Volleyball is a sport played by two teams on a playing court divided by a net. There are different versions available for specific circumstances in order to offer the versatility of the game to everyone. The object of the game is to send the ball over the net in order to ground it on the opponent's court, and to prevent the same effort by the opponent. The team has three hits for returning the ball (in addition to the block contact). The ball is put in play with a service, hit by the server over the net to the opponents. The rally continues until the ball is grounded on the playing court, goes "out" or a team fails to return it properly. In Volleyball, the team winning a rally scores a point (Rally Point System). When the receiving team wins a rally, it gains a point and the right to serve, and its players rotate one position clockwise.
Volleyball is a complex game of simple skills. The ball is spiked from up to 60 cm above the height of a basketball hoop (about 3.65 metres) and takes fractions of a second to travel from the spiker to the receiver. That means the receiver must assess incoming angle, decide where to pass the ball and then control their pass in the blink of an eye. A purely rebound sport (you can't hold the ball), volleyball is a game of constant motion.
A team can touch the ball three times on its side of the net. The usual pattern is a dig (an underarm pass made with the forearms), a set (an overhead pass made with the hands) and a spike (the overhead attacking shot). The ball is served into play. Teams can also try to block the opponent's spike as it crosses the net. A block into your own court counts as one of your three touches in beach volleyball, but not in volleyball.
Power and height have become vital components of international teams, but the ability of teams and coaches to devise new strategies, tactics and skills has been crucial for continued success.
- There are six players on court in a volleyball team, who each must rotate one position clockwise every time their team wins back service from the opposition. Only the three players at the net positions can jump and spike or block near the net. The backcourt players can only hit the ball over the net if they jump from behind the attack line, also known as the three-metre line, which separates the front and back part of the court.
- Volleyball has developed into a very specialised sport. Most teams will include in their starting line-up a setter, two centre blockers, two receiver-hitters and a universal spiker. Only certain players will be involved with service reception. Players will also have specialist positions for attack and defence. Substitutions are allowed during the game.
- Since 1998, volleyball bas been using a new scoring system. Teams scored a point on every rally (Rally Point System), regardless of which team served. Formerly, a team could only win a point if it served the ball. Winning the serve back from the opposition was known as a side-out.
- Matches are played best of five sets. The first four sets are played to 25 points, with the final set being played to 15 points. A team must win a set by two points. There is no ceiling, so a set continues until one of the teams gains a two-point advantage. Previously, all sets were to 15 points, with the first four sets having a ceiling of 17 and the final set requiring at least a two-point winning advantage.
- In 1998, the FIVB introduced a new specialist role: the libero. This player wears a different coloured uniform from the rest of the team and can be substituted in backcourt for any player on the team. The libero cannot serve, spike the ball over the net or rotate into the front-line positions, but plays a vital role for the team in serve reception and backcourt defence. There must be at least one point played between a libero substituting off for a player and going back on the court for another player – hence he/she cannot be on the court for the whole game. The libero has added an extra dimension to backcourt defence, improving the reception of teams, lengthening the rallies and giving a vital role to shorter players.