volleyball rules

Volleyball rules has designed the sport of volleyball in such a way that it requires the agility and combined effort and skills of different individuals making a team. In other words: volleyball is a team sport. In volleyball, there are usually two teams playing against each other and each of the teams consist of six players. The two teams are separated by a net over which players of each of the teams ground the ball on the other team’s court in a bid to score goal points. The way by which they ground the balls are under a certain set of organized and official rules.

The whole rules of volleyball are very many, they are extensive. However, I have gathered as much information as you will need and I am going to show the rules to you here. I will be as precise and brief as I can.

If you are a volleyball player, you will agree with me that understanding the rules of the game is one essential duty of every player. If you don’t know the basic rules involved in volleyball, you will end up being frustrated. It doesn’t matter if you a player, a coach, or you’re simply just a fan, if you don’t fully grasp the rules governing the sports, you will be frustrated.

Perhaps, as a fan, you have stumbled upon the game at one time or the other on television, or live, and while you watch the game you hear the referee making some calls and you wonder ‘who is this person shouting and why is he shouting?’. You probably didn’t know that the ‘shouting’ is not just shouting, he is passing a very important information that is detrimental to a team’s or a player’s success in the game such that if they don’t follow or get the information, it could result in them losing the game.

If you are a player and, more often than not, you find yourself getting frustrated over calls made by a referee that you have no clue or idea what he is saying. It is because you do not know the rules involved in the game. If you happen to be a coach, you want to use every means possible to make you team better players and, ultimately, champions, teaching the rules to them and making sure they follow them is one sure way you can do that.

And, if you are just someone who plays volleyball for fun and you want an advantage over your opponents, get familiar with the rules.

So, player, coach, fan or recreational player, whichever one you are, the need to familiarize yourself with the basic rules of volleyball cannot be overemphasized.

Now that we have established the need for the rules, you now see the reason why you need the rules, let me show you the rules governing the sport of volleyball.

rules of volleyball


The rules of the game cover every single area and aspect of the game from the court to the game play, even to the outfits worn by the players. So, what are the rules?

The Rules of the Pitch or Court

The court on which volleyball sport is played is expected to be 9m x 18m overall. The whole court is then divided into two equal halves, the halves are squared, by a net which must be no more than 1m in width. The top of the net should not be less or more than 2.43m and should above the center of the court when it is for the men’s competition while it should not be more than or less than 2.24m for the women in their competition. The measurement varies in veterans and junior level volleyball competitions.

 The height of the indoor volleyball court is stipulated to not be more than 23 feet in height. However, it is recommended that it should be 8m or 26.2 feet in height.

 Right from the net and also parallel to the net is a line not more than 3m or 9.8 feet; this line is known as the attack line. The 3m attack line divides the court into the back row and front row areas. Furthermore, the back row and front row areas are divided into 3 areas. The back row and front row are divided such that when the game is being played and the two teams are on the court, they rotate i.e. after a team has been given the serving honor, then its members have to rotate in a clockwise direction such that the player who played in area 2 moves to area 1, the player who played area 1 moves to area 2 and the cycle will continue like that until the game ends. However, the rotation is done only once by each player on the team after the team gains possession of serving the ball. They will not rotate anymore until after the other team has been given the opportunity to serve and then lost.

Surrounded by the courts is an area known as the ‘free zone’ of which must not measure more than 3 meters in width and into which players are allowed to enter and play after they have served the ball. Every single line on the court denotes the boundaries of the court and the attack zone, and they are painted within the dimensions of the area. Therefore, the lines are considered part of the court. Should it happen that a ball touches the line, the ball is seen as in the zone of the line it couched. On either sides of the net is placed an antenna which is placed such that it is perpendicular to the sideline and extends the side boundary of the court vertically. When the ball is passing over the net, it has to pass completely between the antennae. It must not touch them.

The Rules Governing the Ball

Volleyball regulations stipulates that the volleyball has to be of spherical shape and must be one made out of synthetic leather (or just leather) and should have a circumference of not more than 65 – 67 centimeters, an inside pressure of 0.30 – 0.325 kg/cm2.

