Volleyball is a team sport in which two teams of six players are separated by a net. Each team tries to score points by grounding a ball on the other team’s court under organized rules.It has been a part of the official program of the Summer Olympic Games since 1964.

The complete rules are extensive. But simply, play proceeds as follows: a player on one of the teams begins a ‘rally’ by serving the ball (tossing or releasing it and then hitting it with a hand or arm), from behind the back boundary line of the court, over the net, and into the receiving team’s court. The receiving team must not let the ball be grounded within their court. The team may touch the ball up to 3 times but individual players may not touch the ball twice consecutively. Typically, the first two touches are used to set up for an attack, an attempt to direct the ball back over the net in such a way that the serving team is unable to prevent it from being grounded in their court.

The rally continues, with each team allowed as many as three consecutive touches, until either

  • A team makes a kill, grounding the ball on the opponent’s court and winning the rally; or
  • A team commits a fault and loses the rally. The team that wins the rally is awarded a point, and serves the ball to start the next rally.

A few of the most common faults include

  • causing the ball to touch the ground or floor outside the opponents’ court or without first passing over the net;
  • catching and throwing the ball;
  • double hit: two consecutive contacts with the ball made by the same player;
  • four consecutive contacts with the ball made by the same team;
  • net foul: touching the net during play;
  • foot fault: the foot crosses over the boundary line when serving.

The ball is usually played with the hands or arms, but players can legally strike or push (short contact) the ball with any part of the body.

A number of consistent techniques have evolved in volleyball, including spiking and blocking (because these plays are made above the top of the net, the vertical jump is an athletic skill emphasized in the sport) as well as passing, setting, and specialized player positions and offensive and defensive structures.


On February 9, 1895, in Holyoke, Massachusetts (USA), William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director, created a new game called Mintonette as a pastime to be played (preferably) indoors and by any number of players. The game took some of its characteristics from tennis and handball. Another indoor sport, basketball, was catching on in the area, having been invented just ten miles (sixteen kilometers) away in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, only four years before. Mintonette was designed to be an indoor sport, less rough than basketball, for older members of the YMCA, while still requiring a bit of athletic effort.

The first World Championships

The first World Championships were organised in 1949 for Men and 1952 for Women and both have remained the biggest events in volleyball, along with the Olympic Games, since 1964. The world competitions immediately generated enthusiasm, and the number of players and National Federations affiliated with the FIVB grew by leaps and bounds. Volleyball fever had caught on just about everywhere and increased rapidly. FIVB promoted events began to multiply.

The First Olympic Volleyball Tournament

The history of Olympic volleyball traces back to the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, where volleyball was played as part of an American sports demonstration event.After the foundation of FIVB and some continental confederations, it began to be considered for official inclusion. In 1957, a special tournament was held at the 53rd IOC session in Sofia, Bulgaria to support such request. The competition was a success, and the sport was officially included in the program for the 1964 Summer Olympics.

The First World Cup

In 1965, Poland hosted the first World Cup for Men before Uruguay hosted the first World Cup for Women in 1973. Following the first two editions for Men and the first edition for Women, Japan gave new life to Men’s and Women’s World Cups by staging the third and second editions respectively in 1977. From there on until today, with the sponsorship of Fuji Television, the quadrennial World Cup has become a major event and qualifies three teams for the Olympic Games.

The First Rules

The first rules, written down by William G Morgan, called for a net 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) high, a 25 ft × 50 ft (7.6 m × 15.2 m) 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.

The First Volleyball

1896, July 7th – at Springfield College the first game of “volleyball” was played.

The First Official Ball

The first official ball used in volleyball is disputed; some sources say that Spalding created the first official ball in 1896, while others claim it was created in 1900.The rules evolved over time: in the Philippines by 1916, the skill and power of the set and spike had been introduced, and four years later a “three hits” rule and a rule against hitting from the back row were established. In 1917, the game was changed from 21 to 15 points. In 1919, about 16,000 volleyballs were distributed by the American Expeditionary Forces to their troops and allies, which sparked the growth of volleyball in new countries.


In 2014, the sport of Volleyball is 119 years old!

The sport originated in the United States, and is now just achieving the type of popularity in the U.S. that it has received on a global basis, where it ranks behind only soccer among participation sports.

Today there are more than 46 million Americans who play volleyball. There are 800 million players worldwide who play volleyball at least once a week.

In 1895, William G. Morgan, an instructor at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Holyoke, Mass., decided to blend elements of basketball, baseball, tennis, and handball to create a game for his classes of businessmen which would demand less physical contact than basketball. He created the game of Volleyball (at that time called, mintonette). Morgan borrowed the net from tennis, and raised it 6 feet 6 inches above the floor, just above the average man’s head.

