Whether you’re new to the game of volleyball or a seasoned pro, it’s important to have a foundational understanding of volleyball rules and the game’s various terms and definitions.
Let’s break down all the volleyball terms and rules you need to know to succeed in the game. In this article, you'll learn:
- How to play volleyball
- Volleyball rules
- Volleyball rule violations
- Volleyball terms and definitions
- Indoor volleyball court dimensions
How to Play Volleyball
A volleyball game consists of two teams of six players each, separated by a net. The six volleyball court positions are setter, middle blocker, outside hitter, opposite hitter, libero and serving specialist.
To start, flip a coin to determine which team serves the ball first.
Then the two teams will rally—or hit the ball back and forth over the net—until a fault occurs. There is a maximum of three hits per side.
The objective is to score points by sending the ball over the net, grounding it into the opponent’s court.
Volleyball matches are made up of sets, typically three or five sets.
Three-set matches are two sets to 25 points and a third set to 15 points. Each set must be won by two points. The first team to win two sets is the winner of the match.
Five-set matches are four sets to 25 points and a fifth set to 15 points. The team must win by two points unless tournament rules dictate otherwise. The first team to win three sets is the winner.
Here are the fundamental, must-know rules of a volleyball game:
- Only 6 players on the floor at any given time: 3 in the front row and 3 in the back row.
- Points are made on every serve for the winning team of the rally (rally-point scoring).
- Players may not hit the ball twice in succession (a block is not considered a hit).
- Ball may be played off the net during a volley and on a serve.
- A ball hitting a boundary line is in.
- A ball is out if it hits an antennae, the floor completely outside the court, any of the net or cables outside the antennae, the referee stand or pole, or the ceiling above a non-playable area.
- It is legal to contact the ball with any part of a player’s body.
- It is illegal to catch, hold or throw the ball.
- A player cannot block or attack a serve from on or inside the 10-foot line.
- After the serve, front-line players may switch positions at the net.
- Matches are made up of sets; the number depends on level of play.
Volleyball Rule Violations
Committing any of these volleyball rule violations results in a point for the opponent.
- Stepping on or across the service line when serving while making contact with the ball.
- Failure to serve the ball over the net successfully.
- Ball-handling errors and contacting the ball illegally (double touching, lifting, carrying, throwing, etc.)
- Touching the net with any part of the body while the ball is in play.
- Blocking a ball coming from the opponent’s court and contacting the ball when reaching over the net if your opponent has not used 3 contacts AND has a player there to make a play on the ball.
- Attacking a ball coming from the opponent’s court and contacting the ball when reaching over the net when the ball has not yet broken the vertical plane of the net.
- Crossing the court centerline with any part of your body, with the exception of a hand or foot. It is only considered a violation if the entire hand or entire foot crosses the court centerline.
- Serving out of rotation or out of order.
- Back row player blocking (deflecting a ball coming from the opponent) when, at the moment of contact, the back row player is near the net and has part of their body above the top of the net. This is an illegal block.
- Back row player attacking a ball inside the front zone (the area inside the 3M/10-foot line) when, at the moment of contact, the ball is completely above the net. This is an illegal attack.
A Complete Glossary of Volleyball Terms
Learn all the crucial volleyball terminology, from A to Z.
1-Ball: A first tempo set in the middle of the court just in front of the setter.
Absorption: Giving with the ball as it is contacted by the passer. (Cushioning) It can take place with certain parts of the body or with the entire body. Using a cushioning effect with the momentum of the ball’s rebound enough to carry it forward or upward with little if any backswing or follow through.
Ace: A serve that results directly in a point, either when the ball hits the floor on the receiving team’s side of the court untouched, or when it is touched but unable to be kept in play by the receiving team.
Antennae: Thin poles attached to the net cables placed above the sideline. A ball touching the antennae or their extensions is out of bounds. Balls passing within the antennae are still in play.
Assist: When a player sets, passes or digs the ball directly to a teammate who attacks the ball and gets a kill.
Attack: The action of attempting to hit the ball onto the opponent's side of the court. Types of attacks include a spike, tip, roll shot and dump.