The Rules Governing the Gameplay

The rules state that two teams are playing against each other at once and each team will consist of six individual players. For the gameplay to start, a coin is tossed to choose the team that will serve. Then, a player (nominated by his team) from the team chosen to serve will throw the ball into the air and then attempt to hit the ball such that it passes over the net on a course. The ball should be hit such that it will land directly in the opposing team’s court. Then, the opposing team is expected to use a combination of no more than three contacts with the ball in returning the ball back to the other side of the net where it came from, i.e. from the opponent’s side of the net. The three contacts are usually consisting of: the first one is the bump or pass that causes the ball’s trajectory to be aimed towards the player who is chosen to play as the setter; the second one of the set is usually an over-hand pass that is done with the wrist to push finger tips at the ball and is done by the setter such that the ball’s trajectory will be aimed at a spot where one of the players playing as attacker will be able to hit it; the third one is done by the attacker who jumps (or spikes) by raising one arm above his head and hitting the ball so that it moves very quickly to the ground on the opponent’s court – this he does in a bid to return the ball back over the net to the opponent’s side. The ‘offense’ is usually used to describe the team in possession of the ball who is trying to attack the ball. On the other hand, the defense team tries to hinder the attacker from throwing the ball into their court. The players at the net then jump and reach above the top of the net or across the plane, sometimes, in order to block the ball being attacked by the offense. If the team on offense hits the ball around or through the block, the defense team organize themselves in the rest of the court in an attempt to control the ball with a dig that is done with a forearm pass of the hard-driven ball. If the dig is successful, the defensive team becomes the offensive team.

The competition will continue in this fashion with each team rallying back and forth until they’ve been able to get the ball to touch the court within the boundaries or until a fault is committed. The most frequent faults made in the game of volleyball are that where a team either fails to get the ball to land outside the court or they fail to return the ball over the net within the stipulated three touches. If any part of the ball touches the inside of the team’s court, sideline or end line, then the ball is said to be ‘in’. A strong spike may cause a compression on the ball such that when it does land, the ball though it appears to be going out may be in. Players are given the go-ahead to travel well outside the court and play a ball which was played over a sideline or an end line in the air.

Another error that can be committed in volleyball is that where a player touches the ball two consecutive times or when a player catches the ball, or the net is touched by a player in an attempt to play the ball, or a player enters the opponent’s court going through the underparts of the net. There are very many number of error in the official rules though, but they are errors that happen only on rare occasions.

Rules Governing Scoring Goal Points

One goal point is scored if and when a ball contacts the floor within the boundaries of the court or when an error is made. If it happens that the ball hits a team’s side of the court, the other team is awarded a point. When an error is made by a team, the non-offending team gains a point regardless of whether or not they served a ball. If any part of the ball happens to hit the line, the ball is said to be inside the court. therefore, the team who got awarded with the goal points will be giving the serving baton for the next point, i.e. they serve next. If the team that got awarded with the goal point served in the previous game where he got the point, he serves again. If the team that got awarded with the point was not the team that served in the previous game, then the players in the team take turns to serve in a clockwise manner. The game will continue in play and the first team who scores 25 points and leads by at least 2 points at the end of the set gets awarded with the set. Each match is, by laws, best of five set and the fifth set is usually played to 15 points, that is if it is necessary. The scoring system differs though; the way leagues score is usually different from the scoring in tournaments; high school volleyball game is usually scored at best of three to 25.

The Libero Rules

This is the most recent addition to the volleyball positions. It was introduced officially and internationally in the year 1998 and it was debuted for the 2002 NCAA championship competition. The libero is a defense specialist i.e. he is a player with specialized defensive skills. The rule states that the player in the libero position has to put on a jersey different in color from other players in the team. The libero is not allowed to block or attack the ball when it is played to go entirely above the height of the net. Whenever the ball is not being played, the libero can be brought in as substitution for any back row player whether or not the officials were notified about the switch prior to the time. The replacement can be done for as many times as possible and is not limited by the substitution rules of the game. However, the libero can only be replaced by the player he or she took over from.