During a demonstration game, someone remarked to Morgan that the players seemed to be volleying the ball back and forth over the net, and perhaps “volleyball” would be a more descriptive name for the sport. On July 7, 1896 at Springfield College the first game of “volleyball” was played.

The History of Volleyball at a Glance

1895: William G. Morgan (1870-1942) created the game of volleyball.
1900: a special ball was designed for the sport.
1916: in the Philippines, an offensive style of passing the ball in a high trajectory to be struck by another player (the set and spike) were introduced.
1917: the game was changed from 21 to 15 points.
1920s: there are unconfirmed whispers of men’s teams playing on the beach in Hawaii, but most accounts place the sport’s origin in Santa Monica, California where the first Volleyball courts are put up on the beach at the Playground. Families play 6 vs. 6..
1920: three hits per side and back row attack rules were instituted.
1922: the first YMCA national championships were held in Brooklyn, NY. 27 teams from 11 states were represented.
1928: it became clear that tournaments and rules were needed, the United States Volleyball Association (USVBA, now USA Volleyball) was formed. The first U.S. Open was staged, as the field was open to non-YMCA squads.
1930s: the first two-man beach volleyball game is played in Santa Monica, California..
1934: the approval and recognition of national volleyball referees.
1937: at the AAU convention in Boston, action was taken to recognize the U.S. Volleyball Association as the official National Governing Body (NGB) in the U.S.
1947: the Federation Internationale De Volley-Ball (FIVB) was founded.
1948: the first two-man beach tournament was held.
1949: the initial World Championships were held in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
1964: Volleyball was introduced to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
1965: the California Beach Volleyball Association (CBVA) was formed.
1974: the World Championships in Mexico were telecast in Japan.
1975: the U.S. National Women’s team began a year-round training regime in Pasadena, Texas (moved to Colorado Springs in 1979, Coto de Caza and Fountain Valley, CA in 1980, and San Diego, CA in 1985).
1977: the U.S. National Men’s team began a year-round training regime in Dayton, Ohio (moved to San Diego, CA in 1981).
1983: the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) was formed.
1984: the U.S. won their first medals at the Olympics in Los Angeles. The Men won the Gold, and the Women the Silver.
1986: the Women’s Professional Volleyball Association (WPVA) was formed.
1988: the U.S. Men repeated the Gold in the Olympics in Korea.
1989: the FIVB Sports Aid Program was created.
1990: the World League was created.
1995: the sport of Volleyball was 100 years old! This Web site – Volleyball.Com goes live!
1996: 2-person beach volleyball debuted as an Olympic Sport.
1997: Dain Blanton (with Canyon Ceman) becomes the first African-American professional beach volleyball player to win a tournament on the Miller Lite/AVP Tour.
1998: For the first time in the FIVB World Tour, men and women players are rewarded at the same level with $170,000 in total prize money per Open event.
1999: For the first time beach volleyball was included in the Pan American Games which were held in Canada.
2000: Olympic Beach Volleyball Men’s Gold medallists: Eric Fomoimoana & Dain Blanton (USA). The women’s Beach Volleyball America (BVA) announces their inaugural season of play.
2001: Christopher “Sinjin” Smith plays the final match of his impressive career, a 21-19 and 24-22 loss with George Roumain to Dax Holdren and Todd Rogers in the 4th round of the contender’s bracket at the AVP Manhattan Beach Open. Sinjin retires as the leader in tournaments played with 416, 2nd in all-time victories with 139, and 4th in all-time winnings with over US$1.6 million earned.
2002: Beach volleyball court dimensions reduced to 8m x 8m per side.
2003: Karch Kiraly becomes the first player to earn US$3M in prize money and oldest player to win an AVP tournament at age 42 years, 9 months and 14 days. (You’re never too old for volleyball!)
2004: Kerri Walsh and Misty May Win the Women’s Olympic Beach Volleyball Title
2005: Olympic gold medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor win their second Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) Open women’s title and the 2005 overall women’s championship.
2006: Elaine Youngs’ second place finish (with Rachel Wacholder) in Seaside Heights pushes her career earnings past $1 million. She becomes the third American woman to achieve that mark.
2006: In Seaside Heights, both Casey Jennings (with Matt Fuerbringer) and Kerri Walsh (with Misty May-Treanor) won titles, becoming just the second husband-wife duo to win pro beach events on the same weekend. They join Mike and Patty Dodd, who accomplished the feat four times in 1989, but each time in different locations.
Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor win in Chicago as Walsh joins the millionaire club. She is the 18th person worldwide to win over $1 million in her career, and did so in fewer events (90th tournament) as well as being one of just four to reach the mark before turning 28 years old.
2007: Misty May-Treanor passes Brazilians Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede as the winningest player since the women’s competition on the international beach volleyball circuit began in 1992.
Misty May-Treanor becomes the women’s all-time wins leader by capturing her 73rd victory, surpassing Holly McPeak’s record by winning with Kerri Walsh in Hermosa Beach. She reached this total in just 123 tournaments — winning 57.5% of her events.
In a championship match that lasted 1:41, Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs defeat Jennifer Boss and April Ross 21-19, 18-21, 16-14 in Seaside Heights. The marathon set the record for the longest match in rally scoring, men or women, in domestic or international play.
Karch Kiraly retires to close an impressive career on the beach, leaving as the all-time wins leader and money earner. His longevity was marked by the fact he won a tournament in 24 different years, and he advanced to the semifinals in over 75% of all the events he ever played and was named as the AVP’s MVP a record-most six times.
2008: Hot Winter Nights, a series of 19 events in January and February, kicks off in Oklahoma City, Oklahmarking the first ever indoor beach volleyball tour. Mark Williams and Nancy Mason are the first winners in the “King of the Beach format” events.