Attacker: Also "hitter" and "spiker." A player who attempts to hit a ball offensively with the purpose of terminating play.
Attack Block: The defensive team's attempt to block a spiked ball. See BLOCK
Attack Error: An attack botched in one of 5 ways: Ball lands out of bounds; ball goes into net; attacker commits center line or net violation, or attacker illegally contacts ball. Getting blocked can also be considered an attack error.
Attack Line: A line 3 meters (10 feet) away from, and parallel to, the net. Separates the front-row players from the back row players. A back row player cannot legally attack the ball above the net unless he takes off from behind the attack line.
Attack Range: A hitter’s “window” in which he/she is capable of attacking a ball in control.
Back Row/Court: Space from baseline (end line) to attack line. There are 3 players whose court positions are in this area (positions 1, 6 & 5 on court).
Back Row Attack: When a back row player takes off from behind the attack line (10-foot/3-meter) line and attacks the ball. Various terms for back row attacks include "A," "B," "C," "D," "Pipe" and "Bic".
Back Row Block: A violation committed when a back row player contacts an attacked ball from the other team above the height of the net.
Back Row Player: (back court player) Left Back (LB); Middle Back (MB); Right Back (RB) – according to the serving order. (Serving order positions 5, 6 and 1.)
Backlines: See ENDLINES.
Back Set: A set delivered to a hitter behind the setter.
Ball Handling: Execution of any passing fundamental.
Baseline: The back boundary of the court. Also called the end line.
Block: One of the six basic skills. A defensive play by one or more front-row players meant to intercept a spiked ball. The combination of one, two or three players jumping in front of the opposing spiker and contacting the spiked ball with the hands.
Attack Block (Hard Block, Offensive Block)
- Returning the ball immediately to the attacker's court.
- Usually in this type of block, the arms and hands are extended over the net. It is usually used with the opponent's sets are tight on the net.
Area Block (Soft Block, Defensive Block)
- Deflecting the ball so that it can be played by a teammate. This type of block protects a defensive area of the court.
- Blocking with arms and hands extended straight upward. Utilized when a blocker is late or when the opponent’s set is far from the net. It is also used when an attacker is considerably higher than the blocker.
Blocking Error: Touching the net, crossing the centerline, blocking a set or serve or any other “local” violation that occurs while making a block attempt.
Bump: See PASS and FOREARM PASS.
Center Line: The boundary that runs under the net and divides the court into two equal halves.
Change of Pace: See SOFT SPIKE.
Closing the Block: The responsibility of the assisting blocker(s) to angle their body relative to the first blocker.
Collapse: A defensive move made from side to side. Player extends into a side lunge, passes the ball and his/her momentum carries him/her to the floor on the side of their thigh/butt.
Commit Blocking: A strategy in blocking where a blocker’s sole focus is one attacker, jumping with them whether they get set or not. Most commonly used by middle blockers.
Complete (Full) Roll: See ROLL.
Court: The area of the court is 30 by 60 feet and is divided by a center line into two equal halves of 30 by 30 feet. Within this space, the game of volleyball is played. Internationally, the court is 9 meters x 18 meters.
Court Coverage: The assignment of each player on offense or defense as the ball is in play.
Cover: Refers to the hitter having his/her teammates ready to retrieve rebounds from the opposing blockers.
Cross-court Attack: An attack directed diagonally from the point of attack. Also called an angle hit.
Cross-court Shot: A ball hit into the opponent’s court in a diagonal direction. Also called an angle hit.
Crossing the Center Line: See FOOT FAULT.
Cushioning: See ABSORPTION.
Cut Shot: A spike from the hitter’s strong side that travels at a sharp angle across the net.
- Cut: (See SERVING ORDER POSITIONS for international ZONE numbers)
Ex: A player spiking from zone 4 would hit the ball towards zone 4 on the other side. A player hitting from zone 2 would hit the ball towards zone 2 on the other side.
- Cut-back: A hit going back across the spiker’s body.
Ex: A player hitting from zone2 would hit towards zone 5.
