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Tokyo Olympics: Why does one volleyball player have a different colour jersey?

The libero position was introduced to volleyball 25 years ago in 1996 and has special rules attached to it.

France's Barthelemy Chinenyeze (L) and Earvin Ngapeth (R) block a shot by Brazil's Lucas Saatkamp (C) in the men's preliminary round pool B volleyball match between Brazil and France during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Arena in To

The libero is made to wear a different colored shirt so that the referees can spot them easily and enforce the rules of that position. 

Two players out of 12 in a squad can be assigned a libero. The libero in volleyball is generally located on the back row of the court. After the regulations were amended in 2021, only the libero is allowed to be the team captain.

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 colours (or two light colours) 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.

Libero role change

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 currently have the role, and for the women’s team it is Justine Wong Orantes, with Megan Courtney as an alternate.


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