s Olympics has been a thrill to watch, with Team GB taking home medals across various different sports.
Any eagle-eyed viewers watching the Olympic volleyball tournament at this year’s Olympics may have spotted one team member wearing a different-coloured jersey to others on the court.
But why is that the case?
Here is everything you need to know.
Why does one volleyball player wear a different jersey?
The player in the differently-coloured jersey is a defensive player known as a libero.
Their jersey usually takes the official colour of the country they’re playing for, but contrasts with the colour being worn by the rest of their team.
The libero has specific playing instructions. They can only play in the back of the court and can’t jump and spike a ball in the front row or block an attack at the net.
Two players out of 12 in a squad can be assigned a libero.
The position was first introduced in 1996 by the International Volleyball Federation, which governs Olympic-level volleyball.
The libero has to wear a different colour so that referees can easily spot them to enforce their specific playing instructions.
USA Volleyball’s rules state: “The Libero’s jersey or jacket must clearly contrast in color to the color of the jersey worn by other members of the team,”
“The Libero jerseys do not have to match, but they must both be contrasting from the other members of the team. ‘Contrast’ means ‘strikingly different.’ As such, two dark colors (or two light colors) often do not provide sufficient contrast from one another.”
Unlike other members of the team, liberos can’t be substituted in the normal fashion, with at least one point required to be played between the special player leaving the court and their replacement coming on to play.
Previously, the libero was unable to be the team captain, but this rule changed earlier this year.
In the USA men’s team, Erik Shoji and Dustin Watten have the role, and for the women’s team it is Justine Wong Orantes, with Megan Courtney as an alternate.
What are the rules for Olympic volleyball?
The rules for Olympic volleyball are relatively basic, with one team serving and the other team trying to win the rally with a pattern of “dig, set, spike” within the requisite three touches.
The International Volleyball Federation was founded in 1946, a decade before the sport was officially recognised by the International Olympic Committee.
Volleyball for men and women was added to the Olympic Programme in Tokyo 1964 with the Soviet Union winning the men’s and Japan the women’s in front of the home crowd.
Have team GB ever competed in Olympic volleyball?
Team GB's only Olympic appearance in volleyball was at the London 2012 Olympics, where the men’s squad finished 11th and the women’s squad finished ninth.
How is Olympic volleyball different from Olympic beach volleyball?
Although Olympic beach volleyball isn’t always played on an actual beach, the game uses a deep sand base on the court to provide a soft surface for landings.
First appearing in the 1920s in California, beach volleyball debuted much later than ordinary volleyball, featuring in the 1996 games for the first time.
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