Indoor Volleyball Court
Zones, Positions and Player Responsibilities

Court Zones, Player Roles and Positions on an Indoor Court

Indoor volleyball courtIndoor volleyball court

A thorough explanation of the indoor volleyball court zones and what player responsibilities are in each of them.


Let's get started. 


There are six zones on an indoor volleyball court.


With all the lines on a court you would think that these six zones would

be outlined and visible to the naked eye, but they aren't.


They are invisible and they form the key elements of each 

rotation, which is a part of the game you should familiarize yourself

before you start to seriously learn how to play volleyball. 


As I was saying, there are six zones on a court, three zones are in the

back court also referred to as the back row and three zones are in the

front court which is more commonly called the front row.



Let's start in the back row and talk about the most popular zone which

is zone 1 where the ball is traditionally served from.


Remember! There are no lines or markings for an indoor volleyball court

zone.

These are areas invisibly divided into six sections on the court that you

just have to know about as a player.


The more you play, the more you will become familiar with what

happens in each area on the court. 



Indoor Volleyball Court: Zone 1 - Right Back



The serving area is the first one and is traditionally known as zone 1.

Zone 1 is located in the right back area of the court.


You'll hear people say the "RB" or " go right back" which is commonly

used as the volleyball terminology for the Zone 1 area. 


After the referee blows the whistle, this is the area where the player

who has rotated into zone 1, will step outside of the endline before

putting the ball in play with a serve that sends it into the opposing

team's court which starts the rally between the two teams.



In recent years, the serving zone which was limited to outside

of the court behind the endline in zone 1, was increased to include the

area outside of the court behind the entire endline from one sideline to

the other


So in the picture of the VCU volleyball player above, even though she 

chose to serve the ball from the "traditional" right back service area

which is located just behind zone 1, outside of the endline, she was free

to move further to her left to attempt the same serve anywhere from

behind that white endline as long as she didn't step on it or over it

before contacting the ball.  



This means that when serving the ball, players must still remain outside

of the court before contacting the ball, but they can now step further

to their left and go anywhere along their endline, as long as they stay

within the volleyball court sidelines.


Players are now allowed to move behind zone 6 which is middle back or

even further left to behind zone 5 which is the left back area of the

court (like the Penn State volleyball player in the picture above), to

serve the ball, as long as they don't step on or over the line

before they contact the ball.



The serving area extends a minimum of six feet back, behind the endline

so for those that take measurements of volleyball courts in meters,

that's two meters behind the endline.



If you're one of those people who like to take volleyball court

measurements in feet, then I repeat, that's six feet of space allotted to

those who need runway takeoff space for their jump serve or jump float

serve.



After the first referee blows their whistle, the server has eight (8)

seconds to serve the ball into the opposing court which they

have to initiate from behind the service line, inside the the service

zone, which is indicated in red in the diagram above.



Indoor Volleyball Court: Zone 6 - Middle Back



Indoor Volleyball Court Terminology for Zone 6 - "Middle Back"

Players rotate clockwise on the court.


With the exception of the first serve of the game, a team must rotate

one position after they've been granted the right to serve the ball.


Think about it, if a team never rotated then for the entire game or

match, the first player to serve the ball would serve the ball over and

over again for the entire competition.



So, if you are the player in zone 1 at the very start of the game, and

you're on the team that won the right to serve first, then you would be

your team's first server.


Now, if you are on the other side of the net, in zone 1 but your team is

passing the ball because they are receiving the serve, then after your

team wins their first point, they also win the right to serve the ball for

the first time.


Since you're the player that started the game in zone 1 and you're on

the team that's receiving the serve, you wouldn't be the first server,

you would rotate to zone 6 and your team's first server is the player

behind you that is rotating from zone 2, the right front position to zone

1 the right back position, that is your team's first server.



The other four players would also rotate--one position-sliding clockwise

from one volleyball zone to the next.


The "MB" or "middle back" is one of the commonly used court

terms that describes the part of the court called Zone 6.


So now you started in zone 1 but you slide over to be in zone 6.


Indoor Volleyball Court: Zone 5 - Left Back


Indoor Volleyball Court: Zone 5 - "Left Back"


The player who started in zone 6 will slide over to be in the left back

area on the court which is zone 5.


The "LB" or "left back" is  commonly used terminology that

means Zone 5 on an indoor court.


Once your new server has served the ball, this player in zone 5 will do

one of the following three things now that her team is on defense and

is about to serve the ball.


a) This player will stay in zone 5 to play defense and pick up any

balls that are hit and tipped to this left back area of the court.


This is the more common option for less advanced and beginner

volleyball teams that aren't running any strategic defensive plays.



b) If this player is the setter or opposite hitter then they will switch

places with the right back player who just served so that they can play

defense or defend the right back area or zone 1 of their side of the

court.


This is a common occurrence in defense among advanced teams,

when a right side player like the setter or the opposite hitter has rotated

into one of the left side zones in the front row or the back row.



They will switch with the left side player to play defense in the

position they are trained to specialize in, located on the right side of

the court.


c) If this player is an agile player in defense or a libero they may be

asked by the coach to switch places with the player in the middle back

position, zone 6, so they can defend the middle back area of the indoor

volleyball court.



There's much more area of zone 6 to cover so a coach will often

have their best, most agile defensive player, play defense in the middle

back position since they are better at picking up more balls in the back

court area.



Click here to read more about the libero volleyball position.



