• Introduction
  • The object of the game
  • Scoring in volleyball
  • Serving rules in volleyball
  • Gameplay
  • Game time and intervals
  • The volleyball court
  • Rules and regulations of volleyball equipment
  • Other rules of volleyball
  • Sources


  • Points: A point is scored if the opposing team is unable to return the ball to the other side of the court within three touches.
  • Set: The team that first scores 25pts with at least a two-point lead wins a set. The last set is played to 15pts.
  • Match: A match consists of the best 5 sets. 


  • The serving player has one attempt at a successful serve.
  • Both feet must be behind the back line of the court during a serve. 
  • Both underhand and overhand serves are allowed. 

Team rotation

  • After a team wins a point from the other team’s serve, players rotate one position clockwise.
  • Both teams have six substitutions per set.


  • Played in a 6 vs 6 format (both teams have 3 players in the front and 3 players on the back row).
  • Maximum three touches per side.
  • Same player cannot touch the ball twice in a row (unless the ball hits the net after blocking).
  • The ball may be played off the net on a serve or a volley.
  • A ball touching the line is considered in. 
  • A back-row player may not block or attack inside the front zone. 
  • A player may touch the ball with any body part.
  • A player may not touch the net or step on the other team’s side. 

Game time and intervals

  • After scoring a point from the other team’s serve, team members rotate one position clockwise. 
  • There is a 3min break between each set.
  • Teams switch sides after every set, and after the first team scores 7 points during the last set. 
  • Teams are allowed two 30s timeouts per set (except the last set).


Volleyball was invented in 1895 in Holyoke, Massachusetts by a physical education director named William G. Morgan. Back in the day, the game was called Mintonette and had characteristics from other indoor sports like badminton, tennis, and handball. Interestingly, basketball was also becoming popular in the same area, having been invented only four years prior and just 16km (10mi) away in Springfield. 

The first rules of volleyball were written in the same year. However, the name Mintonette quickly gave way to volleyball, which better suited the gameplay style. The first volleyballs were created in the late 1900s, which also helped slowly evolve the rules of volleyball even further. In 1920, the three touch rule and the and back row attacking rules were introduced, which significantly changed the flow of the game. At the same time, the points required to win a set changed from 15 to 21 points. 

Volleyball quickly spread around the world via the American Expeditionary Forces. This also led to the founding of multiple national volleyball associations. Volleyball’s main governing body, Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), was invented in 1947. This further helped standardize the rules and regulations of volleyball gameplay. 

Nowadays, with an estimate of a whopping 800million active players, volleyball remains one of the most well-known ball sports in the world. Its biggest events include the World Championships, World Cup, World League, and World Grand Prix. Volleyball has also been a part of the Olympics since 1964. On the other hand, sitting volleyball was officially included in the Paralympics in 1980. 

The object of the game

The object of volleyball is to try and land the ball within three touches on your opponent’s side of the court. Of course, the other team has the same goal as they try to land the ball into your side of the court. 

Scoring in volleyball

A volleyball match consists of the best of five sets (sometimes three). The first four sets are played to 25 points, whereas the final possible set is played to 15 points. All sets must be won with at least a two-point advantage. 

Serving rules in volleyball

A player has one attempt to serve the ball into the other team’s side of the court. When serving, the player must have both feet planted inside the service zone located at the back-right corner behind the end line.

The ball must fly between the antennae and land over the net to be a legal serve. The ball may also hit the net or the antennae as long as it lands on the other side of the net. Both underhand and overhand serves are allowed. 

The same player continues serving until their team loses a point. Once the receiving team wins a point from the other team’s serve, their players rotate clockwise. Thus, the new server on the back-right corner starts serving and continues until their team loses a point.


Volleyball is played in a 6 vs 6 format, three in the front row and three in the back. Once the ball is at play, a rally begins. Both teams have three touches to return the ball to their opponent’s side of the court. The same player may not touch the ball twice in a row. The only exception to this is when a player successfully blocks the other team’s strike. Blocks do not count as touches, meaning that the same player may try to pass the ball to a teammate after a block – even if the ball hits the net. On the other hand, if the ball hits the defender and goes out of bounds, the attacking team wins a point.

Usually, points are given when a team successfully lands the ball on their opponent’s court or when a violation occurs. These violations include:

  • Stepping over the boundary line while serving.
  • Not hitting the ball over the net.
  • Catching or throwing the ball. 
  • Serving out of order.
  • Striking the ball out of bounds (touching a line is considered in).
  • Touching the net, stepping over the center line, or reaching over the net.
  • Hitting the ball under the net or into an antenna.
  • Hitting the ball twice in a row or more than three times. 
  • Hitting the ball into a wall, the ceiling, a pole, or the referee’s stand.