Dead Ball: A ball not in play following a point, side-out or any other decision of the referee temporarily suspending play.
Deep: Refers to sending the ball away from the net, toward the baseline of the opponent’s court.
Defense: One of the 6 basic skills. The key skills used to receive the opponent's attack are digging and sprawling. The dig resembles a forearm pass from a low ready position and is used more for balls that are hit near the defender. The sprawl is a result of an attempted dig for a ball hit farther away from the defender. It resembles a dive.
Defensive Specialist: Similar to the libero but with much fewer restrictions, a defensive specialist is used to receive serve or strictly defend. Utilized for their above average ball control, they must follow normal substitution rules. They are permitted to serve and attack the ball from above the height of the net when they are in the back row. Should the need arise, they can rotate to the front court and play as a front row player if required.
Dig: Passing a spiked or rapidly hit ball and low to ground. Defensive play. Slang for retrieving an attacked ball close to the floor. Statistically scored on a 3.0 point system.
Dink: A one-handed, soft hit into the opponent’s court using the fingertips. Also called a tip.
Dive: A defensive technique employed to increase the forward range of motion (see ZONE OF EFFECTIVENESS).
Dive and Catch: The defensive player dives forward, recovers a difficult shot and then lands on his chest and abdomen after being cushioned by his arms and hands.
Dive and Slide: The defensive player dives forward, recovers a difficult shot and then touches the floor with his hands and arms, and by their impetus slides forward on his chest and abdomen. This is the who cushioning effect. Most of the energy of the impact is transferred into the sliding motion.
Double Block: Two players working in unison to intercept a ball at the net.
Double Hit: Violation. Two successive hits by the same player.
Down Ball: Type of attack. “Down” refers to the blockers who neither jump, nor raise their hands above the net.
Down-the-line Shot: A spike directly down the sideline, the sideline from which the spiker is hitting the ball.
Drifting: A common error by blockers. There is undue lateral body movement, as opposed to the desired vertical jump.
Dump: Usually performed by the setter, who delivers the ball into the opponent’s court on the second contact.
Endlines (Backlines): The lines two inches in width running parallel to the net and 30 feet (9 meters) from it. They define the ends of the court.
Extensions: A defensive move where the player extends to his/her left or right.
Five-One (5-1): An offensive system that uses five hitters and one setter.
Floater: A serve with no spin so the ball follows an erratic path.
Floor Positions: See SERVING ORDER POSITIONS.
Follow: To move with and block an attacker. Athletes may change positions with another blocker in the process.
Foot Fault: An illegal placement of the feet with respect to court lines.
- Serving Foot Fault (Server): Server’s last contact with the floor, as he strikes the ball, must be within the serving area (and behind the end line).
- Serving Foot Fault (Other Players): All the players, other than the server have to be within the boundaries of the court, but may touch the boundary lines
- Crossing the Center Line: The player may cross the center line so long as a part of the body remains in contact with the center line and the action does not interfere with play or cause a safety concern (discretion by the referee).
Forearm Pass: Sometimes referred to as the “pass,” “bump” or “dig”.
Foul: A rule infraction, also called a violation.
Four Hits: A team foul resulting from the ball being hit four times on one side of the net during a normal play.
Four-Two (4-2): An offensive system using four hitters and two setters.
Free Ball: Returning the ball to the opponent without the intent to get a kill. Usually a slow, arcing pass or “roll” shot rather than a spike.
Front: Position of a blocker so that she/he can block the attacker.
Front Court: The area from the net back to the line 10 feet from the net.
Front-row: Three players whose court position is in front of the attack line (3M/10 Foot), near the net. These players are in positions 2, 3 & 4 on the court.
Front Set: A type of overhand pass used in setting the ball in a forward direction, i.e. the direction that the person setting the ball is facing.
Front-Line (Front-row) Player: Left – front (LF), Middle Front (MF), and Right Front (RF): according to the serving order. (Serving order positions 2,3 and 4).
Game (Match): A game is won when a team wins the majority of the Sets scheduled to be played. This can be either 3-out-of-5 if 5 sets are scheduled to be played or 2-out-of-3 if 3 sets are scheduled to be played
Game Plan: Offensive and defensive emphasis for an opponent. Usually organized for each rotation by the coaching staff.
