How to play indoor volleyball: rules, positions and all you need to know

Discover the sport that has been a part of the Summer Olympics since 1964.

An engrossing and high-energy sport, indoor volleyball has been an ever-present discipline at the Olympic Games since its debut at Tokyo 1964.

While the Soviet Union emerged as a force to be reckoned with in volleyball in the early Olympic years, Brazil , Cuba and China have grown in stature in recent times.

Want to know more about basic indoor volleyball rules and the history of the sport at the Olympics? Here is a brief tell-all:

Basic rules of indoor volleyball

Here are the simplified version of the rules of a volleyball game, as outlined by the sport's governing body, FIVB:

Match setting

The number of players in volleyball is six on each side, with the teams separated by a net in the middle.

The team that wins the pre-game coin toss gets the opportunity to serve the ball first. The aim of the server is to hit the ball over the net from behind the baseline over to the opposition’s team half to start a rally.

Teams are allowed a maximum of three consecutive touches after which they have to send the ball into the opposition’s half. The player that receives the serve, attempts to control the ball and loop it in the direction of one of their teammates. This is known as the ‘pass’ or the ‘bump set’ which is executed with the forearms.

The player that gets the second touch is usually the ‘setter’, who loops the ball up as close to the edge of the net as possible setting up a smash, known as a ‘spike’ in volleyball.

The opposition team attempts to block the ball by often positioning their tallest and most athletic players close to the net and the rally continues until one of the teams commits a fault or if the ball hits the ground.

Indoor Volleyball scoring system

Volleyball matches are best-of-five-set contests. The first four sets are played till one team scores 25 points and if the teams are tied at two sets each after four, the fifth set is played to 15 points.

Each rally is played for a point and the team that wins the rally and scores a point gets to serve for the next point.

If the game is tied at 24-24, or 14-14 in the fifth set, the set continues till one team builds a two-point lead over the other.

Winning a point

The most common way that points are won in a volleyball match is by spiking the ball into the opposing team’s half. However, teams can end up losing a point due to other faults as well.

These include stepping over the line while serving, if any part of the body touches the net, double hit (when the same player hits the ball twice in succession), a team taking more than three touches before hitting it over the net and hitting the ball beyond the boundary line.

Indoor Volleyball player positions

There are five positions on a volleyball team – setters, middle blockers, outside hitter, weakside hitter, liberos:

Setter

The setter’s job is to orchestrate the team’s offence and set the ball up for spikes for teammates.

Middle blocker

The middle blockers play offence as well as defence on a volleyball team. They initiate the blocks on the spikes coming in from the opponent's court and also attack the balls that are set in the middle of the court.

Outside hitter

The outside hitter, also known as side hitters, is the team’s primary attacker and plays on the left side of the volleyball court.

Weakside hitter

The weakside hitter is on the opposite side of the court and is also the primary defenders against the opposition team’s outside hitter.

Libero

The libero is one of the most unique positions in all of sports. Liberos wear a different uniform to the rest of the team and can sub in for any member of the backcourt.

Liberos cannot block or attack shots by reaching over the net and are primarily in the game to pass, return the ball and help the team with their defensive skills.

How to smash in volleyball

Smash or, as it is known in volleyball, the spike is the most commonly used offensive move in the sport. It is a powerful shot that is hit close from the net and aimed downwards into the opposition’s court.

The spike is primarily reserved by the outside hitter and the weakside hitter, although occasionally the middle blockers too might attempt a spike to add versatility to a team’s offence.

To attempt a spike, the setter has to loop the ball up perfectly to one of the corners of the net and the hitter has to time his run to perfection to gain enough momentum and jump high enough to reach the looped set. Meeting the ball as high as possible on its trajectory is imperative, as it minimizes the chances of a successful block from the opposition’s blockers.

The key to a strong spike is the power and topspin generated on it. To maximise the power behind the spike, the hitter should make a hefty contact on the ball with the middle of his hand with his wrist snapped downwards to ensure that the ball is directed down into the opposition’s court.

Indoor Volleyball court size and equipment

As per FIVB guidelines, an indoor volleyball court is 18m (59ft) long and 9m (29.5ft) wide.

The court is split into two halves of 9m (29.5ft) each and has a net. The top of the net is 2.43m (7.97ft) tall net for men’s and 2.24m (7.35ft) tall for women’s competition.

The attack line that separates the frontcourt and backcourt is 3m (10ft) from the net on either side of the two halves.

The FIVB approved volleyball ball weighs 260-290gms (9.2-9.9 ounces) and has a circumference of 65-67cm (25.5-26.5 inches) with a psi of 4.3-4.6.

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