Volleyball Positions and the Number of Players

In the late 19th century, the two popular American team sports of basketball and volleyball were both invented at Springfield College in Massachusetts. Volleyball was initially designed to be a less-strenuous sport for older people, although volleyball has evolved into a hard-hitting, competitive men's and women's sport in the NCAA, the Summer Olympics and a number of other international competitions.

Three friends are holding a volleyball. (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Number of Players

A volleyball team has six players. Competitive volleyball is traditionally divided into men's teams and women's teams, though recreational play can be coed. Two teams stand on opposite sides of a net in a volleyball court. Although the rules are extensive, the basic idea is a back-and-forth of the ball over the net, trying to keep it off the ground. Basic play consists of one team beginning a rally by serving the ball, which means tossing it in the air and hitting it with the palm or arm over the net. Then players hit the ball back and forth over the net, trying to score a point by grounding the ball on the opponent's court. Each team has three touches on its side during a rally.

Volleyball Rotational Positions

The six players stand in two rows facing the net in what are known as their rotational positions. The three players in the front row form the attack zone, and the three players in the back row form the defense zone. The back player on the left is called the server. She begins the rally to score a point. Players rotate clockwise on the court after the team wins a rally on the opponent's serve.

Volleyball Playing Positions

After a serve, players are allowed to move from their rotational positions into their playing positions. These positions are also called zones. Covering the two sides of the court are the outside hitter and the right-side hitter, also known as the wing spikers. In between the wing spikers is the center or middle blocker. Other positions include the opposite hitter, the setter and the libero. The libero often plays left back position and is allowed to play backcourt only.

Other Types of Volleyball

The increasingly popular form of outdoor volleyball played on a sand court known as beach volleyball has different rules and is typically played by two players. Since its invention, volleyball has been adapted around the world. There are variations in court size, rules and number of players. For instance, a version of volleyball in Asia has nine-man teams. Usually, however, volleyball is played with even-number teams. Typically, recreational volleyball can be played with two, four or six players.

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