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Volleyball 101

History of the Game

In 1895 (just four years after Basketball was invented in Springfield, MA) William G. Morgan, a twenty-five year old gym teacher invented the game of volleyball, just a few miles down the road at the YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts. ‘Mintonette’ (as volleyball was then known) was designed to be a gentle alternative to basketball for older members of his YMCA gym — an indoor sport taking some of its characteristics from tennis and handball. A century later, Volleyball is anything but gentle!

The first rules, written down by William G. Morgan, called for a net 6 feet 6 inches high, a 25 × 50 foot court, and any number of players. A match was composed of nine innings with three serves for each team in each inning, and no limit to the number of ball contacts for each team before sending the ball to the opponents’ court. In case of a serving error, a second try was allowed. Hitting the ball into the net was considered a foul (with loss of the point or a side-out)—except in the case of the first-try serve. To protect the fingers of the ladies, they were allowed to catch the ball and then throw it back into play.

After an observer, Alfred Halstead, noticed the volleying nature of the game at its first exhibition match in 1896, played at the Springfield YMCA, the game quickly became known as volleyball (it was originally spelled as two words: “volley ball”). Volleyball rules were slightly modified by the Springfield YMCA and the game spread around the country to other YMCA locations.

In 1900, a ball was made specifically for the new game. The rules have evolved over time; by 1916, the skill and power of the set and spike had been introduced, and four years later a “three hits” rule and back row hitting guidelines were established. In 1917, the game was changed from 21 to 15 points. In 1919, American Expeditionary Forces distributed 16,000 volleyballs to their troops and allies: this provided a stimulus for the growth of volleyball outside the United States.

Volleyball Terminology

Everything you wanted to know about volleyball — from A to Z! Download the Glossary of Volleyball Terminology / PDF 96 kb (Courtesy of Volleyball World Wide)

The Basics of the Game

Volleyball is a team sport played by two teams on a playing court divided by a net. The object of the game is for each team to send the ball regularly over the net to ground it on the opponent’s court, and to prevent the ball from being grounded on its own court.

Each of the two teams consists of six players, three located in front of the attack line and three behind. To get play started, a player from a team chosen by a coin toss (the server) throws the ball into the air and attempts to hit the ball so it passes over the net on a course such that it will land in the opposing team’s court (the serve). The opposing team must use a combination of no more than three contacts with the volleyball to return the ball to the opponent’s side of the net. These contacts usually consist first of the bump or pass so that the ball’s trajectory is aimed towards the player designated as the setter; second of the set (an over-hand pass using finger-tip action) by the setter so that the ball’s trajectory is aimed towards one or more players designated as the attacker and third by the attacker who spikes (jumping, raising one arm above the head and hitting the ball so it will move quickly down to the ground on the opponent’s court) to return the ball over the net. The team with possession of the ball and that is trying to attack the ball as described is said to be on offense.

The team on defense attempts to prevent the attacker from directing the ball into their court by having players at the net jump and reach above the top (and if possible, across the plane) of the net in order to block the attacked ball. If the ball is hit around, above or through the block, the defensive players arranged in the rest of the court attempt to control the ball with a dig (a fore-arm pass of a hard-driven ball). After a successful dig, the team transitions to offense.

The game continues in this manner until the ball touches the court within the boundaries or until an error is made.

The Scoring Systems

Rally-Point Scoring:
The team winning a rally scores a point (Rally-Point System). When the receiving team wins a rally, it gains a point and the right to serve, and its players rotate one position clockwise. The best of three or best of five games will win matches. Each non-deciding game will be won by the team that first scores 25 points with a minimum two-point advantage (no scoring cap). If there is a deciding game, it will be won by the team that first scores 15 points with a minimum two-point advantage (no scoring cap).

Sideout Scoring (Before 1999):
In Sideout Scoring only the serving team may score a point, except in the deciding game when rally-point scoring is used. When the receiving team wins a rally, it gains the right to serve (also scoring a point in the deciding game), and its players rotate one position clockwise. Rotatation ensures that players play at both the net and the back zone of the court. A team wins a game by scoring 15 points with a two-point advantage and wins the match by winning the best of three or five games. In the event of a 16-16 tie, the team scoring the 17th point wins a non-deciding game with only a one-point advantage. In a deciding game there is no point cap.

The Libero

In 1998 the libero player was introduced internationally, the term meaning free in Italian; the NCAA introduced the libero in 2002.[8] The libero is a player specialized in defensive skills: the libero must wear a contrasting jersey color from his or her teammates and cannot block or attack the ball when it is entirely above net height. When the ball is not in play, the libero can replace any back-row player, without prior notice to the officials. This replacement does not count against the substitution limit each team is allowed per set, although the libero may be replaced only by the player whom they replaced. The libero may function as a setter only under certain restrictions. If she/he makes an overhand set, she/he must be standing behind (and not stepping on) the 3-meter line; otherwise, the ball cannot be attacked above the net in front of the 3-meter line. An underhand pass is allowed from any part of the court.

The libero is the most skilled defensive player on the team. There is also a libero tracking sheet, where the referees or officiating team must keep track of who the libero subs in and out for. There may only be one libero per set (game), although there may be a different libero in the beginning of any new set (game).

Furthermore, a libero is not allowed to serve, according to international rules, with the exception of the NCAA women’s volleyball games, where a 2004 rule change allows the libero to serve, but only in a specific rotation. That is, the libero can only serve for one person, not for all of the people for whom she goes in.

Rule Changes

Other rule changes enacted in 2000 include the introduction of the let serve which allows play to continue even if a served ball touches the net as long as it continues into the opponents’ court. Also, the service area was expanded to allow players to serve from anywhere behind the end line but still within the theoretical extension of the sidelines. Other changes were made to lighten up calls on faults for carries and double-touches, such as allowing multiple contacts by a single player (“double-hits”) on a team’s first contact. From 2006 there are plans for trying new rule changes, such as having a second serve option when failing the first (as in tennis) or a second alternative libero in the team.

The Net

INDOOR – FIVB, USAV, AVP, CBVA
The height of the net is 7′ 11 5/8″(2.43 m) for men & 7′ 4 1/8″(2.24 m) for women.

The net height is measured from the center of the playing court with a measuring device. The two ends of the net (over the sidelines) must both be at the same height from the playing surface and must not exceed the official height by more than 3/4″ (2 cm).

The Ball

Circumference: 25.5″ to 27″ (65 to 67 cm)
Weight: 9 to 10 ounces (260 to 280 grams)
Inside pressure: 4.3 to 4.6 lbs./sq. inch (0.30 to 0.325 kg/cm2)

The Court

INDOOR – FIVB, USAV
Indoor courts are 59′ 0.6614″ x 29′ 6.3307″(18 m x 9m). Indoor courts also include an attack area designated by a line 9′ 10″ (3 m) back from the center line. Lines on the court are 2″ wide (5cm).

Indoor Court Diagram

Volleyball Indoor Court Diagram

Beach/Sand Courts

BEACH – FIVB & AVP
The sand court is 52′ 5.9213″ x 26′ 2.9606″ (16m x 8m)

BEACH – CBVA
The sand court is 60′ by 30′ (18.288m x 9.144m)

The free zone surrounds the court with a recommended minimum width of 6’6″ (2 m).
The playing space is free from any obstructions to a recommended height of 23′ (7 m) from the playing surface.


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