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Fan's Guide to Volleyball Page 2 of 5 (The Essentials)

volleyball player1- History & Object
2- The Essentials (Offense & Defense, Scoring, Etc.)
3- Court Diagram and Positions
4- Fouls
5- Glossary of Volleyball Terms

The Essentials

Game length

A volleyball match typically lasts between 60 and 90 minutes (about 20 minutes per game). The clock is not a factor; play continues until one team has won three games.

Start of the game

The match begins with a serve by the player in the back of the court.

Offense & Defense

Members of the team receiving the serve have three hits to send the ball back over the net, usually in a sequence of bump, set, spike, without the ball hitting the ground on their side or the same player hitting the ball twice in a row. Upon receiving the serve, the first player to touch the ball uses a controlled hit, called a bump, to hit the ball in the air to a setter. The setter receives the bumped pass and uses a lofting pass, called a set, to pass the ball to an attacker. When the attacker receives the set, he will use a hard hit, called a spike, to slam the ball to the opponent’s side of the court.

The opponent attempts to block the spike. If the block is missed, the opponent attempts to gain control by performing a bump. If the player gains control of the ball in his initial bump, the cycle of bump, set, spike repeats on each side until one team scores a point. The team that serves continues to serve until it loses a point, in which case, the serve alternates to the opponent.

Types of hits

In general, hits can be classified in any one of three categories: pass, block, or attack. A pass is any hit to a teammate and includes the bump (forearm pass), overhead pass, set, and dig. A block is an attempt at the net to stop the opponent from hitting the ball over the net. An attack is any hit into the opponent’s court and includes a spike, tip, dump, bump, and overhead pass.


A point is scored when ball hits the ground inside the opponent’s court, or when the opposing team cannot return the ball over the net in three hits, hits the ball out of bounds, or commits a fault. In 1999, the official scoring rules of volleyball changed from sideout scoring to rally scoring. In rally scoring, either team can score a point off a serve. Each game is played to 25 points and a team must win by 2 points. The first team to win three games wins the match. If each team has won 2 games, a fifth and final game is played to 15 points, and a team must lead by two points to win.


Volleyball equipment consists of a ball, a net, and a court. Players wear a team uniform, which includes a jersey with a number, shorts (spandex for women), and shoes. Most players also opt to wear knee pads.

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