In recent times, the libero is usually used to take up the role of a second setter. The libero is responsible for the second ball when the setter digs the first ball and then he sets to the front row attacker. It is only under specific circumstances that the libero may be allowed to perform the roles of a setter. If the libero wants to make an overhand set, he has to stand behind the 3-meter line and not on it. If he steps on it, the ball would not be attacked above the net in front of the 3-meter line. It is allowed that an underhand pass can be made from any area or zones of the court.

Overall, the libero is known to be the highest skilled defensive player on the team. Libero tracking sheets are made and they are used to keep track of whom the libero is replacing; the sheets are used by referees or officiating teams. According to the rules, there has to be two liberos who at the beginning of the game play although only one of them is allowed on the court at any point in time.

A libero is not expected to serve as far as the international rules are concerned. The NCAA rules state differ for both the women’s and the men’s game. However, in 2004, the libero was allowed to serve but only under special rotation. By implication, the libero can only serve for just one person. He cannot take the place of the server and serve for every single player he replaces.

The Team Play Rules

The game of volleyball is ultimately a game of transition from one skill set to another with organized team cooperation between plays on the volleyball. The team cooperation is determined by the teams designated for the offense system, defense system, serve-receive system, and the coverage system. Let’s view them one after the other:

The Serve-Receive system – this is a formation which the receiving team makes use of in order to pass the ball to the player designated as the setter. The system can consist of 5, 4, 3, receivers. In some cases, there may be just two receivers. The most popularly known formation is the one done at the higher level where a 3-receiver formation is formed and consists of two left sides and a libero who receive every single rotation. This system gives the middle and right sides the opportunity to become more perfect and specialized in hitting and blocking.

The Offensive System – these formations are employed by the offense in a bid to ground the ball and get it into the opposing team’s court. These formations usually include chosen player positions with specialized skill set. The most common formations are the 4 – 2, 6 – 2, and 5 to 2 system formations. These formations also employ several attacking schemes of different forms which teams can make use to catch their opponent’s defense off balance.

Coverage Systems ­– these formations are used by the offense to protect their court when they are blocking an attack. It is usually executed by 5 offensive players who are not part of the attack i.e. players who are not directly attacking the ball. In these formations, players are expected to move into assigned positions around the attacker and to dig up any ball that has deflected off the block and back into the court. the most popular formations include the 2 to 3, and the 1 to 2 to 2 systems formation. Some teams use a random coverage with the players nearest to the hitter.

Defensive Systems – these are formations used by the defense team in order to protect their court i.e. they protect against the ball being grounded into their court by the opposing team. This system outlines which of the players are responsible and the areas of the court for which they are responsible depending on where the opponents will be attacking from. Most common system formations are the 6-Up, 6-Back-Deep, and the 6-Black-Slide defense systems. Also, there are several blocking schemes of different techniques which the teams are liable to employ in order to disrupt their opponent’s offense team.

Coverage Systems – As it usually happens in team play, when one player is ready to serve, five players will be lined up in a screen. This is done so that they can cause an obstruction of the view of the receiving team. This action is considered illegal and is unacceptable if it happens that the server makes use of the screen. The call is made at the mercy of the referee’s discretion because of the impact the screen made on the receiving team’s ability to get the ball to their side.

