Substitution in volleyball is a bit more complicated than simply sending one player onto the court and pulling another player out. If you don’t follow the rules closely, you may have a hot mess on your hands.
In this video, Brennan Dean, director of Wave Volleyball club and head coach at Torrey Pines High School, breaks down the key do’s and don’ts to volleyball substitutions, including when you can sub, who a sub can go in for and how subs should enter the court.
How many substitutions are allowed in volleyball?
Volleyball substitution rules vary significantly depending on the level of play. Here’s a quick overview:
High school and collegiate volleyball:
15 substitutions are allowed in each set. With this many subbing options, teams frequently replace bigger hitters and blockers in the back row with players whose strengths are passing and defense.
12 substitutions per set. That’s still a lot of subbing options, but as Dean points out in the video, coaches have to be somewhat selective — especially when running a 6-2 offense, where you replace a front-row setter with an opposite. “If it’s a tight game,” Dean says, “you will run out of subs at 17-all or 18-all.”
International volleyball (Olympics):
Six substitutions per set. At the highest level of the game, players have to be well-rounded because six substitutions per set doesn’t allow for much specialization.
(International volleyball has slightly different subbing rules than high school, club and college; you’ll find them on pages 37 and 38 of the FIVB rule book.) Great players who may have been mostly hitters/blockers in college have to improve their passing and defensive skills to succeed internationally.
How does a sub enter a match?
To sub into a match, a player on the bench gets up and enters the substitution zone — a space outside the court but inside the 10-foot line. If a second player is entering the match at the same time, she/he stands outside the court but behind the 10-foot line. After the first player goes in, the second player goes to where the first sub was standing, then enters the court.
Who can a player sub in for?
Any player except the libero can sub in for anyone in the match, but once they have subbed in or out for a player at a certain position, they can only sub in again for that same player at the same position for the rest of the set.
For example, if #7 comes off the bench to replace #1, the only way #1 can get back in the match is to replace #7 at her original position. Otherwise, #1 would be penalized as an illegal substitute.
The exception to this rule is for libero substitution. Liberos can only go in for back-row players, but they can enter the match as often as they like, as long as it’s between points. A libero substitution doesn’t count as a team substitution.
What are some common substitution strategies?
To get the most out of your substitutions, it’s important to analyze each rotation for your point-scoring capabilities and defensive strengths. Mark Rosen, head coach at the University of Michigan, shares several moves in this video that can juice up the offense or bolster the defense.
Why it’s important to teach substitution rules
As a coach, you must have a solid understanding of substitution rules, but it’s also good to teach them to your team and even their parents. The more familiar everybody around you is with what’s happening when players enter and exit matches, the less you’ll have to explain during tournaments. This will reduce distractions and allow you to focus on what’s most important: coaching the team.
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