Digging remains a vital part of defensive volleyball, as it begins the transition from defense to offense. Not every shot will approach you directly, so you must read the play and head to where you believe the ball will end up. Using the proper digging technique ensures that you put the ball in the right place for your teammates to attack.
Before you can dig the ball, you must get into the proper stance. Have your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart with your knees bent. When you look down, your knees should reach out over your toes. Keep your shoulders square to the ball and relax. Tensing up hinders your accuracy once the ball arrives. Bend your arms out in front of your body.
Good players can anticipate the play and head to a spot on the floor before the ball arrives. You want to get your hips under the ball and arriving early helps this significantly. Have your forearms under the ball and lean toward the ball as it hits your arms. Digging the ball between your knees and shoulders gives you the best chance of directing it toward a teammate accurately. On every shot, make sure that you face the attacker as the ball approaches. Getting to a fast-approaching ball is difficult, so positioning is very important.
If you cannot get to a ball on your feet, you might have to dive to complete the dig. When doing so, get very low to the ground by bending your knees. Extend your entire body forward and slide on your chest as you dive. Since you will likely dive for a low ball, you must keep your arms parallel to the floor to get it back into the air. You will dig with either a closed fist or with a defensive technique called the pancake, in which you lay your hand flat on the ground and let the ball bounce off the back of it. Keep your chin up throughout the dive to avoid injury.
If the ball approaches over your head, you must play the ball in that position. In most cases, you will contact the ball with your fingers, rather than with your arms together. Keep your fingers and wrists tense as you make contact with the ball, as this gives you more control over the ball. Attack the ball, rather than letting it hit you. Letting the ball hit you can lead to injury to your fingers, in addition to a poorly executed dig. Push the ball into the air for your setter, as this helps your team finish its attack.
- "Volleyball: Steps to Success"; Bonnie Kenny, et al.; 2006
- "Volleyball Skills & Drills"; American Volleyball Coaches Association; 2005