08 April 2020

Getting started – volleyball

July 4, 2010

Volleyball is a great summer sport that can be played on the beach or in the park. It’s low cost, sociable and gives you a great upper body workout. Here’s Sportsister’s guide to get you started.

What’s it all about?

Volleyball, a team game for six players, is an athletic sport which requires short sharp bursts of high intensity movement and quick reactions. It builds jumping ability and hand-eye coordination. It also provides a good upper body workout and is particularly demanding on the shoulders.

The Rules

Games of women’s volleyball are played in three sets. A set is won by the first team to reach 25 points (15pts in the 3rd set) including a two point lead over their opponents. Points are won irrespective of whether a team is serving or receiving. If a team wins a rally while defending, they win the right to serve.

Each team is allowed three touches of the ball before it is passed over the net, although one player may not touch it twice without another team member touching it in between.

Each team member starts each point in a fixed position but may switch into their preferred positions once the serve has been played.  Players also rotate positions each time they win a new round of service.

Ways to pass the ball

Serve – Each point starts with a serve from behind the back line. Over arm serves are preferable but underarm serves are also permitted.

Dig (or pass) – This is the preferable move for returning the serve and is also used through the game to prevent the ball touching the court. It often involves having to dive onto your knees so knee pads are crucial! Good technique for a dig is knees bent, bottom out, like you’re sitting on a chair. Arms should be locked with one hand in a fist and the other wrapped around it. The ball should strike the middle of your forearms simultaneously.

Set – Each team usually has one or two ‘setters’ who switch into setting position after service. The setter gets the second pass at the net and is responsible for setting a high ball to one of the hitters. Good technique for a set is hands about five inches above your head, with thumbs and forefinger making a diamond shape but not touching.

Spike (or hit) – A middle hitter and outside hitter play at the front of the court and receive the third pass (from the setter). The hitters aim to hit the ball either into an undefended area of the court, or so hard that it is very difficult to return.

Block – During defence, front court players may block the ball at the net to try and deflect a spike back into the opponent’s court. If the block isn’t successful, a partial block takes the speed off the ball so the defending team can deal with it more easily.

Where to play


Many beaches and parks have outdoor nets that are free to use so get together with some friends and play for fun. Whether there are four of you or 16 you can still get a good game together and it will help you get a feel for the sport in a relaxed setting.

Find a club near you at www.volleyballengland.org/Volleyball_Search.php.

Volleyball is quite a technical sport so a few coaching sessions in a club environment can make all the difference to developing your game and ensuring you become proficient at the basic moves.

What gear do I need?


Volleyball is a simple game to take up, if you join a club, all you’ll need is knee pads. For playing on a hard surface, use knee pads to protect yourself from injury when you dive for the ball.

If you’re planning on playing with friends you’ll also need a ball. A volleyball weighs between 9 and 10 ounces. But there is also a beginner’s ball which is softer and lighter, weighing 7 to 8 ounces. You will also need a net.

A standard volleyball net is 9.5m x 0.91m.  For women it should be set at a height of 2.24m.

You can wear your usual sports gear and trainers, which means this is a cheap sport to have a go at as you don’t need any expensive new kit.


Beach Volleyball


Beach volleyball has similar rules to indoor volleyball, with a few differences.  As there are only two players on a beach volleyball team, they play on a slightly smaller court. They also use a heavier ball so it’s less affected by wind. Beach players have no fixed position and can attack from anywhere on their side of the court.

Matches are the best of three sets, with the first two being the first to 21 points and the third being the first to 15 – although teams have to win by a two-point margin.

Fact File


Volleyball ranks just behind football as the world’s most popular participation sport.

It was invented in Massachusetts in 1895 by William G. Morgan as a less taxing alternative to basketball for older men.

Originally, there was no limit to the number of players on a team or the number of contacts per side and the game was primarily played from the ground.

Kristoph Thompson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine


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