Why One Volleyball Player Always Wears a Different Color During an Olympic Match

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 25: Gabriela Braga Guimaraes # 10 of Team Brazil reacts with teammates against Team South Korea during the women's preliminary round - Pool A on day two of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at Ariake Arena on July 25, 2021 in Tokyo , Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai / Getty Images)
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If you watch volleyball at the Tokyo Olympics, you may notice that one player is wearing a different colored jersey than the rest of their team. There's a good reason why they look so great: They just discovered the Libero, a specialized player whose unique role requires that he be clearly visible at all times.
According to USA Volleyball, the Libero is a defensive specialist who can replace any player in the back row without counting on team substitutions, which are limited to six per set in international play. Introduced in 1998, there are some specific restrictions on what a Libero can and cannot do while on the court. In the international game, Liberos cannot serve, tip or rotate in the front row. Essentially, they are a defensive specialist who helps maintain serves and makes crucial saves during lengthy rallies.
The biggest advantage of a Libero, however, is the rules for changing players. This unique quality of the role makes it a very strategic position, especially as the other players on the court rotate throughout the game and the teams may swap drummers for defensive players who eventually end up in the front row.
Although Liberos do not count towards the total substitution limits, there are some rules on how they can be exchanged. According to the rules of the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball, the official international governing body of sport, "there must be at least one point between a libero who replaces a player and a return to the field for another player". In other words, the Libero cannot be on the court for the entire game. Now that you know exactly what a Libero is doing, you can choose the strategies for using this unique player as you watch the games continue.

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