Governing Bodies

The International Federation of Volleyball, commonly known by the acronym FIVB, is the international governing body for the sport of indoor, beach and grass volleyball.Its headquarters are located in Lausanne, Switzerland and its current president is Ary Graca.

The Founding of FIVB

A decisive moment in the history of volleyball’s first 100 years was certainly that of the founding of the FIVB (Federation Internationale de Volleyball) when in April 1947 representatives of 14 countries (Belgium, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, France, Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Uruguay, USA and Yugoslavia) met in Paris under the leadership of France’s Paul Libaud to found the FIVB. Mr. Libaud, President of the French Federation, was elected first President of the FIVB. The headquarters were established in Paris, where they remained for the first 37 years until 1984 when Mexico’s Dr. Rubén Acosta took over the Presidency from Libaud.

FIVB Activities

The FIVB’s main activity is worldwide planning and organisation of volleyball events, sometimes in conjunction with other international governing bodies such as the IOC. This involves defining qualification procedures and competition formulae for tournaments, as well as more specific details such as player line-up and replacement restrictions, venues and hosts.

Amongst others, the FIVB organises the following international volleyball tournaments:

  • Olympic Games
  • World Championship
  • World Cup
  • World Grand Champions Cup
  • World League (Men)
  • World Grand Prix (Women)
  • Club World Championship

And the following international under-age volleyball tournaments:

  • Men’s U23 World Championship
  • Women’s U23 World Championship
  • Men’s U21 World Championship (Junior)
  • Women’s U20 World Championship (Junior)
  • Boys’ U19 World Championship (Youth)
  • Girls’ U18 World Championship (Youth)

And the following international beach volleyball tournaments:

  • Olympic Games
  • World Championships
  • World Tour

The FIVB also participates directly in the organization of continental volleyball events which have an attached international significance, such as Olympic and World Championship continental qualification tournaments.

FIVB Today and Tomorrow

The FIVB consists of 220 affiliated federations and governs,manages and promotes all forms of volleyball and beach volleyball worldwide through tournaments such as the World Championships, World League, World Grand Prix, World Cup, Grand Champions Cup, Club World Championships, FIVB Swatch World Tour, FIVB Swatch World Championships, Beach Volleyball Continental Cup and Beach Volleyball World Cup, Junior and Youth tournaments and, of course, the Olympics.

Game Rules

The objective in volleyball is to keep the ball from striking the floor on your side of the net and return it so that it strikes the floor on your opponent’s side, before they can return it.


  • The ball is put into play by the right back position (1) from behind the rear boundary line using either an underhand or overhand serve.
  • The serve must go over the net within the court boundaries on the other side. A serve that hits the net and still goes over to the other side is a good serve and referred to as a “let serve”.
  • The ball can only be played with 3 touches, per team, per play, and then must be sent over the net. The ball can go over the net with less then 3 touches without penalty.
  • The ball may not be hit 2 times in a row by any one player.
  • Only front row players are allowed to contact the ball above the net with intention to attack. However, a back row player may attack theball upon the net if they are behind the 10 ft. line.
  • If the serving team loses the serve (ball lands on their own side or ball is hit out of bounds), the other team obtains service and a point. This is called a side out/point.
  • A ball that lands on the boundary line is considered “in”.
  • For every side out made, the team that is awarded the serve must rotate in a clockwise manner.
  • If the ball hits the ceiling and goes over the net, it is a dead ball. If the ball hits the ceiling and falls back onto the original side, it is playable if there are still hits available.
  • In rally scoring, a point is awarded at the end of every play no matter who is serving.
  • Each game is played to 25 points and the winning team must win by at least 2 points.
  • The match is a best of 5 contest.

