Volleyball

This article covers the most important facts about the game of volleyball, as well as its rules, history, and special techniques.

What is volleyball?

Volleyball is an indoor sport in which two teams of six players are trying to keep the ball in the air on their side and hit it across the net to the ground on their opponents’ side, using at most three touches and a potential blocking action at the net. 

Regular volleyball is played on a court surface inside a sports facility, in contrast to beach volleyball, which takes places outdoors in the sand.

Other major differences between indoor and sand volleyball include the equipment used, the scoring system, and the number of players per team.

Indoor player Mark Burik

Important facts

  • A volleyball court measures 18x9 meters (60 ft by 30 ft), with a net in the middle separating it into two 9x9m (30 ft x 30 ft) sides.
  • The net height for men is 7 ft, 11 ⅝  in or 2.43m. In the women’s game, the net is set at 7 ft, 4 â…› in or 2.24m.
  • A regulation size volleyball weighs between 260 and 280 grams (9 to 10 ounces) and is inflated to between 65 cm (25.6 inches) and 67 cm (26.4 in) in circumference, at 4.26-4.61 psi of pressure.
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When was the sport invented? A brief history

The sport of volleyball was invented in the United States of America, by a man from the State of Massachusetts named William G. Morgan, in the year 1895. The game was first called mintonette, and found as an alternative to basketball that was less physically exhausting and required less equipment.

Volleyball debuted as an Olympic sport in Tokyo 1964.

The scoring system was changed from side-out scoring to rally scoring in the year 1999 - you would now gain points not only when your team has the serve, but for every successful play.

The rules - quick overview

  • The server has to stand outside of the court at the moment of ball contact.
  • Each team can touch the ball up to three times on their side. The block does not count as a touch.
  • The ball may not be lifted (thrown) or touched twice in a row by the same player (double touch), except if the first touch was a blocking action.
  • If a player touches the net, it is ruled as a fault.
  • Matches are played best out of five sets: A team needs to win three sets to win the match.
  • All but the fifth set are played to 25 points. The potential fifth, tie-break set, is played to 15.
  • Each set must be won by at least two points. The game will continue past the regular 25- or 15-point mark until one team is leading by two points.

Find a complete explanation of the rules of volleyball on the dedicated page.

The different hits in volleyball

There are multiple techniques unique to the sport, which players can use to control the ball on their side and create a tactical offense.

Serving

Behind the back line, the ball is thrown into the air and hit over the net. This can be done underhand (ball at hip height), as a standing overhead serve, or even as a jump serve.

Serves are played as either a flat, float serve, or a spinning topspin serve.

Hitting against a blocker

Passing

When receiving serve, players make use of one of two techniques that are unique to the game of volleyball: The forearm pass or the overhand pass.

On the forearm pass, the arms are stuck out in front of the body, creating a passing platform to deflect the ball off of.

With overhand passing, the open hands create a diamond shape, and the ball is pushed out from in front of the head towards the target.

Setting

Competitive volleyball has a dedicated setter position. This player is responsible for the second of three contacts at the net, setting up one of multiple attackers, mostly using the overhand passing technique.

Hitting from a jump

To ground the ball inside the opponent’s court, the ball is hit or spiked over the net. Attackers take multiple steps to approach the set from their setter, rise into the air, and with a powerful overhead throwing motion, hit the ball to the other side.

In volleyball, players must jump high to hit the ball as effectively as possible.

Blocking

To directly counter a spike, the defending team has blockers positioned at the net, who jump up with the attacker, put their arms and hands high and over the net, and try to stop the hit.

Digging

If the attack goes past the block, the defensive players in the back court can use their passing platform, hands overhead, or a number of other techniques to keep the ball in play:

  • One-arm dig
  • Pancake, where a player slides on the floor and puts his hand  flat on the ground so the ball rebounds off of the back of the palm
  • The ball can be played with any part of the body

Volleyball preparation and performance

To keep in shape for the dynamic sport, volleyball players use strength workouts done with weights.

Drills

Coaches are preparing their team for different game situations with specific volleyball drills, working on technique and team coherence.

Camps

During the off-season, volleyball training camps are a way for athletes to prepare for the upcoming competition schedule.