Your A-B-C of

Dig, Set, Spike



Volleyball, an introduction Volleyball has come a long way from the dusty-old YMCA gymnasium of Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA, where visionary, William G. Morgan, invented the sport back in 1895....

Volleyball Volleyball is a complex game of simple skills. The ball is hit from up to 60cm above the height of a basketball hoop - that's about 3.65m - and takes 0.3sec to get from the spiker to the baseline receiver ..........

Beach Volleyball The basic skills of beach volleyball are the same as for volleyball, and the flow of play follows similar lines: one team serves, the other tries to win the rally - or 'side-out' - with a pattern of dig, set, spike within the requisite three touches........

World Championships The first men's World Championship, held on a re-purposed outdoor tennis court in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1949 .......

Olympic Games The sport of Volleyball has two Olympic disciplines: Volleyball, which made its Olympic Games debut in Tokyo in 1964, and Beach Volleyball, which made its Olympic debut in Atlanta in 1996 .........

MAJOR FIVB EVENTS  Volleyball and Beach Volleyball



VOLLEYBALL - The Olympic Sport
Volleyball has always been a sport prepared to change with the times. The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) has regularly altered and updated the rules of the game to encourage exciting play and improve spectator and television interest. Possibly volleyball's biggest change occurred in 1986 when the FIVB endorsed beach volleyball as an official discipline. Suddenly, volleyball fans could have their choice: two-a-side beach volleyball on sand or six-a-side volleyball in the gym. Both disciplines are now played at the Olympic Games. 

Traditional six-a-side indoor volleyball is referred to at the Olympic Games as Volleyball. So the Olympic sport of Volleyball has two disciplines - beach volleyball and volleyball. 

Both beach volleyball and volleyball use the same court size and same net height, despite the differences in playing surface and numbers of players on a team. The court on both sides of the net is nine metres by nine metres. The net height is set at 2.43m for men and 2.24m for women. Note Dec 2001: Beach volleyball is currently testing a smaller 8m x 16m court size for possible introduction of the World Tour and Athens 2004 Olympic Games). 

In volleyball, a team can touch the ball three times on their side of the net, the usual pattern being a dig (an underarm pass made with the forearms), a set (an overhead pass made with the hands) and a spike (the overhead attacking shot). The ball is served into play. Teams can also try to block the opponent's spike as it crosses the net. A block into your own court counts as one of your three touches in beach volleyball, but not in volleyball.


Volleyball made its Olympic Games debut in Tokyo in 1964, with the Soviet Union winning the men's gold medal and the Japanese women being crowned as champions in front of their home crowd. Since then, volleyball has continued to witness the rise and fall of great international teams, with countries as diverse as Cuba, Brazil, the Soviet Union, China, the United States, the Netherlands, Poland and Japan collecting gold medals. While power and height have become vital components of international teams, the ability of teams and coaches to devise new tactics, strategies and skills have been crucial for success at the Olympic Games. 

  • Volleyball was invented in 1895 in Massachusetts, the United States, by William Morgan. He was a friend of James Naismith, who had invented basketball at a nearby gym only four years previously. Volleyball was originally called mintonette. 

  • There are six players on court in a volleyball team, who each must rotate position (clockwise) every time their team wins back service from the opposition. Only the three players at the net positions can jump and spike or block near the net. The backcourt players can only hit the ball over the net if they jump from behind the attack line, also known as the three-metre line, which separates the front and back part of the court. 

  • Volleyball has developed into a very specialised sport. Most teams will include in their starting line-up a setter, two centre blockers, two receiver-hitters and a universal spiker. Only certain players will be involved with service reception. Players will also have specialist positions for attack and defence. Substitutions are allowed during the game. 

  • In 2000, volleyball used a new scoring system. Teams scored a point on every rally, regardless of which team served. Formerly, a team could only win a point if it served the ball. Winning the serve back from the opposition was known as a side-out. 

  • Matches are played best of five sets. The first four sets are played to 25 points, with the final set being played to 15 points. A team must win a set by two points. There is no ceiling, so a set continues until one of the teams gains a two-point advantage. Previously, all sets were to 15 points, with the first four sets having a ceiling of 17 and the final set requiring at least a two-point winning advantage. 

  • Prior to Sydney 2000, the FIVB introduced a new specialist role: the libero. This player wears a different coloured uniform from the rest of the team and can be substituted in backcourt for any player on the team. The libero cannot serve, spike the ball over the net or rotate into the front-line positions, but plays a vital role for the team in serve reception and backcourt defence. There must be at least one point played between a libero substituting off for a player and going back on the court for another player - hence he/she cannot be on the court for the whole game. The libero added an extra dimension to backcourt defence in 2000, improving the reception of teams, lengthening the rallies and giving a vital role to shorter players. 

Beach Volleyball 

Beach Volleyball has a brief but exciting history. The two-a-side sport emerged on the beaches of California in the 1920s, developing a loyal and athletic following of men and women. As the sun, sand and surf culture became popular in the United States and abroad, beach volleyball continued to increase its support base. By the 1980s, the sport had become a major participation and promotional event, leading the International Volleyball Federation to recognise the game as an official discipline of volleyball in 1986. Ten years later, beach volleyball made its Olympic Games debut in Atlanta - completing its rapid rise from social recreation to elite sport status. 

  • Because of the many difficulties of playing outdoors, such as the sand, the sun and the wind, beach volleyball players must have outstanding ball skills and court speed. Partners must be well matched or opponents will win easy points by exploiting the weaker player. 

  • At the Atlanta Olympic Games, the United States' Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes and Brazil's Jackie Silva and Sandra Pires won the first Olympic gold medals awarded in beach volleyball. Kiraly, regarded as the greatest volleyballer ever, had previously won two Olympic Games gold medals as a six-a-side volleyballer in Los Angeles in 1984 and in Seoul in 1988. 

  • For beach volleyball, matches are played best of three sets using the rally point system. The first two sets are played to 21 points, with the final tie-breaker set being played to 15 points. A team must win a set by two points. There is no ceiling, so a set continues until one of the teams gains a two-point advantage. 

  • At Sydney 2000, preliminary matches were one set played to 15 points, with a ceiling of 17 points (i.e. a team could win a set 17-16). The medal games were best of three sets to 12 points, with the first two sets having a ceiling of 12 points. The third set to 12 was rally-point, whereby teams score a point for every rally, regardless of which team served. As well, the third set has no ceiling - a team had to win by a two-point advantage.

  • Sydney 2000 - There was a men's and women's volleyball event and a men's and women's beach volleyball event. In volleyball, 12 men's teams of 12 players and 12 women's teams of 12 players competed. In beach volleyball, 24 men's and 24 women's pairs competed.

  • Athens 2004 - Volleyball at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games will feature the same competitions as Sydney 2000 (men's and women's volleyball and beach volleyball), with the same number of teams participating (12 men's and 12 women's volleyball teams with 24 men's and 24 women's teams for beach volleyball). The only significant difference in formats will be that volleyball will be played in one venue with 3 sessions per day. It is currently proposed that beach volleyball will be played over 12 days (instead on 11) including one rest day, with two sessions per day. It is also proposed to run evening sessions under lights. 

  • Beijing 2008 - it is proposed to increase the number of beach volleyball teams from 24 to 32 for men and women.