In the photo below, after the referee blows the whistle the Xavier

volleyball player #9 in the right front zone in this rotation, will switch to

play in the left front area in the front row since she's a left side hitter. 


Once she makes the switch, she will block on the left side and in

transition when her team gets the ball she will hit on the left side

because...she's a left side player and that's what she spends hours in

practice training to become the best left side player she can be.


Her teammate who's number we can't see but is behind her in the front

row, will switch to play in zone 2, the right front zone, while #6 the

middle blocker will stay to play in zone 3, the middle front area of the

court which is the area of the court or the position she is trained to

specialize in.



Right side players specialize in and are trained to play on the right sides

of the volleyball court, both on offense and on defense.


If their team is serving, then the right side players which are the setters

and the opposite hitters, will switch with the left side players or middle

blockers in order to play in their specialized position, which is located in

a right side zone on the court, during a rally.



Remember the right side zones of the court are zone 1 in the back row

and zone 2 in the front row.


Those zones don't move, or change they stay the same, only players

move in and out of these zones, after their team wins the right to serve.


In other words, what moves are the different players that rotate into and

out of those zones so that they can play in their specialized positions

during each rally.



In the photo above, the Illinois State Redbirds that are on defense in

the front court are also positioned to switch with each other in order to

play in their specialized positions once the referee blows the whistle.


When the rally ends they switch back to the zone they were in before

the referee blew the whistle that started the rally.



These three zones, Zone 1, Zone 6 and Zone 5 make up the back court

also called the back zone, in volleyball terminology and this is where the

three back row players play defense and serve receive.


Remember once a player rotates to the back row, if they need to switch

with another player on defense, they can only do it with another player

in the back row.


The same goes for players in the front row.


Its against the rules for a back court player to rotate or switch with a

front row player and vice versa.



Indoor Volleyball Court
The Back Zone or Back Court Area of the Volleyball Court



Another thing that occurs in the back court happens when a setter

sets one of their back row players as a part of their volleyball offense

attack strategy.


Have you ever been on a team that has one strong hitter?


And when that hitter rotates to the back court, the setter seems to run

out of options as to who she can set the ball to since the players in the

front row aren't strong enough hitters?



In this case, the setter can set the strong hitter that has rotated to

the back court. That strong hitter can attack the ball from the back

court as long as they stay behind the ten foot line when they contact

the ball.



If they start their spike approach steps from behind the ten foot line, then

hit the ball while they are in the air above the ten foot line and then land

in front of it, that is still a legal hit.



Indoor Volleyball Court: Zone 4 - Left Front



Zone 4 is the first front court zone a player will rotate into once, they

have rotated up to the front row.


The "LF" or "left front" is common volleyball terminology which refers to

the Zone 4 area of the court.


Zone 4 is where left side hitters and blockers train to excel in playing

when they are in the front row.


When on defense, regardless of the rotation they find themselves in, left

side players will switch with either the middle blocker or

the right side player, after the whistle blows, to play in zone 4 in the front

row or zone 5 in the back row because these are the two left side zones

on the court.



Indoor Volleyball Court: Zone 3 - Middle Front



Zone 3 is the middle front zone which is opposite to or in front of Zone 6

the middle back area in the back row.


The "MF" or "middle front" is common court volleyball terminology

used to describe Zone 3.


Players that train to be middle blockers will switch into the Zone 3

position at the beginning of the rally.


Many times, when a middle blocker has to rotate to the back

row, a libero will come into the game to take their place since they

are a defensive specialist and train specifically to be better suited to

playing in the back court. 


Liberos are volleyball players specially trained to be agile, faster

and have better ball control and defensive skills in the back row.


They will usually play in Zone 6 or Zone 4 until its time for them to rotate up

to the front row where the middle blocker will reenter the game.



Indoor Volleyball Court: Zone 2 - Right Front



Rotating across the net one more time from zone 3 you would move to

to your right if you were facing the net to zone 2 which is the right

front area of the court.


The "RF" or "right front" is commonly  used volleyball terminology for  

Zone 2.


Zone 2 is where the setter always switches to when they're in the front

row, regardless of the rotation they may be in.


When players are taught to pass a volleyball, they are taught to pass to

the right of the center of the net which is the area that separates zone

3 from zone 2.



A setter switches to zone 2 when their team is on defense so that after

she blocks and the ball comes over the net into her team's court,

she's already 1-2 steps away from her setter target zone area which is for

most teams between zone 2 -3.


From here is where she wants to be along the net, so that she can run her

team's offense by setting her hitters during a rally.



Indoor Volleyball Court: Free Zone



The free zone is marked by a limited amount of space that

is outside of the court boundary lines.


It's six (6) feet wide and is used as the area where the ball can be kept in

play and where players are substituted in and out of the game.



Indoor Volleyball Court: Replacement Zone



The libero has a special place of her own when she enters the

game.


The replacement zone on an indoor volleyball court is where the libero

comes in to take the place of the front row hitter she is going to play the

back row for.


The libero doesn't have to wait to enter the game, she can go right in as

long as she enters in and out of the areas marked in red on the indoor

volleyball court diagram above.



Indoor Volleyball Court: Substitution Zone



This area is designated to players who are coming in to substitute a

teammate during a game.


The red zone on the indoor volleyball court diagram indicates where the

substitution zone is located.



Along the sidelines, the substitution zone is located between the

attack line and the centerline and is where the player coming from the

bench and the player coming off the court have to pause and

wait until the referee acknowledges that the substitution can be made.


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