Note that players are allowed to touch the ball with any body part. If two players touch the ball at the same time, it is considered one touch. However, neither player can touch the ball consecutively. Additionally, players in the front row may change positions once the ball is in play. However, the back row players are not allowed to block or attack from the front zone.

The Libero

The Libero is a specialized defensive player that can replace any back row player without using one of the six legal substitutions. A Libero also wears a different color jersey than the rest of the team. 

In modern volleyball, the Libero may work as a setter in certain scenarios. To make an overhand set, the libero must stand behind the attack line, whereas underhand passes are allowed anywhere on the court. Additionally, the Libero cannot serve, block, or attack the ball if it’s above the net.


The rules of volleyball are overseen by a team of officials. This includes the 1st referee, 2nd referee, scorer, assistant scorer, and two line judges. The first referee is responsible for making sure the game is being played according to the official rules of the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB). The first referee is also the highest authority during a match and may overrule the other officials’ decisions. 

The second referee assists the first referee and is responsible for keeping time, managing the court, and communicating with the scorers during substitutions and timeouts. On the other hand, the scorers are responsible for keeping track of the score. The two line judges stand at the corners of the court and make decisions regarding ”in” and ”out” balls, as well as touches of ”out” balls. Line judges also keep track of the server’s foot faults.

Game time and intervals

There is a three-minute break between each set of the game. After the break, teams will also switch sides. During the last possible set, teams also switch sides when the first team reaches 7 points.

Teams are allowed two 30s timeouts per set. However, they may not be used twice in a row during the same stoppage. In official FIVB competitions, both teams are also allowed two additional 60s technical timeouts in sets 1-4. During all timeouts, players must go to free zone near the bench. 

Both teams are also allowed six substitutions per set. However, the same player may enter the game only once in a single set. If a player gets injured, they should be substituted immediately. If the team has already used all of their substitutions, the team is entitled to an exceptional substitution.

Share this post

In volleyball, blocking does not count as a touch.

The volleyball court

A volleyball court is 18m (59ft) long and 9m (29.5ft) wide, surrounded by a 3-5m (9.8-16.4ft) free zone on the sides and an 8m (26.2ft) free zone on both ends. The volleyball court must also have a minimum ceiling height of 7m (23ft). 

The court has a center line and two attack lines 3m (9.8ft) from the net on each side of the court. This separates the front zone from the rest of the court. All lines on the court are 5cm (2in) wide. 

The net is located at the center of the court above the center line. It is held up by two 255cm tall poles located 0.7-1m (2.3-3.3ft) from the sideline. The net itself is 1m (3.3ft) wide and 9.5-10m (31.2-32.8ft) long made from a black 10cm (3.9in) square mesh. The net also has two 1.8m (5.9ft) tall fiberglass antennae that mark the boundary lines of the court.

The height of the net depends on the playing format. For women, the height is set at 2.2m (7.2ft) whereas men have a slightly higher net at 2.42cm (7.9in). 

The playing surface is usually made of wood or synthetic material. The lines on the floor must be white whereas the surface may use different shades to identify the ball better.  

Rules and regulations of volleyball equipment

Aside from athletic wear and an official volleyball court, the sport only requires a certified ball. The ball must have a circumference of 65-67cm (25.6-26.4in) and a weight of 260-280g (9.2-9.9oz). The ball must also have the correct air pressure between 0.30 and 0.325kg/cm2 (4.26-4.61psi / 294.3-318.82 mbar or hPa).

A volley ball is usually made from smooth synthetic leather with a rubber bladder inside. The ball may have a uniform color or a combination of colours for better visibility. According to the official rules of the Federation Internationale de Volleyball, each match must have five FIVB approved balls.

Other rules of volleyball

Aside from the regular rules of volleyball, the game also follows a set of rules regarding sportsmanlike behavior. Players are expected to abide by fair play rules and refrain from unsportsmanlike behavior towards referees or other players. This also means that players must accept the referee’s decisions without disputing them. If needed, the player may ask the referees to clarify the situation and explain why a decision was called. However, only the captain of the team is allowed to ask for clarification. 

If fair play rules are violated by rude or aggressive behavior, the referee may first issue a verbal warning before giving a yellow card. According to the seriousness of the violation, the referee may issue a penalty, resulting in a point and service to the opponent. In severe or continuous violation, a player can also be expelled from the match, or the whole team may be disqualified. 

Did you learn anything new about the rules of volleyball? Let us know in the comments. 


  • Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB)

Join our growing list of subscribers!

Stay informed about the latest in sports science and physical performance. Subscribe to our mailing list for the latest updates, posts, products and much more.