June 14, 2024

Can you dig it? PVL, UAAP libero captains share the importance of their leadership role to team success

Can you dig it? PVL, UAAP libero captains share the importance of their leadership role to team success
Detdet Pepito, Dani Ravena, Kath Arado, and Roma Mae Doromal embrace the mantle of leadership. | Art by Mitzi Solano/One Sports | Photos (c) PVL and RM Chua/One Sports

For the longest time, the mantle of captaincy for volleyball teams did not fall on the shoulders of liberos.

Defensive specialists are restricted to the back row and cannot rotate upfront, resulting in frequent substitutions. For such a rotational limitation, they were once deemed unfit for the role of team captain.

However, that changed when the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) revised its regulations last February 2021, opening a new path of leadership in the ever-progressive sport. 

A handful of liberos in the Philippines have stepped up to the plate since then, and One Sports sought after their insights to find out the dynamics of their roles.



Commanding the Battlefield


Communication is the lifeblood of every successful volleyball team, and liberos often serve as epicenter. 

Positioned at the backlines, where the true heart of the defense lies, these defensive maestros have a panoramic view of the battlefield, allowing them to provide invaluable guidance and direction to their teammates. 

PLDT captain Kath Arado, who has embraced the mantle in lieu of the recovering Mika Reyes in the 2024 PVL All-Filipino Conference, can attest to this. 


With eyes keenly trained on the movements of the opponents, the 5-foot-5 libero analyzes the defensive formations on the other end, identifying weaknesses to exploit.
“Actually may mga sinasabi ako sa kanila na bago pumalo ‘yung spikers namin tignan ko ‘yung depensa sa kabila. Before pa sila makatalon, bumubulong na ako sa likod nila,” shared Arado.

Arado dishes out a series of strategic commands – "drop," "donut," "zone one," and "zone five," each aimed at guiding her scorers on where to send their attacks.

"Drop" is a directive to send the ball softly over the net to exploit the gaps in the defense, while "donut" is a call to aim for the center of the court, where defense is often the weakest.

"Zone one" is a command to target the far corner of the court with pinpoint accuracy, and "zone five" is an instruction to aim for the back corner of the court.

“‘Yung drop, drop sa likod. Kapag sinabi kong donut, sa may gitna. Kapag drop lang, sa likod ng blocker, tapos zone one at zone five. And then, sinisigaw ko rin kapag may isang blocker or dalawang blockers ang kalaban,” the former UE stalwart said.

“Feeling ko maliit na bagay pero pagdating sa mga kasama ko sobrang laki niya.”

In the sport of volleyball, where split-second decisions can spell all the difference, Arado’s commands are a testament to her leadership.

Ateneo captain Roma Mae Doromal, who has been showing the way for the Blue Eagles in the UAAP Season 86, shares the same perspective with Arado.


Doromal pointed out that since liberos are often freed from responsibilities of offensive play, they become adept at reading the patterns of opponents. This is all while delivering directives to ensure that the team is aligned and in sync.

“I agree with Ate Kath. Siyempre kasi, in that way, parang nale-lead din namin ‘yung attack system, na kapag magsa-spike sila, we can tell them or sigawan namin sila na, ‘Line mo, line mo!’ ganun,” the 23-year-old Doromal stated.

“I think, in that way, mas madali sa amin mag lead kasi wala kaming ginagawa at that moment na papalo sila, kami andoon kami to lead them na kung saan pwede nila ilagay ‘yung bola.”

But for several instances throughout a match, liberos often find themselves being rotated out of the court, spending significant time on the bench due to their rotational limitations. 

However, the bench is not a place of resignation for these players. Instead, it is a separate vantage point to where they can continue to wield their most potent weapon – their voice. 

This sentiment is exemplified by Nxled captain Dani Ravena, who became the first-ever official libero captain in the Philippines when she was entrusted with the leadership role at Ateneo in 2021.


“Siguro masasabi ng mga tao, especially when you’re watching live, naririnig niyo ‘yung boses ko kahit ‘yung mga nanonood sa TV naririnig na may sumisigaw sa bench. And for me, my role doesn’t stop when I’m outside the court. Continuous ‘yan eh,” Ravena said.

For Ravena, though, leading the team is not just about barking orders. It requires a level head, a calm demeanor, and a selfless mindset.
“Siguro kasi in all teams na nao-observe ko ang pinaka maingay kasi libero. But as I grew older, I also realized na ‘yung noise kasi, if maingay ka lang at nandiyan ka lang para sumigaw, it doesn’t matter, it wouldn’t matter in the team,” she stressed.

“You have to be composed, you have to also manage other players inside the court. You can’t just think about yourself, bawal ka maging selfish.”


Selfless Leaders

The impact of libero captains goes beyond just tactical guidance.

Defensive specialists often embody the selfless, team-first mentality that is essential for leadership. They have a deep understanding that their role is inherently supportive, thus reinforcing their commitment to serving the team in any way possible.

“Kung tutuusin, ako lang ‘yung medyo less ‘yung trabaho e. Kasi ano ba naman ‘yung re-receive lang ako, dedepensa, at onting set. So, why not dagdagan ko pa ‘yung trabaho ko para ma-lessen lang din ‘yung pagod ng kasama ko,” shared Arado.

For University of Santo Tomas captain Detdet Pepito, who has been an integral cog in the title-contention bid of the Golden Tigresses in the UAAP Season 86, character is the most important aspect of selfless leadership. 

After all, a character-driven captain acts with integrity, humility, and empathy.

“Unang una, sa character talaga ‘yan. Kung paano mo ile-lead ‘yung team, talagang malaking epekto ‘yung personality kung paano ‘yung flow ng magiging laro namin,” Pepito said.

At the end of the day, libero captains should not be measured by the plays they make, but also the impact they provide to success. Their commitment to prioritizing the needs of the team above all else is truly their defining characteristic.


“Being captain is a big responsibility, and it doesn’t end inside the court. Kahit in training palang or outside magkakasama kayo. You’re a captain and you have to make sure na you put your team first,” Ravena remarked.


As perceptions of leadership in the sport evolve and defensive specialists continue to demonstrate their value to their respective teams, we may see a shift towards greater representation of libero captains in the future.