Good Ball: See IN-BOUNDS.
Half Roll: See ROLL.
Half-speed Shot: See SOFT SPIKE.
Held Ball: A ball that comes to rest during contact resulting in a violation.
Hit: One of the 6 basic skills. To jump and strike the ball with an overhand, forceful shot.
Hitter: Also “spiker” or “attacker.” The player who is responsible for hitting the ball.
Hitting Percentage: A statistic derived from total kills minus total attack errors, divided by total attempts.
Hybrid Serve: A serve initiated as if performing a jump float, but the server has the option of floating it, hitting with a top spin, or with a partial top spin.
In Back of the Block:
- A defensive area of the back court which is behind the block or directly screened out by the block. Tactically this is an area which the defensive player does not expect to dig a hard driven spike.
- The defensive area of the back court between those areas designated as OUTSIDE THE BLOCK and INSIDE THE BLOCK.
- A ball landing inside or touching the line of the court.
- A ball passing over the net inside of the antennae.
Inside the Block:
- An attack play resulting in the ball traveling between the block and net.
- A cross-court shot evading the block.
- The defensive area of the back court which is cross court from the spiker and lies between the areas screened out by the block and the far side line.
International Volleyball Federation (FIVB): Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, founded in 1947. Responsible for all international volleyball (both beach and indoor) rules and competitions.
Joust: When 2 opposing players contact the ball simultaneously above the net causing the ball to momentarily come to rest; the point is replayed if this is called by the official.
Jump Serve (Float): The server uses an approach, toss, takeoff and serves the ball with a spiking motion while in the air. There are two main types: jump float, jump spin.
Jump Set: A set made by a player who has jumped off of the floor.
Key player/play: To discern a team’s best player or probable next play by observation of patterns or habits.
Kill: An attack that results directly in a point or side out.
Lateral Set: A set made in which the setter’s shoulders are approximately parallel to the direction of the path of the ball. Normally, the setter’s shoulders are approximately perpendicular to the path of the ball.
Let Serve: A serve contacting the net and continuing into play. Under old rule systems, let serves were a loss of rally and serve was given to the receiving team. Nowadays the served ball may touch the net on its way over and the rally continues.
Libero: A player specialized in defensive skills. This player 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.
Lift: A foul in which the ball visibly comes to rest on some part of the body.
Line of Force: Many techniques, when executed properly, require a virtual straight line between the lowest extremity of the body (the average foot position when setting and the “opposite leg” when spiking), the center of gravity of the body and point of contact with the ball. The initial flight of a set should follow the line of force. The initial flight of a spike should be perpendicular to the line of force.
Line Serve: A straight-ahead serve landing near the opponent’s left sideline.
Line Shot: A ball spiked along an opponent’s sideline, closest to the hitter and outside the block.
Line-ball: A ball which hits the line. It is considered to be in bounds.
Lines: The marks that serve as boundaries of a court. 2 inches (5cm) wide.
Linesman/ Lineswoman: Officials located at the corners of the court; each linesman is responsible for ruling if the ball is legally in play along the lines for which he or she is responsible. For indicating touches and play outside of the antennae on their side of the net.
Lineup: Players starting rotation and, therefore, serving order. Numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
Load: Body position for the blockers so that they are most effective.
Match: The best of two of three, or the best three out of five sets.
Match-up Blocking: A system of blocking where teams manipulate the positions of their front row players to gain an advantage on the other team's attackers. For example: A left side attacker may be blocking in the middle, a middle blocker on the right, and the setter on the left.
Middle Back: A defensive system that uses the middle back player in 6 to cover deep spikes. Also called “6 back” defense.
Middle Back Deep Defense (White or Perimeter Defense): A defensive formation displaying two blockers at the net and four men in a cup formation near the court perimeter. The middle back is at the end-line and is responsible for all the deep shots.
Middle-back-up Defense (Red): A defensive formation displaying two blockers at the net, one player (the middle back) right behind the block and the three remaining players near the court perimeter. The middle back is responsible for all dinks.
