Official volleyball matches do not have time limits regulating the length of the game. In regular tournament play, teams win a volleyball match by winning two out of three sets. Game length varies because some point rallies may take longer. Governing volleyball associations, such as the Federation Internationale de Volleyball and USA Volleyball, have established volleyball time rules. Coaches and players must understand these rules to avoid game penalties.
The rules provide time for teams to warm up before a match. According to FIVB regulations, if teams have already had a court available to use, they may warm up for six minutes on the game court. Otherwise, teams are entitled to a 10-minute warm-up session. Team captains may request separate warm-ups lasting either three or five minutes. USAV rules state warm-up sessions should last 5 to 10 minutes. Teams may opt to divide warm-up time equally and use the whole court, or teams may share the entire warm-up time by spitting the court through the middle, perpendicular with the net.
The referee blows a whistle calling for the serve after he has determined both teams are in the correct positions and the server has possession of the ball. After the whistle is blown, the server has eight seconds to serve the ball. USAV regulations include the rule that age 14-and-under teams must serve within five seconds of the whistle. In this age group, if the player commits a service tossing error, the referee must reauthorize the serve one more time with another whistle, and the time starts all over.
Each team may request up to two 30-second time-outs during the volleyball match. In FIVB World and FIVB Official Competitions, officials automatically grant "technical time-outs" lasting 60 seconds once the leading team reaches eight and 16 points during sets one through four. In the deciding, fifth set, teams receive only two 30-second timeouts.
The time between each game is called an interval. All game intervals must be three minutes, giving teams time to change sides and notify officials of player line-ups. Both FIVB and USAV rules allow the game organizer to request an extended interval up to 10 minutes between the second and third set.
Players or coaches may create game delays through improper actions, such as substitution delays, prolonged game interruptions and repeating improper requests. The first delay offense results in delay warning. Any additional delays result in a delay penalty. Delay penalties give one point and the serve to the opposing team.
In the case of a serious accident to a player, the referee stops the match immediately and allows the player to receive medical assistance. If the player is unable to continue, her team may make a substitution. If the team has used all of the allowed number of substitutions for the match, the coach may make an "exceptional substitution" if another player is available. If the coach cannot make a legal or exceptional substitution, officials may grant the player a three-minute recovery time.
Prolonged Game Interruptions
If unexpected circumstances--such as weather, equipment failure or unsafe conditions--interrupt the game, the game organizer must attempt to recreate normal conditions. If the interruptions do not exceed four hours, the match continues with the same score, players and positions as long as the game continues on the same court. If teams must play on a different court, teams must replay the interrupted set using the same starting line-up. If game interruptions exceed four hours, teams must replay the entire match.