Learning How To Play Volleyball: Beginners Rules, Skills and Positions

Learn The Rules, Positions and Skills To Play Volleyball

So you're interested in learning how to play volleyball?

First let's get you familiar with the basic rules of the game. Then you'll need to know the six basic skills before learning how to play volleyball.

Let's start with a simple list of the basic volleyball rules....

Learning How To Play Volleyball
By The Rules

Learning How To Play Volleyball: 
How Does A Team Play?

The Rally, The Referee, The Court

Learning how to play volleyball: The Front Row is marked in red on both sides of the court.Learning how to play volleyball: The Front Row is marked in red on both sides of the court.

  • Three players on a team stay in the front court  and three players stay in the back court. During a rally, players cannot switch from front court to back court. During a rally a front row player can switch positions with a front row player on her team only after the head referee has blown the whistle to start the rally
  • In addition to front row and back row, there are six invisible zones on each court. 
  • In the back row the right back area is Zone 1, the middle back area of the back row is Zone 6, the left back area is Zone 5, 
  • Moving up to front row the left front area starting from inside the ten foot line to the net is called Zone 4, moving to the right to the middle of the net area is Zone 3 and again moving clockwise to the right is Zone 2. 
  • Players rotate clockwise every time their team wins the rally. The player who rotates to Zone 1 is the player who serves to start the rally. Teams do not rotate until they win a rally

Learning How To Play Volleyball: 
How Does a Team Win?

Errors, Points, Rotations and Scoring


Now that we've discussed a few simple game rules, let's review the basic skills you need to know before learning how to play volleyball. 

Learning How To Play Volleyball:
The Volleyball Serve

First, you'll have to learn how to serve a ball

What is a volleyball serve?

1. The ball is sent over the net to start the rally by the player in Zone 1, the right back area of the court. 

2. The serve can be made underhand but for high school, club, collegiate and International competition you need to know how to overhand serve the ball. Overhead contact of the ball by a player is made when you first toss the ball with one hand in the air and contact it with force with the other hand in an effort either

a) to score a point directly which happens if the ball hits the floor on the opposing team's court with no one able to get it up first or you

b) serve the ball in an area on the opposing side which makes it difficultfor the opposing team to run an offensive attack

Once the referee blows the whistle to start the rally you have 8 seconds to complete your serve routine and get the ball over the net.

Once you toss the ball in the air you must contact the ball to send it over the net or let the ball drop without touching it again until it hits the floor first. 

If you let the ball drop to the floor, the referee will blow the whistle again and this time you have five seconds to serve the ball over the net.  

Learning How To Play Volleyball: Volleyball Passing

Next you'll need to learn how to pass or bump a volleyball.

Passing in volleyball or bumping a ball are two ways to explain the same underhand technique of receiving the serve

What is passing a ball?

The pass or the bump is used to describe the most commonly used technique to make the first contact of the ball after its been served into your court by an opposing team. 

The pass is a service reception technique used to contact a ball that's entered your court area when your team is on offense.

When the ball arrives at just above your hip level you clasp both hands together, one palm inside the other, pointing both thumbs to the ground.

This creates a platform with both arms that you use to contact the ball deflecting it from your angled platform to the person most responsible for making the second contact on the ball, your setter. 

The two players in the positions who pass the majority of the balls served by an opposing team are called outside hitters and liberos. 

The libero is a back row specialist responsible for passing most of the balls served to the backrow and plays defense only in the backrow. 

The outside hitters both left side specialist and right side specialist play in the front row when their team is on offense they move back to the middle of the court to help receive serve.

Learning How To Play Volleyball: 
What is Setting A Volleyball? 

What is a set?

Learning how to play volleyball: Setting a volleyball is usually the second contact in a rally made by a setter who sets the ball to one of 2 or 3 hitters.Learning how to play volleyball: Setting a volleyball is usually the second contact in a rally made by a setter who sets the ball to one of 2 or 3 hitters.

A set is a way you contact the ball over your head to get the ball to travel from you to another person or over the net .

  • Both arms are outstretched above your head with shoulders close to your ears.
  • Once the ball contacts the fingertips of your hands you push it back up into the air towards your target, setting the ball up for the next person to contact it. 

The set is usually the second contact in a rally and the person who sets the ball the most is called the setter. 

The setter on a volleyball team is like a point guard on a basketball team who runs the offense and calls the plays. 

If you are the setter on your team, you determine who gets to hit the next ball and how high and how fast the set they hit will be. 

Different sets have different heights and are delivered to different locations along the net.

For example a four set is a very high ball that's delivered outside to Zone 4 and the five set is a high ball that's delivered backwards over the head of the setter to Zone 2. 