Middle Blocker: Usually plays in the middle of the net when in the front row and moves laterally to her blocking assignments.
Middle Up: A defensive system that uses the middle-back player in 6 to cover tips or short shots along the 3 meter/10 foot line. Also called a “6 up” defense.
Mintonette: The original name of the game of volleyball, created by William Morgan.
Multiple Offense (6-0 or 3-hitter Attack): An offensive system in which all three front court players are expected to attack and a back row player is used as the setter. A three spiker offense in which the ball is set by a back-row player.
Net: The basic dividing plane between two halves of the court. The volleyball net is 36 inches wide and 32 feet long. It is made of cord meshes 4 inches square. On top of the net is a canvas band 2 inches wide. Touching the net constitutes a foul.
- Women - 7 feet, 4-1/8 inches high (2.24m).
- Men – 7 feet, 11-5/8 inches high (2.43m).
Off-blocker: Outside blocker not included in the double block. Also called off-side blocker.
Off-speed Shots: An attack that is intentionally slow. Ball spiked with less than maximum force but with spin. Also called “roll” shot.
Offense: The techniques and tactics by the team controlling the ball. IT includes reception of the serve (bump or forearm pass), setting and attacking (spiking) the ball. The serve is also an offensive action.
Offensive Plays: Virtually all teams run coordinate team patterns or plays—much the same as a basketball or football team might run. The following are a few common examples used by teams employing a multiple offense. (Refer to ZONES OF NET AREA).
- Option Four: A play designed to isolate (free from blockers) the left front spiker. Left front expects a 4 set (shoot), middle front expects a 1 set (Jap) and right front expects a regular set.
- Double Quick: A play designated to isolate the right front spiker. Left front expects a regular set, middle front expects a 1 set and right front expects a back set 2.
- X-Play: A play designated to isolate the right front spiker hitting from the middle front position. Left front expects a regular set, center front expects a Jap set and right front takes a move similar to the double quick but then crosses, behind the CF spikes and hits a 2 set in the middle of the court.
Offensive System: Many times this term is defined in terms of the number of spikers and setters used. In common definition, the first number refers to the number of spikers and the second refers to the number of setters. For example:
- 4-2: a system using 4 spikers and 2 setters ( a two setter attack).
- 3-3: three spikers and three setters (the common system of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s).
- 6-6: a two hitter attack; MF is always the setter – standard in physical education (gym) class procedure - an offensive system of the simplest nature. It can also have a 3-hitter attack (multiple offense) – 6 spikers, 6 setters (back row).
- 5-1: five spikers and one setter (sometimes called the International 4-2 – where setter is in the RF position).
- 6-0: this term has commonly been used to indicate a multiple offense (see MULTIPLE OFFENSE), in reality according to the above definition, it should be called a 6-2; six spikers – three setters.
- 6-3: multiple offense – six spikers - three setters. This system avoids the complications found in bringing the setter in from the left back position.
Opposite: Player who plays opposite the setter in the rotation. In some systems, this player is also a setter. In other systems, this player is called a right-side.
Option: The act of attacking the second touch.
Outside Hitter: Usually plays at the ends of the net when in the front row. Also called right-side (opposite) or left side (power).
Overhand Pass: A pass with both hands open that is controlled by the fingers, with the face below the ball. Both hands simultaneously contact the ball above the head and direct it to the intended target.
Overhand serve: Serving the ball and striking it with the hand above the shoulder. Float or spin.
Overlap: A violation called if a team is lined up out of rotation when the ball is served.
Overpass: A ball passed across the net.
Overset: An errant set that crosses the net without being touched by another offensive player.
Pass: One of the 6 basic skills. Receiving a serve or the first contact of the ball with the intent to control the ball to another player. Also called a “bump”.
Pancake: One-hand floor defensive technique where the hand is extended and slid along the floor palm down while the player dives or extension rolls so the ball bounces off the back of the hand and is considered legal.
Party Ball: When the ball is passed across the net in front of the attack line so the front-row attacker can immediately hit the ball on the first contact.
