Basic Volleyball Rules

Here are the basic volleyball rules to help you organize your own game. These volleyball basics will provide a general understanding of the game so you can enjoy participating as a player or a fan.

rules of volleyball

Volleyball Rules

volleyball rules

Volleyball is a game played by two 6-player teams.

The teams line up on opposite sides of a net, and the object is to send the volleyball over the net within the court boundary lines so that the opposing team is unable to return it before it hits the ground. Any part of the body above the waist can be used to hit the ball.

Rules of Volleyball
Playing Area

Volleyball court dimensions:

The court is rectangular in shape with boundary lines marked. The ball must be completely outside of the line to be considered out of bounds.

The net itself is 1 m high (3' 3") and 9.5 m long. The top of the net is 2.43 m (7'11") above the ground.

Volleyball Rules

All you really need is a volleyball and a volleyball net. If you're playing on a court with a hard surface and plan to dive for balls, knee pads are highly recommended.



volleyball net

Volleyball nets

volleyball knee pads

Volleyball knee pads

Rules of Volleyball

There are 6 rotational positions on the court. Before the ball is served, players must line up in two rows with 3 players in each row.

volleyball positions

Once the ball is served, players may move anywhere on their own side of the net.

When there is a change of service, team members on the serving team rotate one position clockwise before serving.

The order of rotation must stay constant for each set, but it may be changed before a new set begins.

Before each serve, players on both sides of the net line up in each of the 6 rotational positions. Once the serve is in the air, players are free to move into their specific player positions.

There are 5 player positions:

  1. Setter – Runs the team's offense. Tries to make second contact with the ball and set it high in the air for the attackers to get a good, strong hit. Line up on the right front or right back of court.
  2. Libero – Specialized defensive player whose job is to return spikes and serves. Subs in for anyone in the back row and must remain in the back row without rotating like the rest of the players.
  3. Middle blocker (middle hitter) – Primary blocker and decoy hitter. Plays in the middle, front row.
  4. Outside hitter (power hitter) – Most dependable hitters on the team that receive more sets than other players. Line up on left side of the court on the front and back row.
  5. Opposite hitter (offside hitter) – Defensive blocker and backup setter. Plays on the right side of the net on the front row.

Volleyball Rules

In international and collegiate competition, a match is the best of 5 sets. For high school teams and younger, matches are often the best out of 3 sets.

Rules of Volleyball
Ends of the Court

Before play begins, the team captains toss a coin to determine who will serve first and what side of the net each team will start on. Teams change ends after each set unless the next game will decide the winner. In that case, there's a new coin toss to choose ends and service. In a deciding set, the teams change ends after one side has reached 8 points.

Volleyball Rules

The referee blows a whistle to signal the time to serve. The serve may be either underhanded or overhanded.

The player in the back right-hand corner of the serving team puts the ball into play by standing in the service area (anywhere behind the end line) and striking the ball with her hand or any part of her arm to send it over the net into the opponent's court.

A service fault occurs if the ball:

  • touches a member of the serving team.
  • lands outside of the opponent's court.
  • fails to go over the net.

A player keeps serving until her team commits a fault and a "side-out" is called. Then the other team gets to serve.

Overhand serve
volleyball serve - underhandUnderhand serve

Rules of Volleyball

If a team fails to return the ball correctly over the net, a fault is recorded against it. If the team is serving, it loses the service. This is called "side-out."

In rally point scoring, points can be scored by either team and points are awarded after every fault.

A set is won when a team reaches 25 points, but the team has to win by at least 2 points. If the game is tied at 24-24, play continues until one team has a 2-point lead.

A match is the best-of-five sets. (Usually, if a fifth set is necessary, it's usually played to 15 points.) High school teams and younger often play the best-of-three sets to 25.

Volleyball rules continued...

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