Sets to Zone 4

  • Four - high ball to Zone 4
  • Hut - a rainbow medium temp ball to Zone 4
  • Go - a fast shoot set 2-3 feet above the net to Zone 4

Sets to Zone 3

  • One - a quick set, one foot high in Zone 3, delivered in front of the setter
  • Two - a medium tempo set on top of the setter's head, two feet up in the air in Zone 3
  • 31 - a fast half shoot 1-2 feet above the net delivered to fall between Zone 3 and Zone 4
  • Back One - a quick set, one foot high in Zone 3, delivered behind the setter's head
  • X - a two ball pushed by the setter so its delivered 3 feet away from wherever she is


Sets to Zone 2

  • Five - high ball to Zone 2
  • Red - a rainbow medium temp ball 2 - 4 feet high delivered near the Zone 2 antenna
  • Slide - a fast back shoot set, 2-3 feet high delivered 2-3 feet behind the setter above the net to Zone 2

There are a number of sets to understand which you will do as you learn more about how to play volleyball. 

Learning How To Play Volleyball: 
What is a Volleyball Spike? 

An attack hit or a spike describes the technique commonly used for the third contact in a rally that sends the ball over the net with power. 

A spike starts with an approach of three but most often four steps.

The first two slow and the last two bigger and faster steps that propel you in the air gathering momentum as you go, to lift you above the top of the net so you contact the ball at its highest height to attack or hit it down into the opposing court. 

As you become a better spiker and your hitting technique improves, you will learn to spike faster and quicker sets that are lower to the net. 

Learning how to play volleyball: the spike (Gallery Three)Learning how to play volleyball: the spike (Gallery Three)

You will also be able to better control the direction of your spikes, propelling the ball either down the line or cross court into the opposing team's court. 

Learning How To Play Volleyball: 
What is a Volleyball Block? 

A block is the first opportunity for a team on defense to keep the team on offense from hitting into their court. 

Once the whistle blows and your team serves the ball over the net, your team is on defense, ready to defend your court.

Your team is trying to keep the opposing team, now on offense, from putting the ball on your court floor. 

The first opportunity to do that is at the net. 

The three players in your front row are blockers standing with their arms above their shoulders watching the opposing team pass the ball then set the ball, then hit the ball..

When they hit its the job of the blockers to block the ball back into their court so that it doesn't come over the net. 

If the block stops the ball at the net and the ball goes back to the opposing teams floor, that's a point for the block, your team, your team gets to rotate and serve. 

If the block does not stop the ball, then your three players in the back row have to get the ball up to keep the rally going. 

The primary blocker in the front row, and usually the tallest player on the team is the middle blocker. Her job is travel back and forth along the net to help the other two blockers stop the ball from coming into her team's court.

On defense the middle blocker blocks all along the net, on offense she will hit and attack primarily from Zone 3, the central area of the net. 

Learning How To Play Volleyball: 
What's a Dig?

A dig is what happens when the ball gets past the defensive team's front row blockers who couldn't stop the ball at the net. 

Now its the responsibility of the three back row players on defense to keep the ball off the floor. 

They do that by "digging the ball". The :dig" is an underhand technique that describes the first contact of a ball in a rally that's been sent over the net with power.

Volleyball digging means to sink your hips low to the floor, below the ball before it gets to you and you use your extended arms in your platform to Volleyball digging means to sink your hips low to the floor, below the ball before it gets to you and you use your extended arms in your platform to "dig" or deflect the ball up in the air.

To "dig a ball" you are in a defensive position, most frequently in the back row, or if you aren't blocking in the front row and you are positioned outside of your front row blockers as they jump to block a hard driven ball.

You sink your hips low to the floor, below the ball before it gets to you and you use your extended arms in your platform to "dig" or deflect the ball up in the air. 

If you are the 'digger" or defender your job is to dig the ball up high enough in the air and ideally to the middle of the court close to the ten foot line, so that the second contact in the rally can be made.

This second contact is most often made by the setter who runs to this ball where ever it has been dug up to on the court and sets it up to one of her front row hitters, so they can attack it with the third hit so that the rally continues. 

This was a very basic run through of what a beginner player needs to know before learning how to play volleyball to win.

Now its time to dig deeper into all the history of the sport and especially the skills, rules, positions and terminology used so you can take your game playing abilities to the next level

Learning How To Play Volleyball: Where Do I Go From Here?

What you just read was just  a warmup!

Just like in volleyball practice, you do a little stretching to warm up your muscles before getting into the real meaty part of practice.

Here you go through a light review of everything before you really begin to dig deep and take each rule, each position, each skill and really explore it, learn to do tons of reps and go over each drill repeatedly until you get it right. 

Read...  How To Play Volleyball and Win to get started...

Related Links:

A Dig Tutorial With Digging Basics For Defense Players

How to Rotate in Volleyball, Its Easier Than You Think!

How To Communicate: Five Things To Say in Defense

How To Dig A Ball Up When Your Team Is On Defense

How To Serve A Ball, When Where and How To Do It

How To Spike A Ball Strategically Like Pro Players Do

Learn How To Be The Smart Spiker On Your Team

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