Penetration: The blocker’s ability to reach over the net above the opponent’s court.
Perimeter: Backcourt defense where 4 players arrange themselves near the boundaries of the court.
Pipe: A back row attack from the middle of the court. Position 6.
Play: An attack with a planned fake, usually including 2 or more hitter.
Play-over: A play-over is the act of putting the ball into play again without awarding a point or side-out.
- A point is awarded when an active rally is terminated, the serving team or the receiving team may win the point
- A point is awarded to the serving team only when the receiving team commits a foul. The receiving team cannot earn a point.
Point-run: More than one point scored while maintaining the same server on the baseline.
Power Alley: The channel inside the block into which most power spikes are directed.
Power Volleyball: This level of volleyball differs from recreational volleyball in the amount of organization necessary for the highly refined application of team strategy and individual skills. Power volleyball demands a quick and alert, extremely well-coordinated athlete, with great stamina to master its complex skills and playing situations.
Pursuit: The act of playing a ball that has traveled outside of the antenna onto the other side of the net and played back to the correct side.
Quick Set: An extremely low vertical set used to beat the opponent’s block. Can be set at any position on the net.
Rally (Volley): The chain of events while the ball is in play. The rally begins with the service and ends when the ball is dead (unless there is a question of equilibrium following the dead ball).
Rally Scoring: Scoring method where points can be won by the serving or receiving team.
Range of Motion (Zone of Effectiveness): That part of the playing area in which the player has a high probability of making a successful play.
Read Blocking: A system of blocking where the blockers wait and react to the set ball, cueing on clues from the setter while judging the trajectory off the set ball.
Ready Position: The flexed, yet comfortable, posture a player assumes before moving to the point of contact.
Red Card: Given by the official to a player or coach for flagrant misconduct resulting in a point/side out to the opponent. Results in automatic ejection and a point/side out for the opponent.
Referee: The head or chief official, positioned with a view across the top of the net. Also called the 1st referee.
Roll: A defensive technique often employed to increase the sideward range of motion (ZONE OF EFFECTIVENESS).
- Full (Complete) Roll: The defensive player lunges sideward, recovers a difficult shot then rolls (360 degrees) over the back and shoulder to regain a defensive position.
- Half Roll: A player falls to his back, reverses directions and comes up on his feet again.
Roof: To block a spike, usually straight down for a point.
Rotation: The clockwise movement of players around the court and through the serving position following a side out. Players must retain their initial rotational order throughout the entire game, but once the ball is contacted on serve they are allowed to move anywhere.
Roundhouse: Action used to strike the ball on a serve or spike. The ball is struck with the arm approximately fully extended which moves generally upward through a large arc of about 180 degrees.
Save: A recover of a ball which would have hit the floor except for an extreme effort of the player, moving well beyond the normal range of coverage.
Scorer: The official who is charged with accurately recording the score of the game.
Screw-under Pass (Bump) (Set): A forearm pass or an overhand set made as the passer (setter) is pivoting as he passes (sets) the ball. Usually this pass is concluded by a half roll by the passer.
Seam: The midpoint between 2 players.
Serve: One of the 6 basic skills. Used to put the ball into play. It is the only skill controlled exclusively by one player.
Serving Area: An area that is equal in width to the baseline and extends infinitely deep behind the endline. The service area shall be a minimum of six feet in depth. In the event that the playing area does not provide space for such a depth, the service area should extend into the court to whatever distance is necessary to provide the minimum six feet.
Serving Order Positions (Floor Positions): Starting from the first server, they are Right Back (RB-1), Middle Back (MB-2), Left Back (LB-3), Left Front (LF-4), Middle Front (MF-5), Right Front (RF-6). Serving order should be (RB-1), (RF-2), (MF-3), (LF-4), (LB 5), (MB-6).
Serving Specialist: A player who is substituted into the match with the sole purpose of serving. After receiving team sides out, the serving specialist is promptly removed from the match.
Set: One of the 6 basic skills. The tactical skill in which a ball is directed to a point where a player can spike it into the opponent’s court. Sets can be set at different heights and different locations on the net and offensively there are names for each of these. First number is the location on the net and the second number is the height of the set (example: 13). Sets can also be named.