Court and equipment

  • The court is 60 ft. long and 30 ft. wide
  • The boundary lines are 2 inches wide.
  • A 4 inch line divides the court at 30 ft.
  • A men’s net is 8 ft. high
  • A women’s net is 7 ft. 4 1/8 inches.

Court Positions

  • Right back
  • Center back
  • Left back
  • Left front
  • Center front
  • Right front

Volleyball Terminology

  • Block: Defensive play by the player(s) in the front row who place their hands and arms above the net so that a spiked ball rebounds into the opponents court.
  • Pass: The forearm pass made on balls below the waist.
  • Game Point: The last point in any game.
  • Set: The overhead pass using the fingertips of an open hand
  • Rotation: The shifting of players, clockwise, just before a new person serves.
  • Attack: An approach to the net, a vertical jump, and a forceful hit of the ball down onto the opponent’s court.
  • Touch: When a player attempts to block the ball unsuccessfully and it continues onto their own side of the court. This does not count as one of the 3 hits allowed per side.
  • Tip: Attempting to “trick” the defense by dumping the ball right over the net.
  • Defensive specialist (DS): A player who only plays in the back row.
  • Libero: A DS that wears a different color jersey from the rest of the team that can enter the back row ONLY for any player throughout the game. This does not count against the teams substitution count.
  • Substitution: At a dead ball opportunity, the coach signals the referee that he/she would like to make a player change. In volleyball, once a player subs in for another player, they cannot return in the game for a different player. A total of 18 substitutions are allowed pergame.


The Ball

The standard volleyball is made of leather or synthetic leather, weighs between 9 and 10 ounces and has a circumference of 25.6 to 26.4 inches. The ball has a rubber bladder and can be one color or a combination of colors. Synthetic leather is lighter and is fine for beginner players. Junior volleyballs for children 12 years old and younger weigh between 7 and 8 ounces.

The Net and Court

The outdoor volleyball court measures 18 x 9 m, surrounded by a free zone that is 2 meters wide on all sides. The minimum playing space for U.S. volleyball competitions is 7 meters. The volleyball net is 32 feet long by 3 feet wide. For women, the net should be 7 feet, 4 1/8 inches high. For men, the net should be 7 feet, 11 5/8 inches high. U.S. regulation volleyball playing surfaces must be flat and not present any hazards to the players.


The playing court is marked by two sidelines and two end lines. All lines must be 2 inches wide and must be created with a light color that is easy to discern from the playing court. An attack line should be placed three meters from the center line. The center line divides the court into two 9 x 9 meter courts.

Posts and Cables

The volleyball net structure is held together with metal cables and posts. Posts are placed 0.5 to 1.0 meter outside the sidelines and 2.55 meters high. Posts should be round, smooth and padded, to prevent injury to the players should they dive or crash into them. Metal wires and cables may need to be covered if it is determined that they present a danger to the players.

Antenna and Side Bands

Antenna are flexible rods that are 1.8 meters long made of fiberglass, fastened at the outer edge of each side band. Side bands are two white bands attached vertically to the net and placed above each sideline.

Knee pads

Knee pads should be sturdy enough to protect your knees from falls, slides and dives, but flexible enough to allow you to bend comfortably. Your volleyball knee pads must be made of fabric that breathes and manages moisture. Good quality pads have a gel or foam shock-absorbing material that will cover and protect your patella. It is best to purchase your pads from a reliable sporting goods store that will allow you to try them on. If you have difficulty finding the right fit, have the store professional measure you and order custom-fit pads. Popular volleyball knee pad brands include Asics, Mizuno, adidas, Nike and Mikasa.


Arch and ankle support is key when choosing a volleyball shoe. Mizuno, Asics and Nike are just a few of the popular brands of volleyball shoes, which are lightweight, allowing you to be faster on your feet, as well as bearing good shock absorption on your toes. Volleyball shoes also provide for better lateral movement than typical running or cross-training shoes.

Clothing and Jewelry

All clothing should be lightweight to allow maximum flexibility and breath-ability, as well as made of a material that absorbs sweat and keeps skin dry. Spandex shorts are a good option, as they are flexible, light and absorb odor. Socks, while not required, absorb sweat and prevent blisters. Jewelry is not permitted in volleyball, with the exception of smooth wedding bands. Glasses must be worn with a strap to keep them secure.