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Volleyball Rules

How to Play and What to Do


ATHENS - AUGUST 28: Liana Mesa Luaces #11 of Cuba goes up for a spike against Brazil in the women's indoor Volleyball bronze medal match on August 28, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at the Peace and Friendship Stadium part of the Faliro Coastal Zone Olympic Complex in Athens, Greece.
Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

Volleyball rules are hard to keep up with because they often change, but here is a brief overview of the sport. To put it in simple terms, volleyball is a team sport in which goal is to keep the ball alive while it is on your side of the net, but to kill the rally by putting the ball down on your opponent’s side of the net.

You can score points in the game of volleyball in one of two ways:

  1. Putting the ball on the floor in-bounds on your opponent's side of the net.
  2. An error (forced or unforced) by your opponent which renders them unable to return the ball over the net and in-bounds on your side in their allotted three contacts.

The sport of volleyball is one of the most malleable sports around because it is played in many variations and on many different surfaces. Add to that the frequent rule changes, and it is increasingly difficult to keep track of it all. But here is a brief overview.


You can play volleyball in teams with anywhere between two and six players. Indoor volleyball is usually played with six players on each team. Beach volleyball is often played with two players. Four-person volleyball is often seen in grass tournaments and on the beach.


You can play on hardwood, grass, sand or asphalt. You can use rally or side-out scoring. You can play one game or the best of three or best of five sets. You can play to 15, 25, 30 or whatever number of points you so desire.


Play begins with one team serving the ball to the other. Each time the ball crosses over the net, a team gets three contacts before they must send the ball back to the opponent's side. Ideally, the three contacts will be a pass, set and hit, but it can be three passes or any other combination of contacts as long as they are legal contacts.

The rally (or volley) continues until the ball hits the ground or one of the rules is broken.

A Few Volleyball No-No's

You cannot:

  1. Touch the net while making a play on the ball
  2. Step on the back line while serving (foot fault)
  3. Contact the ball more than three times on a side (A block doesn't count as a contact)
  4. Lift or push the ball
  5. Play the ball over the net outside of the antennas
  6. Contact the ball twice in a row (unless the first contact was a block.)

Winning the Match

The first team to score the agreed upon number of points wins the game. You must win by at least two points. The teams switch sides, the next game starts with a score of 0-0 and play starts again. In a best-of-five match, the team who wins three sets wins the match.

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