Set Attack: When a setter attempts to score rather than set the ball to a setter. Also called a shoot set. Setter: The second passer whose job it is to position a pass to the hitter.
Set Variations: The definitions here refer to setting zones:
- 1: A low set, usually in the center of the net (zone #5), that travels nearly straight up and is quickly hit by the spiker who is already in the air. It is hit just above the net as it leaves the setter’s hands. Ideally, it is set in such a manner that a spiker attacks the ball while ascending.
- 2: A medium low set that travels nearly straight up from the setter’s hands to a height 2 or 3 feet above the net.
- 3: A medium set traveling 2-4 feet above the net and coming down half way between the setter and spiker; sometimes used interchangeably with the 31 set (See 31 SET below).
- 4: A high set coming down near the sideline (vertical tape marker).
- Hut or Go: A medium low set traveling 2-4 feet above the net and coming down near the sideline.
- 31 Set: A low, very quick set (usually in zone #3) just above the net.
- There are many other set variations, and they can be called many different things depending on where you are (ex: a high back set is called a 5 on the west coast and an 8 on the east coast) and your team's strategy/style. You can search for a diagram on the internet to give you a better visual of this, as well as more set variations.
Set the Block: In most defensive patterns, a particular person will be designated to position the block on any specific offensive player. The player designated to position the block on any specific offensive player. The player designated to position the block has the assignment to SET the BLOCK.
Setter: The player assigned to set the ball into the air for the purpose of placing the ball in position for the attack.
Setting Zones: See ZONES OF NET AREA.
Shade: An adjustment before a rally by blockers. Blockers take one or two steps to either sideline to give themselves a small advantage on an attacker they think may be set.
Shallow: Near the net.
Shank: Severely misdirected pass.
Short Serve: A tactic in which the server serves the ball into zone 2, 3, or 4 (right front, middle front and left front respectively) preferably inside of the 3-meter line. It is designed to upset a team’s offense by pulling attackers out of an ideal position for an approach.
Sideout: Change of service when a serving team has failed to score a point. Occurs when the receiving team successfully puts the ball away against the serving team, or when the serving team commits an unforced error.
Sidelines: The two lines running the length of the court (60 feet in length) which are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the net. They are two inches in width.
Six-pack: Being hit in the face with the ball.
Six-two (6-2): An offense with four spikers and two spiker/setters. Setter comes from the back row.
Slide/step: A quick attack behind the setter.
Soft Spike (Half-speed Shot, Off-speed Shot, Change of Pace): A spike made with considerably less force than a normal spike, often very carefully placed. It is used to gain some tactical advantage.
Spike: Also called a hit or attack. A ball contacted with force by a player on the offensive team who intends to terminate the ball on the opponent’s floor or off the opponent’s blocker.
Spike Coverage: A position taken by the offensive players as the spiker spikes the ball, so as to field any ball rebounding from the block.
Spiker: The offensive player driving the ball over the net (spiking) into the opponent’s court.
Split Block: A double-block that leaves a space between the blockers.
Sprawl: A defensive move where a player places his/her forearms on the floor, while moving forward or side to side, preventing the ball from contacting the floor. When finished, if executed correctly, the player will be sprawled out on his/her stomach.
Strong Side (On Side): These are terms indicating spiking or attack zones along the net. The strong side is the left hand side of the net for a right handed spiker and the right side of the net for a left handed spiker.
Stuff: A ball deflected back to the attacking team’s floor by the opponent’s blockers.
Substitution: Allows one player to replace another player already on the court. Rules dictate the number of subs each team is allowed.
Swing-blocking: A rhythm timed blocking method, where the blockers begin “bunched” into the middle of the court and turn, dropping their hands and swinging them like the back swing of an approach. arms to play a ball finishing on the side of his/her hips and torso.
Swing Offense: Developed by Bill Neville and Doug Beal for the 1984 Olympics, the swing offense utilizes one or two swing hitters who are capable of hitting multiple sets in multiple net zones. They are used to fool blockers by rarely hitting the same set twice. They may pass a ball on the left side of the net and attack a ball on the right.
