Basic Rules & Regulations for Playing Volleyball

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In volleyball, players work together to return the ball over the net in three hits or fewer, without letting the ball touch the ground. The USA Volleyball and International Federation of Volleyball rule books provide the standard rules for competitive men’s and women’s volleyball in the United States.

Court

The standard competitive volleyball court measures 59 feet long by 29.6 feet wide. The center line runs under the net, dividing the court into two equal sides. An attack line runs 9 feet, 10 inches behind the net on each side of the court. The attack line divides the front and back zones. The net measures 8 feet, 11 5/8 inches tall for standard men’s competition and 7 feet, 4 1/8 inches tall for standard women’s competition, according to the USA Volleyball and International Federation of Volleyball rule books.

Players

Both teams must have six players on the court to begin play. Players follow the proper rotational order through each set. Players rotate between six positions on the court, including three back-row positions behind the attack line and three front-row positions in front of the attack line. Each time a team gains the right to serve, its players must rotate one position clockwise. Once the server contacts the ball, players can move out of their rotational positions to play the point. Players in a back-row position must not attack the ball above the net and in front of the attack line, however.

Serve

Team captains complete a coin toss before the game to determine the team that will serve first. The player in the back right position in the rotation serves the ball. To serve, players must stand behind the court’s end line and hit the ball out of the air. If the serve hits the net or lands out of bounds, the server’s team loses the point. The same player continues to serve until his team loses a point. When a team loses a point on its serve, the other team gains the right to serve.

Play

Teams must return the ball over the net in three hits or fewer. Blocks do not count toward the team’s hit total. If one player hits the ball twice in succession or contacts the ball illegally by palming, catching or throwing it, her team loses the point. If a back-row player attacks the ball illegally, his team loses the point. If any player touches the net or net posts, her team loses the point. Teams win points when the opposing team commits a violation, fails to return the ball over the net, lets the ball touch the ground inbounds or hits the ball into the net or out of bounds.

Scoring

Teams can win points on their own serve and on their opponent’s serve, according to the USA Volleyball and International Federation of Volleyball rule books. The first team to win 25 points with a two-point lead wins the set. The first team to win three sets wins the match. If the match goes to a fifth set, the first team to win 15 points with a two-point lead wins the set and the match.

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