The Basic Rules of Volleyball in Essence:

Summarily, what I’ve been trying to say in essence is that, the rules of volleyball state that:

  • There are two teams to play at once at every match. Each of the teams must consist of 6 players with 3 players positioned on the front row and 3 players positioned on the back row.
  • There can only be three hits per side at the maximum. No more than three.
  • Players are not allowed to hit the ball twice successively. In this case, it is hot considered a block if it is a hit.
  • The ball can be played off the net during a volley and when the team is serving.
  • If the ball hits any line of the zones and areas on the court, it is counted as in the zone or the area.
  • If the ball hits any of the antennae, it is considered to be out. If it hits the floor outside the court completely, it is out. If it hits any part of the net or cables outside the antennae, it is out. If it hits the referee stand or a pole, it is out. And, if it hits the ceiling above a non playable zone, it is out.
  • Any part of the player’s body coming in contact with the ball is considered legal.
  • If a player holds, catches, or holds the ball, he has committed a fault. Catching, holding, or throwing the ball is considered illegal.
  • Should it happen that two or more players came in contact with the ball all at the same time, then it is one play. Any one of the players is allowed to make the next contact as long as the next contact is not the team’s 4th hit.
  • No player is allowed to block or attack a serve while standing on or inside the 10 foot line.
  • After the serve has been made, the players on the front line are allowed to switch positions at the net.
  • In international and generally higher competitions, officiating crew are usually made up of two referees, a number of line judges, a scorer and an assistant scorer.

Cases where the Rules may be Violated

There are instances during the game that a player, players, or even a team completely violates a rule. Each violation carries a reward that may either be in form of penalty, a yellow card, a red card, or just the player losing the point and the non-offending team getting the point instead. Generally, every violation results in the opponent gaining a point.

Violations of the rule are made when:

  • Player makes contact with the serve when he or she is serving, stepping on, or across the service line;
  • Player or players fail to serve the net over the ball successfully;
  • A player in the team or more than one player touches the ball illegally i.e. catching or lifting the ball, carrying the ball, or throwing the ball and other situations that may warrant touching the ball illegally;
  • A player touches the net with any part of his body when the ball is still in play. This rule is exempted when the ball is driven into the net with force such that the force causes the net to contact the opposing player. In this case, no foul is called and the ball continues to be in play as if nothing happened.
  • If a player, in a bid to or while he is blocking the ball coming from the opponent’s side of the court, comes in contact with the ball while he is reaching over the net, violation is committed if the opponent hasn’t used his three contacts or the opponents have a player placed there to make a play on the ball;
  • If, when attacking a ball coming from the opponent’s side of the court, a player comes in contact with the ball when he is reaching over the net, he has violated the rule if the ball hasn’t broken the vertical plane of the net just yet;
  • If any player on a team crosses the court’s centerline with any part of his body.  With the exception of a situation where the part of the body that touched the court’s center line is part of the hand or foot. It becomes a violation when the entire hand or the entire foot crossed the center line.
  • If and when a player serves out of order causing the ball to go out of bounds;
  • If a player playing the back row attacks a ball right inside the front zone. The front zone is the area inside the 10-foot line. It is a violation if the back row player attacks the ball when, at the moment he made contact with the ball, the ball is completely above the net. This is regarded as an illegal attack.
  • If and when a back row player blocks a ball when, at the moment of coming in contact with the ball, the back row player is very close to the net and a part of his or her body is above the top of the net. This is seen as an illegal block.
volleyball rules

Changes in the Volleyball Game Rules over the Years

There have been some changes made in the enacted rules over the years. The rule change that was made official in 2000 includes allowing serves in which the ball can touch the net so long as it goes over the net into the opponent’s court after touching the net. Another change is that the service area was increased in length so that players can serve from anywhere behind the end line but still within the official extension of the sideline. Another change made was to lighten up calls on faults given to carriers and double touches i.e. the rule allowed multiple contacts or double hits by a single player on his team’s first contact with the ball so far they are a part of a single play of the ball. The minimum number of points needed for a win any of the four sets was changed from 30 to 25 for the women’s volleyball competition. For the men, it remained 30 for another three years until it was later switched to 25 in 2011. Moreover, what we now call ‘set’ used to be ‘game’.

These are the basic rules you need to be able to understand the volleyball game very well. The official rules governing tournaments and competitions are prepared and updated every few years by the FIVB’s Rule of the Game and Refereeing Commission. The rules are usually made available on their website.

So, now you know the beach volleyball rules and you can enjoy the game without getting frustrated.