Switch: To change court positions after a ball is served to facilitate strongest player positions.
Tandem: A combination in which one player attacks immediately behind another.
Tape: The top of the net.
Team: A group of six players on one half of the court.
Team Pattern: The coordinated pattern of a team either on offense or on defense.
Technique Man: A spiker who also functions as a secondary setter.
Telegraph: To show one’s intention to the opponents.
Three-meter Line: The line extended across the court to signify the point which a back row player must leave the ground behind to attack the ball. Also called the "attack line” and "10-foot line."
Three-hitter Attack: See MULTIPLE OFFENSE.
Tip: A one-handed, soft hit into the opponent’s court using the fingertips. Also called a dink.
Tool: When an attacker hits the ball off an opposing blocker’s arms out of bounds. Also called a wipe.
Topspin: A forward spin imparted to the ball during the serve or spike.
Toss (Set): An international term for the set, similarly tosser means setter.
Touch: A player contacting the ball on the defensive play.
Trajectory: The trajectory of an object, such as a ball, must follow the path of a parabola unless the object is subject to outside forces. There are two types of deviations which commonly act upon the parabolic arc of a volleyball:
- Any spin placed upon the ball causes the deviation to be in a predictable direction.
- Any non-spinning ball may deviate from the theoretical path in an unpredictable manner.
Transition: To switch from offense to defense and vice versa.
Triple-block: Block formed by all 3 front-row players.
Two-hitter Attack: A term commonly applied when playing the 4-2 or 6-6 offenses. See OFFENSIVE SYSTEMS.
Umpire: Official who assists the referee and is positioned on the floor opposite the referee.
Underhand Pass: See FOREARM PASS
Underhand Serve: A serve performed with an underhand striking action. The ball is usually contacted with the heel of the hand.
USAV: The governing body of volleyball in the United States.
United States Volleyball Association (USVBA): Founded in 1928. Headquarters in San Francisco, CA. An association of approximately 20 organizations which sponsor major volleyball activities. Represents volleyball on the U.S. Olympic Committees.
Vertical Tape Markers: A 2 inch strip of material (tape of canvas) fastened vertically on each side of the net, directly above the side lines and marking the side boundary lines of the court.
Volley: See RALLY.
W Serve Receive Formation: Three players in the front row, two in the back.
Waffle: Attacking a ball, whether on a spike or a serve, with no spin that travels far outside of the court.
Weak Side (Off-side) (Off-hand): These are terms indicating spiking or attack zones along the net. The weak side is the right hand side of the net for a right handed spiker and the left side of the net for a left handed spiker.
White Defense: See MIDDLE- BACK DEEP DEFENSE.
Wipe/ Wipe-off Shot: To deliberately spike the ball off an opponent’s hands and out of bounds. Also called a tool.
Yellow Card: Given by the official to a player or coach as a warning of misconduct. Two yellow cards result in an automatic red card.
Zone of Effectiveness: See RANGE OF MOTION.
Zones of the net Area (Setting Zones):
- The net is divided into a symmetrical system of nine zones (passing target zone #7). Click here to see a PDF visual of all nine zones.
- In this system, the height of the set is designated by the second digit. The first digit indicates the zone in which the set is begun.
- For example: A 23 set will be in zone 2, 3 feet above the net at the peak of its arc. A 68 set will be in zone 6, 8 feet above the net at the peak of its arc. Note – When 0 is the second digit – the set is a normal high set; when 9 is the second digit – the set is a super high set.
- For example: 10 is a regular set in Zone 1 while 99 is a super-high set in Zone 9. If these numbers are followed by a third number (23-3), this third number indicates how far the set should be from the net. An 82-1 is Zone 8, two feet high and one foot away from the net. This system is now commonly used by the U.S. National Team.
Indoor Volleyball Court Dimensions
This volleyball court diagram shows the official indoor volleyball court specifications. The official indoor court dimension is 9 meters by 18 meters with an attack line 3 meters from the center line on each side of the court.
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