Basic Volleyball Rules for Serving A Volleyball

Learn how to serve a volleyball by the rules 

According to basic volleyball rules each rally begins with the

serve. This makes the volleyball serve the first opportunity for a 

player to score a point. 

Technically, if you cant serve the ball, you can't play the game, since

throwing the ball over the net isn't allowed. This is why is the serve is often

the first offensive skill a player usually learns.

Each official match must begin with a serve from one team

which is sent into the opposing team's court with the intent on

starting the rally and possibly scoring a point. 

Before I get too technical  let's review, exactly what a serve really is. 

Basic Volleyball Rules: What is a serve?

Serving the ball is the skill used to start a rally which puts the ball in

play once the referee blows the whistle.

Also known as "the service" according to basic volleyball rules its

the action by a player who is in the right back position in their team's


During the course of the game this player tosses the ball to herself

with one hand and contacts the ball with the other hand to send

it across the net into the court of the team that's in serve receive. 

Who's the server?

If you are the server, then at the beginning of the rally, just

after the referee blows the whistle, you are the player standing 

behind the end line in the service zone, and within 8 seconds 

after the ref has blown the whistle, serves the ball over the net.

Basic Volleyball Rules:
How does a player serve a volleyball?

By any means necessary. Ha! Just kidding. 

Right handed players will place the volleyball in their left hand so they

can toss it in the air, then step towards it, as they then contact the

ball with an overhand or underhand arm or jump serve swing action.

They contact the ball with their dominant hand or any part of their arm

with the intent of creating enough force with which to send the ball 

over the net and land in the opposing team's court. 

Left handers will do the opposite. 

Want to learn how to serve a volleyball like a pro or just how to improve

your serve? 

Check these pages out for more serving instructions and info. 

The Toss.

No matter your serving style, the toss is a fundamental part of

the serve in volleyball. You can't serve a ball without tossing it up in

some way shape or form. 

With that being the case, only one toss is allowed.

Once a player tosses the ball up for their serve, if they catch the

ball without completing their service action, that is a fault and the referee

will blow their whistle and award the opposing team the ball.  

The serve doesn't always go as planned.

Check out this compilation of funny volleyball serve moments during top women's matches.

See you aren't the only one who serves the ball in the back of your teammates head. 

If a server realizes they've given themselves a bad toss, according to

basic volleyball rules they can let the tossed ball drop.

Once the ball drops, they can catch the ball.

After its been dropped, the referee will blow their whistle

indicating that the complete service action will begin again and will

give the server a second opportunity to serve within 5 seconds time . 

Not only does the server need to let the ball drop in order to reset their

five seconds to serve again, but the ball needs to drop to the floor

without touching any of the server's body parts on the way


Many times a server will toss a ball up to serve it and then can't get out

of the way fast enough before the tossed ball hits them on the way down

If this happens, then the referee will blow their whistle and award the ball

to the opposing team. 

Basic Volleyball Rules:
Can A Player Serve From Anywhere?

The service action has to take place within the service zone of

each team's court. 

The service zone is parallel to the endlines and centerlines of the court

and is located behind the end line on each team's court.

The endline is also referred to as the "service line" when the 

team on defense is serving. The service line is the line a player 

cannot touch or step over while in the act of serving the ball 

over the net.  

(See the area in red in the diagram.)

If the player touches the line while serving this is considered a

fault, and the referee will blow their whistle and then award the

opposing team the ball if such an action occurs. 

The server can serve the ball from anywhere behind the service line

within that 29 foot 6 inch area marked as the service zone. 

When Can A Player Serve The Ball?

Once a player is ready to serve, they are standing in their team's

service zone and  they must wait for the referee to blow the 

whistle before beginning any service playing action. 

The server has 8 seconds from when the referee blows the whistle to

complete their service action, whether they choose to use an under

hand serve, overhand serve or jump serve , and to get the ball over the

net and into the opposing court to start the rally. 

They must start their pre-serve routine and contact the ball 

behind their service line  within that red zone and cannot enter 

the court until after they've contacted the ball.

Basic volleyball rules: Young players learning how to serve at camp.Basic volleyball rules: Young players learning how to serve at camp.

Basic Volleyball Rules For Serving Explained

What team gets to serve first? And how are they chosen?

  • If a server does not hear the whistle and serves the ball they will have to re-serve the ball. The service cannot start a rally without the referee first blowing their whistle to indicate the service can begin.

WATCH! Jorge Filho's video

"Top 13 Best Powerful Serves in Women's Volleyball"

Volleyball Rules: Where Do You Go From Here?

Where do you need to go now?

Here are three options: 

  1. Learn more about Volleyball History
  2. Follow the suggested reading on our Sitemap page                    Learning How To Play (Sitemap)
  3. Or visit the pages in the American Women in the Olympics History section in the drop down menu at the top of the page

  1. Improve Your Volleyball
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  3. Rules of Volleyball
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  5. Basic Rules For Serving

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