Volleyball is a complex game of simple skills. The ball
is spiked from up to 60 cm above the height of a basketball
hoop (about 3.65 metres) and takes fractions of a second to
the spiker to the receiver. That means the
receiver must assess incoming angle, decide where to pass
the ball and then control their pass in the blink of an eye.
A purely rebound sport (you can't hold the ball),
Volleyball is a game of constant motion.
A team can touch the ball three times on its side of
the net. The usual pattern is 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
Power and height have become vital components of
international teams, but the ability of teams and coaches
to devise new strategies, tactics and skills has been
crucial for continued success.
are six players on court in a Volleyball team, who
each must rotate one 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.
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.
From 1998, Volleyball used a new scoring system. Teams
scored a point on every rally (rally point system), 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.
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.
From 1996, 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
he/she cannot be on the court for the whole game. The
libero has added an extra dimension to backcourt defence, improving the reception of teams, lengthening
the rallies and giving a vital role to shorter
A serve begins each rally. A player must hit the ball
with his or her hand over the net to land inside the lines
of the court. Players may serve underarm or overarm
(hardly anyone at elite level would offer an underarm
serve). A popular serve is the "jump" or "spike" serve:
the player jumps and serves the ball while airborne.
Each player gets only one chance to serve. The serve can touch the net and continue into
the opponent's court. Before this rule was introduced, a net touch on service ended
the rally and the point was awarded to the receiving
When the serving team loses a rally, it loses the right
to serve. The receiving team then rotates one position on
The "dig" is a forearm pass that is used to control the
ball and pass it to the setter at the net. It is usually
the first contact by the team and an effective shot to use
in defence, such as when receiving a spike. The "libero" handles much of the
team's serve reception and is pivotal in backcourt defence.
The "set" is an overhead pass used to change the
direction of the dig and put the ball in a good position
for the spiker.
It is usually the team's second contact. Setting is the
tactical centre of Volleyball. A setter must be good
enough to keep the big blockers from dominating the net.
The setter must feed his or her best hitters while also
looking for opponent's blocking weaknesses (such as a
short player on the front line or a slow centre
The "spike" is when the ball is hit or smashed
across the net. It is the most powerful shot in Volleyball
– and the most effective way to win a rally.
This is the first line of defence in Volleyball. The
objective of the "block" is to stop the spiked ball from
crossing the net or to channel the spike to defenders. The
three front-court players share blocking. Teams usually
opt for a "read and react" block (whereby they try to
react to the ball leaving the setter's hands) or for a
"commit" block (whereby they decide before the point
whether to jump on the quick middle balls). The key to
good blocking is penetration
– the best blockers reach
well over the net and into the opponent's court rather
than reaching straight up, when the block can be easily
penetrated by quality hitters.
After testing many colours, the FIVB introduced a ball
with yellow, blue and white panels at the World
Championships in Japan in 1998. It replaced the
traditional all-white ball.
In 1998 the FIVB also tried some different scoring
systems. At its World Congress in October 1998, the FIVB
ratified the "rally point system." Every rally would now
earn a point. The first four sets are played to 25, but
the winning team must be ahead by at least two points. The
fifth set is played to 15
– and again the winner must have
a two-point margin. The system was designed to make the
scoring system easier to follow and games faster and more
The FIVB introduced a new
specialised defensive player, the "libero," in 1996. The libero can
perform only as a backcourt player and may not play an
attacking shot (when the ball is hit back across the net),
serve or block. If the libero makes an overhead set of the
ball in front of the 3-metre attack line, the ball may not be
spiked over by the team. If the libero makes the same
action behind the front zone, the ball may be freely
attacked. The libero must wear a jersey with a different
colour or design than those of other team members.
Each of the six players on an indoor team rotates a
position after winning back service from the opponent.
This is the key to the tactics of indoor Volleyball
cannot simply keep your best blockers and spikers at the
net or your best defenders in backcourt.
After serving from position one, players rotate to
position six (middle back), then position five (left
back), position four (left front), position three (middle
front) and position two (right front) before returning to
A team must be in correct rotation order before the
serve is put into play. Once the ball is served, the
players can move positions but backcourt players cannot
move to the net to block or spike. They must make all
attacking actions from behind the attack line (hence the
advent of the backcourt attack to have great spikers
participating in all six rotations). The rotation rule
explains why a setter often appears to be "hiding" behind
his or her players before a point. The setter must be in
proper rotation order before sprinting to the net or a
point is given to the opposition.